Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine
Listed migratory - Bonn, CAMBA, JAMBA, ROKAMBA
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005c) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
 
Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009aj) [Admin Guideline].
 
Draft background paper to EPBC Act policy statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009bc) [Admin Guideline].
 
Shorebirds - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Listed Migratory Species - Approval of an International Agreement (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007h) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Asian Dowitcher, Limnodromus semipalmatus (Ward, S., 2012f) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NT: Listed as Vulnerable (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Near Threatened (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Limnodromus semipalmatus [843]
Family Scolopacidae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Blyth,1848)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Limnodromus semipalmatus

Common name: Asian Dowitcher

Other names: Asiatic Dowitcher, Snipe-billed Godwit, Asiatic Snipelike Godwit

The Asian Dowitcher is a large wader and member of the Limnodrominae family. The species has a length of 33–36 cm and a wingspan of 59 cm. Males weigh 180 g while females weigh 190 g. The species is distinctive, combining elements of both snipes and godwits. It is characterised by a long neck, long dark legs and a diagnostic long dark straight, snipe-line bill. It is slightly larger and bulkier than the Greenshank, Tringa nebularia and smaller and slimmer than the male Bar-tailed Godwit, L. semipalmatus. There is a marked seasonal variation in plumages and juveniles are distinct from adults (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Asian Dowitcher was first recorded in Australia in 1972 and is a regular visitor to the north-west between Port Hedland and Broome. Elsewhere they are sporadic and rare. In Queensland they have been recorded at Cairns, Yeppoon, Lytton, Thorneside, Morton Bay and Clontarf. The species has also been recorded in NSW at Shoalhaven, Kooragang Island and Stockton. In Victoria the species is known from around the Port Phillip Bay region, Werribee, Swan Island, Queenscliff and Mud Island. There are no records for Tasmania and South Australia. In the Northern Territory the Asian Dowitcher is found in Darwin and Arnhem Land. In Western Australia the species has been recorded at Albany, Lake McLarty, Lake McLeod, north-east Pilbara and the south-west Kimberley division. It has also been recorded at the Port Hedland Saltworks, Roebuck Bay, Ashmore Reed and Eighty Mile Beach (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Asian Dowitcher breeds in isolated colonies in central and eastern Siberia, Mongolia and north-east China. In Russia it is found between Omsk and Tara, around the Barnaul district and the south and south-eastern shores of Lake Baikal and the Chita district. In north-west Mongolia the species is found around Lake Orok-nor. In north-east China the species is found near Qigihar in Heilongjiang. The main non-breeding areas are believed to be the east and south-east coasts of Sumatra. Some are known to winter in peninsular Thailand and Malaysia. Vagrants are also known to occur at the Bay of Bengal, Borneo, New Guinea, New Zealand, Philippines and Japan. The Asian Dowitcher is a passage migrant in Hong Kong and Indochina (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The distribution of the Asian Dowitcher in terms of population numbers is given in the table below (Bamford et al. 2008):


Country Estimate
Indonesia 20 000
Thailand 600
Australia 500
China 500
Malaysia 500
Papua New Guinea 500
Philippines 300
India 150
other countries 230
TOTALS: 23 280

An estimated 23 000 Asian Dowitchers occupy the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. During the non-breeding season approximately 80% of the Flyway population occurs in Indonesia (Bamford et al. 2008). The Asian Dowitcher occurs in many smaller populations. Thirteen important sites have been identified internationally. An important site is calculated using the 1% criterion (i.e. a site is considered important if it is occupied by more then 1% of the bird's total population):


Site Country Max Count
Banyuasin Delta Indonesia 13 000
Bagan Percut - Sungai Ular Indonesia 2002
Dongsha Islands China 1320
North Bo Hai Wan China 1153
Shi Jiu Tuo/Daqing He China 1100
North-west Bo Hai Wan China 966
Yancheng National Nature Reserve China 945
Ujung Pangkah Indonesia 930
Daursky Nature Reserve Russia 800
Inner Gulf of Thailand Thailand 600
Pulau Bruit Malaysia 470
Roebuck Bay Australia 414
Mai Po Marshes China 340

The Asian Dowitcher occurs in sheltered coastal Environments, such as embayments, coastal lagoons, estuaries and tidal creeks. They are known to frequent shallow water and exposed mudflats or sandflats. In Australia the Port Hedland Saltworks provides crucial habitat for the species. The species is commonly found in the round ponds and channels of saltworks and sewage farms. It is also found at near-coastal swamps and lakes (Higgins & Davies 1996).

