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 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
NSW:Lesser Sand-plover - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005ny) [Internet].
NSW:Department of Environment and Conservation Threatened migratory shorebird habitat mapping project (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2006a) [Report].
NSW:Lesser Sand-plover Threatened Species Information (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 1999ct) [Information Sheet].
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus (Ward, S., 2012e) [Information Sheet].
QLD:Shorebirds (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (QLD DERM), 2006) [Internet].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013)
NT: Listed as Vulnerable (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012)
SA: Listed as Rare (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): Rare species: June 2011)
WA: Listed as Endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013)
Non-statutory Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Critically Endangered (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013)
NGO: Listed as Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Charadrius mongolus [879]
Family Charadriidae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Pallas,1776
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: Charadrius mongolus

Common Name: Lesser Sand Plover, Mongolian Plover

Other names: Dotterel, Sand-Plover or Sand-Dotterel; Lesser Dotterel or Sand-Dotterel; Short-nosed Sand Plover (Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The Lesser Sand Plover is a conventionally accepted species (Christidis & Boles 1994, 2008; Marchant & Higgins 1993). There are five subspecies:

  • Nominate Charadrius mongolus mongolus, breeds in inland eastern Siberia, including the Russian Far East, and Mongolia, and winters from Taiwan to Australia.
  • Subspecies Charadrius mongolus stegmanni, breeds in Russia, especially around Kamchatka, on the northern Kuril and Commander Islands and on the Chukotski Peninsula, and winters from southern Ryukyu Island and Taiwan to Australia.
  • Subspecies Charadrius mongolus pamirensis, breeds in Central Asia and winters in coastal western India, south-western Asia, and eastern and south-eastern Africa.
  • Subspecies Charadrius mongolus atrifrons, breeds in the Himalayas and southern Tibet, and winters from India to Sumatra.
  • Subspecies Charadrius mongolus schaeferi, breeds from southern Mongolia to eastern Tibet and adjacent provinces of China, and winters from coastal Thailand to the Greater Sunda Islands (Ali & Ripley 1980; Cramp & Simmonds 1983;Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Lane 1987; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Tomkovich 2003).

The Lesser Sand Plover is a small to medium-sized grey-brown and white plover which has a dark eye-stripe and which reaches 18–21 cm in length and 56–71 g in weight. Sexes differ when in breeding plumage, but are inseparable when in non-breeding plumage. Juveniles are distinguishable (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

In breeding plumage, the male has a grey-brown crown and nape with a chestnut tinge, with the hindneck and sides of the neck chestnut; the rest of the upperparts are grey-brown. The face has a broad black mask which extends from the base of the bill, through the eye, to the ear-coverts, with a second black stripe above it, on the lower forehead, separated by a white patch. The eyebrow is pale and the chin and throat are white. The breast is chestnut and merges into the hindneck and the sides of the neck. It is demarcated from the throat by a narrow black band, with a narrow black line which extends down from the mask. The rest of the underbody is white. The upperwings are generally grey-brown, though in flight the primary coverts and flight feathers are blackish, with thin white trailing edges on the secondaries and there is a prominent but narrow white wing-bar. The underwing is white with a narrow dusky trailing edge. The bill is black, the eyes dark brown, and the legs and feet are dark grey, sometimes with a greenish tinge (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The female appears similar except her mask is dark grey-brown or rufous, not black; there is no second dark stripe on the lower forehead; the crown, hindneck, sides of the neck and the breast-band are duller chestnut; and there is no black line bordering the breast-band (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

In non-breeding plumage, both species appear similar, with all black or chestnut markings of the breeding plumage now grey-brown. Juvenile birds are similar to non-breeding birds, but have buff fringes to their feathers, and the breast-band is indistinct (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The Lesser Sand Plover is often gregarious during the non-breeding season, when it occurs in small parties or larger flocks of up to several hundred birds, though it sometimes feeds singly. They often join other waders when feeding or roosting, especially the Greater Sand Plover (Charadruis leschenaultii) though the two species usually remain segregated when roosting together. In New Zealand, they often flock with Double-banded Plovers (C. bicinctus) (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Swan 2005).

Within Australia, the Lesser Sand-Plover is widespread in coastal regions, and has been recorded in all states. It mainly occurs in northern and eastern Australia, in south-eastern parts of the Gulf of Carpentaria, western Cape York Peninsula and islands in Torres Strait, and along the entire east coast, though it occasionally also occurs inland. It is most numerous in Queensland and NSW (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Milton & Driscoll 2006; Minton et al. 2006; Watkins 1993). The species has also been recorded on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and Christmas Island, Indian Ocean (Marchant & Higgins 1993; McAllan et al. 2004; Moore 1981; van Tets 1983).

Internationally important sites in Australia and maximum counts include:

Queensland
South-eastern Gulf of Carpentaria, 4050; northern Great Barrier Reef, 2686; Moreton Bay, 2049; Mackay area, 1575; Great Sandy Strait, Queensland, 1430; Horn Island (Thursday Island), 700; Bowen Saltworks, 606; Townsville, 472; Ross River mouth (Toolakea), 406.

Western Australia
Eighty Mile Beach,1575; Roebuck Bay, 1057; Broome, 745; Port Hedland Saltworks, 668.

NSW
Hunter River estuary, 800; Tuggerah Lakes, 510; and Clarence River estuary, 304.

Northern Territory
Darwin area, 1440.

Additional nationally important sites include: Richmond River estuary, NSW, 250; Shoalhaven River estuary, NSW, 250; Cairns, Queensland, 222; Alva Beach (Ayr), Queensland, 216; and Botany Bay, NSW, 204 (Harris 1994, 1995, 1996; Skewes 2004, 2007; Watkins 1993; Wilson 2001c).

