The Spoon-billed Sandpiper has a distinctive black spatulate bill. During the breeding season adult Spoon-billed Sandpipers are a rich reddish brown color, particularly around the head, breast and back. The breast has varying amounts of dark spotting extending toward the belly, which is white. During the non-breeding season their colors are muted: a mixture of white, black, and gray.
This species has been on the Critically Endangered list since 2008.
In the 1970s researchers estimated there were between 2,000 and 2,800 wild pairs. By 2009-2010 the population had declined to only 120-200 pairs, indicating an 88% decline since 2002 and equating to an annual rate of decline of 26%. Recent research shows that its numbers are decreasing more rapidly and the species is on the verge of extinction!
Their breeding habitat is sea coasts on the Chukotsk peninsula and southwards to the Kamchatka peninsula, in north-eastern Russia. It migrates down the western Pacific coast through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to its main wintering grounds in Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma).
The main threats to its survival are habitat loss on its breeding grounds and loss of tidal flats through its migratory and wintering range which are being reclaimed for industry, infrastructure and aquaculture and are becoming increasingly polluted. Hunting on the important wintering grounds in Myanmar is a serious threat to survival of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
This species may become extinct in 10–20 years!