There is only limited information on the diet of the Asian Dowitcher in Australia. It is known to eat polychaete worms and larvae, also insect larvae and molluscs. The species feeds on inter-tidal mudflats, this habitat is often vulnerable to pollution (e.g. oilspill, urban waste) and reclamation, especially in highly populated parts of range in Asia (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Departure from breeding grounds:
The Asian Dowitcher breeds in Siberia, Mongolia and north-east China, moving south for the boreal winter to the non-breeding areas on the Asian coast (from the Persian Gulf to the Malay Peninsula). They depart the breeding grounds in late July–August, however some birds have remained until early September. Small numbers have been reported migrating through coastal and near-coastal China with counts indicating movement through eastern China from August–October. The species is not recorded in Korea and is irregular in small numbers to Japan during migration. The species has been recorded in Taiwan and peak passage occurs through Hong Kong in late August. The species is known to occur in Burma and passes through Thailand from August to late-October with large numbers being recorded in Sumatra from October. Smaller numbers are reported in Malaysia and the Philippines from August–October. The species is irregularly recorded in Borneo in large numbers from August–October. The species is not recorded in Wallacea or Bali, but has been recorded from Timor. The Asian Dowitcher is vagrant in Papua New Guinea and has also been found in Arabia and Kenya. The species arrives in Australia from August (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Arrival at non-breeding areas:
The south-east coast of Sumatra and northern Java are probably the main staging and non-breeding areas for the species. Only a few arrive in Australia, with no known movements within Australia. They are occasionally recorded in the Northern Territory, rarely in Western Australia or along the south-west coast. They have been recorded along the east coast from mid-September, however they are rare in eastern Australia (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Return to breeding grounds:
The Asian Dowitcher leaves north-west Australia in the third week of April. They have been recorded in Borneo in March, with large numbers reported in Sumatra in March–April. From Sumatra the birds split into two groups. A small number move up the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula, while the remainder pass through the inner Gulf of Thailand during the first half of April. Small numbers pass the Red Delta, Vietnam, in March-April. They leave Olango Island, Philippines, between late-March and mid-April. Peak passage through Hong Kong occurs during the second half of April. The species has been reported at Shanghai from March–April. They have also been collected at Shillong, India, in late April and near Turkstan, Russia, during April. This suggests a central route through Asia during the return to breeding grounds (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Global Threats
There are a number of threats that affect migratory shorebirds in the Flyway. The greatest threat is indirect and direct habitat loss (Melville 1997). Staging areas used during migration through eastern Asia are being lost and degraded by activities which are reclaiming the mudflats for development or developing them for aquaculture (Barter 2002, 2005c; Ge et al. 2007; Round 2006). This is especially evident in the Yellow Sea, where at least 40% of intertidal areas have been reclaimed. This process is continuing at a rapid rate and may accelerate in the near future (Barter 2002, 2005c). For example, in South Korea, the Mangyeung and Dongjin River estuaries each supported 5% of the combined estimated Flyway populations (and are the most important sites for this species on both northern and southern migration) but they are currently being reclaimed as part of the Saemangeum Reclamation Project (Barter 2002, 2005c). The 33 km sea-wall across these two estuaries was completed in April 2006, resulting in significant change in the 40 100 ha area (Barter 2005c).

Reclamation is also a threat in other areas of the Flyway, such as in Malaysia (Wei et al. 2006). In addition, water regulation and diversion infrastructure in the major tributaries have resulted in the reduction of water and sediment flows (Barter 2002; Barter et al. 1998).

Migratory shorebirds are also adversely affected by pollution, both on passage and in non-breeding areas (Harding et al. 2007; Melville 1997; Round 2006; Wei et al. 2006). Disturbance from human activities, including recreation, shellfish harvesting, fishing and aquaculture is likely to increase significantly in the future (Barter et al. 2005; Davidson & Rothwell 1993).

It is predicted that the rate of decrease in the intertidal area in the Yellow Sea will accelerate (Barter 2002). In addition, intensive oil exploration and extraction, and reduction in river flows due to upstream water diversion, are other potentially significant threats in parts of China where this species is present in internationally significant numbers (Barter 2005c; Barter et al. 1998).

