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Headstarting is a collaborative effort between WWT, BirdsRussia and the RSPB, and occurs as part of the International Arctic Expedition mounted each year by BirdsRussia under the leadership of Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy.

Chicks are colour ringed

Two week old Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks (Paul Marshall)

Yesterday I visited the chicks to help colour ring them so we can follow the progress of each bird as an individual.

I was staggered at their development- it was only a week since I saw them for the first time when the last brood was just hatching. Now they are all running around calling and chasing insects and only occasionally brooding under the heat lamps. The oldest brood now has access to an outside run and are almost fledged. I watched with amazement as they chased a spider that was climbing up a wall. One by one they ran up to the wall and tried to grab it just out of reach. They then lost interest until the spider dropped down on a thread quick as a flash it was gone. Their spoon shaped bills do not impair their ability to catch live food!

We needed to clip the tips of the wing feathers of the oldest ones so that they cannot injure themselves by flying at too high a speed. It is best to do this as they grow so they are always used to having shorter wings. While we had them in our hands we checked that their feathers were growing normally and weighed them. To our surprise at 16 days old they now weigh as much as the adults and are losing their down as their first juvenile feathers grow through, this gives them a punk hairstyle at the moment!

Two week old Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks (Paul Marshall)When I last saw ‘Nemo’ he looked rather forlorn and could barely stand .

What a difference a week makes, he is now running around like the other chicks and is rapidly adjusting to having a bent leg. He is a little lighter than the others in his brood but this is only to be expected, we hope he will catch up again soon.

  1. Yang Reply

    Applause from China! How amazing these little creatures are! And what experience to be able to witness all these wonders! I was lucky to have seen these birds in Spring this year in Yangkou, Rudong on the east coastline of China, one of the stopover sites on their migration route, with the help of my friend Tong who participates in the multi-national saving efforts. Here in China there are many birdwatchers now caring about the future destiny of spoon-billed sandpipers too, and we have been trying hard on the protection of the wetlands against over-reclamation. Thanks for your all great efforts. Looking forward to more exciting news of these 17 chicks as well as of the captive birds from the last year.

  2. Karin Eberhardt Reply

    Fantastic news, Nigel. So glad to hear that the chicks are thriving, and that Nemo is doing well. Congratulations and thanks to all of you in Slimbridge for your hard work and for keeping us posted. We would love to see more photos of their rapid development, and the wonderful videos, that I have been inflicting on anyone who shows even the slightest interest, give new meaning to the term ‘chick flicks’…
    Nigel, I hope to see you back in Myanmar this winter!

  3. Helena Jefferson Reply

    Do you know the sexes yet of this year’s young? Are the males still outnumbering the females? Well done Nemo on his catch-up. I HOPE he was the one that got the unwise spider!

    • Baz Reply

      Hi Helena. We’re going to leave sexing this year’s young until they’re all full grown – probably in a month or so. You never know – most might be females. We can but hope! All are still doing fine. Including Nemo. Baz

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