South China's Hainan Province has reported a record number of waterbirds wintering across the island, according to a survey released on the World Wetlands Day that falls on Wednesday.
A total of 32,866 waterbirds were spotted and 71 species were recorded during the survey, both setting a new record, according to the Hainan Bird-Watching Society.
The survey ran from January 7 to 9, covering 74 coastal habitats of waterbirds to better understand their species, numbers, and distribution. It was launched and conducted by the Hainan Bird-Watching Society, a non-profit organization, a local wetland research institute, and several sanctuaries in the province of Hainan.
"We chose to release the survey result on the World Wetlands Day because we want more people to understand and take an active part in bird-watching activities," said Cheng Cheng, head of the Hainan Bird-Watching Society.
During the survey, experts recorded four species of wild birds under first-class national protection, including spoon-billed sandpipers, black-faced spoonbills, greenshank sandpipers, and black-billed gulls.
The survey team also monitored nine wild bird species under the second-class national protection, including chestnut ducks, purple waterfowl, and pheasants, among others, according to Cheng.
"This time we found a spoon-billed sandpiper with a white 'C2' tag on its foot, and it's the first time a spoon-billed sandpiper with a tag was recorded in Hainan's wintering waterbird survey," said Cheng.
The sandpiper is a member of a rare and endangered species. Spoon-billed sandpipers are listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and are under state protection in China.
The rare bird was artificially bred in Russia on July 6 last year. It was released into the wild on July 26.
In addition, 145 black-faced spoonbills were spotted during the survey, the largest number ever recorded since Hainan started conducting the survey. The black-faced spoonbills are one of the most endangered birds in the world.
"It shows that the protection of black-faced spoonbills has improved a lot and its global population is on the rise," said Cheng.
With many wetlands, Hainan Island is an important wintering destination for waterbirds migrating along the East Asia-Australasia route.
The first survey of wintering waterbirds in Hainan was carried out in 2003. Experts have conducted the surveys for 19 consecutive years, making it the longest and most influential bird-monitoring activity on the tropical island.
"Nearly 70 staff members and volunteers participated in the 2022 Hainan Wintering waterbird survey. It is the largest number ever," Cheng said. "I hope more people will join us in bird protection."