Global warming and associated changes in sea level are likely to have a long-term impact on the breeding, staging and non-breeding grounds of migratory waders (Harding et al. 2007).

Hunting is still a very serious problem for waders in China, and this species is sometimes caught (Ming et al. 1998).

Australia
Within Australia, there are a number of threats common to most migratory shorebirds, including the Asian Dowitcher.

Habitat loss
The loss of important habitat reduces the availability of foraging and roosting sites. This affects the ability of the birds to build up the energy stores required for successful migration and breeding. Some sites are important all year round for juveniles who may stay in Australia throughout the breeding season until they reach maturity. A variety of activities may cause habitat loss. These include direct losses through land clearing, inundation, infilling or draining. Indirect loss may occur due to changes in water quality, hydrology or structural changes near roosting sites (DEWHA 2009aj).

Habitat degradation
As most migratory shorebirds have specialized feeding techniques, they are particularly susceptible to slight changes in prey sources and foraging environments. Activities that cause habitat degradation include (but are not restricted to): (1) loss of marine or estuarine vegetation, which is likely to alter the dynamic equilibrium of sediment banks and mudflats; (2) invasion of intertidal mudflats by weeds such as cord grass; (3) water pollution; (4) changes to the hydrological regime and (5) exposure of acid sulphate soils, hence changing the chemical balance at the site (DEWHA 2009aj).

Disturbance
Disturbance can result from residential and recreational activities including; fishing, power boating, four wheel driving, walking dogs, noise and night lighting. While some disturbances may have only a low impact it is important to consider the combined effect of disturbances with other threats. Roosting and foraging birds are sensitive to discrete, unpredictable disturbances such as loud noises (i.e. construction sites) and approaching objects (i.e. boats). Sustained disturbances can prevent shorebirds from using parts of the habitat (DEWHA 2009aj).

Direct mortality
Direct mortality is a result of human activities around the migration pathways of shorebirds and at roosting and foraging sites. Examples include the construction of wind farms in migration or movement pathways, bird strike due to aircraft, hunting, chemical and oil spills (DEWHA 2009aj).

Governments and conservation groups have undertaken a wide range of activities relating to migratory shorebird conservation (AGDEH 2005c) both in Australia and in cooperation with other countries associated with the Flyway.

Australia
The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) outlines national activities to support the Flyway shorebird conservation initiatives and provides a strategic framework to ensure these activities and future research and management actions are integrated and remain focused on the long-term survival of migratory shorebird populations and their habitats.

Since 1996–97, the Australian Government has invested approximately $5 000 000 of Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funding in projects contributing to migratory shorebird conservation (DEWHA 2007e). This funding has been distributed across a range of important projects, including the implementation of a nationally coordinated monitoring programme that will produce robust, long-term population data able to support the conservation and effective management of shorebirds and their habitat, migration studies using colour bands and leg flags, and development of a shorebird conservation toolkit to assist users to develop and implement shorebird conservation projects.

Birds Australia is currently co-ordinating the Shorebirds 2020 project, which aims to monitor shorebird populations at important sites throughout Australia. Birdlife International is identifying sites and regions which are important to various species of birds, including shorebirds, and the processes that are affecting them. The aim of these activities is to inform decisions on the management of shorebird habitat. It may be possible to rehabilitate some degraded wetlands or to create artificial wader feeding or roosting sites to replace those destroyed by development, such as by creating artificial sandflats and sand islands from dredge spoil and by building breakwaters (Dening 2005; Straw 1992a, 1999).

The Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (DEWHA 2009aj) provides guidelines for determining the impacts of proposed actions on migratory shorebirds. The policy statement also provides mitigation strategies to reduce the level and extent of those impacts. The policy aims to promote ecologically sustainable development that allows for the continued ecological function of important habitat for migratory shorebirds (DEWHA 2009aj).

International
Australia has played an important role in building international cooperation to conserve migratory birds. In addition to being party to international agreements on migratory species, Australia is also a member of the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Flyway Partnership), which was launched in Bogor, Indonesia on 6 November 2006. Prior to this agreement, Australia was party to the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy and the Action Plan for the Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network, which is part of the broader Flyway Partnership, promotes the identification and protection of key sites for migratory shorebirds. Australia has 17 sites in the network (Partnership EAAF 2008):

  • Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory (1 375 940 ha)
  • Parry Lagoons, Western Australia (36 111 ha)
  • Thomsons Lake, Western Australia (213 ha)
  • Moreton Bay, Queensland (113 314 ha)
  • Hunter Estuary, NSW (2916 ha)
  • Corner Inlet, Victoria (51 500 ha)
  • The Coorong, Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert, South Australia (140 500 ha)
  • Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania (2920 ha)
  • Logan Lagoon, Tasmania (2320 ha)
  • Western Port, Victoria (59 297 ha)
  • Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria (16 540 ha)
  • Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Bowling Green Bay, Queensland
  • Shoalwater Bay, Queensland
  • Great Sandy Strait, Queensland
  • Currawinya National Park, Queensland

No threats data available.

Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2005c). Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/publications/pubs/shorebird-plan-background.pdf.

Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2006f). Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/publications/shorebird-plan.html.

Bamford M., D. Watkins, W. Bancroft, G. Tischler & J. Wahl (2008). Migratory Shorebirds of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway: Population estimates and internationally important sites. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Wetlands International-Oceania. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/publications/shorebirds-east-asia.html.

Barter, M.A. (2002). Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea: Importance, Threats and Conservation Status. Wetlands International Global Series No. 8, International Wader Studies 12. Canberra, ACT: Wetlands International.

Barter, M.A. (2005c). Yellow Sea-driven priorities for Australian shorebird researchers. In: Straw, P., ed. Status and Conservation of Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Proceedings of the Australasian Shorebirds Conference 13-15 December 2003, Canberra, Australia. Sydney, NSW: Wetlands International Global Series 18, International Wader Studies 17.

Barter, M.A., D. Tonkinson, J.Z. Lu, S.Y. Zhu, Y. Kong, T.H. Wang, Z.W. Li & X.M. Meng (1998). Shorebird numbers in the Huang He (Yellow River) Delta during the 1997 northward migration. Stilt. 33:15-26.

Barter, M.A., K. Gosbell, L. Cao & Q. Xu (2005). Northward shorebird migration surveys in 2005 at four new Yellow Sea sites in Jiangsu and Liaoning Provinces. Stilt. 48:13-17.

Davidson, N. & P. Rothwell (1993). Disturbance to waterfowl on estuaries. Wader Study Group Bulletin. 68.

Dening, J. (2005). Roost management in south-East Queensland: building partnerships to replace lost habitat. In: Straw, P., ed. Status and Conservation of Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Proceedings of the Australasian Shorebirds Conference 13-15 December 2003. Page(s) 94-96. Sydney, NSW. Wetlands International Global Series 18, International Wader Studies 17.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2007e). Migratory Waterbirds Information Page, Departmental Website. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/waterbirds/index.html#conservation.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009aj). Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/migratory-shorebirds.html.

Ge, Z.-M., T-H. Wang, X. Zhou, K.-Y. Wang & W.-Y. Shi (2007). Changes in the spatial distribution of migratory shorebirds along the Shanghai shoreline, China, between 1984 and 2004. Emu. 107:19-27.

Harding, S.B., J.R. Wilson & D.W. Geering (2007). Threats to shorebirds and conservation actions. In: Geering, A., L. Agnew & S. Harding, eds. Shorebirds of Australia. Page(s) 197-213. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Melville, D.S. (1997). Threats to waders along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. In: Straw, P., ed. Shorebird conservation in the Asia-Pacific region. Page(s) 15-34. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

Ming, M., L. Jianjian, T. Chengjia, S. Pingyue & H. Wei (1998). The contribution of shorebirds to the catches of hunters in the Shanghai area, China, during 1997-1998. Stilt. 33:32-36.

Partnership for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Partnership EAAF) (2008). East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network: October 2008. [Online]. Available from: http://www.eaaflyway.net/documents/Flyway-Network-Sites-Oct-08.pdf.

Round, P.D. (2006). Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand. Stilt. 50:96-102.

Straw, P. (1992a). Relocation of Shorebirds. A Feasibility Study and Management Options. Sydney, NSW: Unpublished report by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union for the Federal Airports Corporation.

Straw, P. (1999). Habitat remediation - a last resort?. Stilt. 35:66.

Wei, D.L.Z., Y.C. Aik, L.K. Chye, K. Kumar, L.A. Tiah, Y. Chong & C.W. Mun (2006). Shorebird survey of the Malaysian coast November 2004-April 2005. Stilt. 49:7-18.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Limnodromus semipalmatus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Tue, 2 Sep 2014 22:08:45 +1000.