There are no published estimates of the extent of occurrence of the Lesser Sand Plover in Australia. The estimated global extent of occurrence is 100 000–1 000 000 km² (Birdlife International 2007).

The area of occupancy of the Lesser Sand Plover in Australia has been estimated at 32 700 km².

There are no current captive populations of this species and none has been reintroduced into the wild.

Breeding distribution
Though the distribution of the Lesser Sand Plover in Siberia is poorly known (Marchant & Higgins 1993), it has been recorded breeding at various scattered sites in central and north-eastern Asia. Such sites include: Chukotski Peninsula (in the mountains of the upper reaches of the Anadyr River); Koreyak Highlands, Kamchatka Peninsula, northern Kurile Islands and mountains of the upper reaches of the Kolyma and Indigirka Rivers; northern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, west to about Okhotsk; the area north of the Dzhugdzhur Ranges, the headwaters of Zeya River and probably the ranges north-east of Lake Baikal; and in areas of western China and southern Mongolia, north to the eastern Tien Shan Mountains, south to the Himalayas and west to the Pamir region (Ali & Ripley 1980; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Lane 1987; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Tomkovich 2003).

On passage
In the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, Lesser Sand Plovers have been recorded on migration in south-eastern Siberia, eastern and southern China, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, countries of Indochina, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea and a few islands in the south-western Pacific Ocean (Lane 1987; Marchant & Higgins 1993). Elsewhere, the species has been recorded on passage overland through the Himalayas and Indian subcontinent, Transbaikalia and Manchuria, and also in most countries on the northern and western shores of the Indian Ocean (Ali & Ripley 1980; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Grimmett et al. 1999b; Wiersma 1996).

Non-breeding distribution
A few Plovers remain to winter at various sites along the migratory route, but most from the East Asian-Australasian Flyway winter in Australia, and the species is a scarce but regular visitor to New Zealand, where fewer than five birds are recorded each year (Heather & Robertson 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Watkins 1993). Elsewhere, Lesser Sand Plovers winter in eastern and southern Africa, from the western shores of the Red Sea to South Africa (Urban et al. 1986). The species is a vagrant to Europe and the Middle East (Cramp & Simmons 1983) and North America (e.g. McRae 1985).
The Lesser Sand Plover is not considered globally threatened (Wiersma 1996), and is classified as being of least concern (Birdlife International 2007). The overall population is broadly estimated at between 180 000 and 330 000 (Wiersma 1996) or between 130 000 and 150 000 birds (Birdlife International 2007).
It has been estimated that about 7.5% of the world's population of Lesser Sand Plovers occur in Australia, and these represent about 18–19% of the birds present in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (25 000 birds out of 130 000–140 000 in the Flyway) (Bamford et al. 2006; Stewart et al. 2007). The Lesser Sand Plovers that occur in Australia migrate from two or possibly three distinct breeding areas in central and eastern Asia (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Stewart et al. 2007; Watkins 1993), and would be affected by global threats.

Populations in Australia are regularly surveyed during the Population Monitoring Program carried out by the Australasian Wader Studies Group, in which sites that regularly support good numbers of shorebirds are surveyed twice a year (winter and summer) in co-ordinated counts; these surveys began in 1981, forming a good data set (for example, Skewes 2002, 2007).

The Mackay Shorebird Project (Harding & Milton 2003) found that counts of species in internationally significant numbers were also stable at most sites in the Mackay area except for Lesser Sand Plover numbers at Pioneer River mouth. At this site, counts of Lesser Sand Plover declined from an average of 517 birds in January 1999 to 71 birds in March 2003. No Lesser Sand Plovers were seen at this high tide roost site since that time, despite their numbers appearing to be stable elsewhere in the region (Harding & Milton 2003).

The total population is estimated to be in excess of 330 000 birds (Wiersma 1996) or 130 000–150 000 (Birdlife International 2007), comprising: Charadrius mongolus mongolus, 25 000–100 000 birds; Charadrius mongolus pamirensis, 30 000; Charadrius mongolus atrifrons, 100 000; subspecies Charadrius mongolus schaeferi, 25 000–100 000; and Charadrius mongolus stegmanni, unknown number (Wiersma 1996). Of these, around 130 000–140 000 birds are estimated to be present in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Bamford et al. 2006; Stewart et al. 2007).

Though Lesser Sand Plovers breed in a number of smaller populations (subspecies) in the Northern Hemisphere, they do not occur as smaller populations when present in Australia.

Global population trends have not been quantified. Within Australia the species showed an overall decline in area of occupancy between the early 1980s and the late 1990s-early 2000s (Barrett et al. 2003), but the overall trend detected in Summer Population Monitoring Counts has remained stable, despite great fluctuations in the numbers recorded (Harris 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999b, 2000; Hewish 1987a, 1990, 1992; Skewes 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007; Wilson 2001c).

The number of Lesser Sand Plovers recorded in Australia can vary significantly between years. Fluctuations in populations that are detected in Australia are thought to reflect factors in the breeding grounds rather than in Australia. Some of these fluctuations are likely to reflect factors such as 'lemming cycles' which affect the level of predation of waders' nests and the number of young birds that subsequently arrive in the non-breeding areas (Rogers et al. 2005). Numbers of Lesser Sand Plovers recorded during annual summer surveys at a fixed number of sites ranged from a maximum of 3327 in 2006 to a minimum of 322 in 1997 (Harris 1997; Skewes 2007).

There is no published information on the generation length of the Lesser Sand Plover, but they probably first breed when two years old, and the oldest bird recorded was at least 20.5 years old (Wiersma 1996).

The two key populations of the subspecies that occur in Australia are subspecies mongolus and stegmani (Watkins 1993), both of which breed in far eastern Russia, including the Chukotski and Kamchatka Peninsulas (Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Wiersma 1996). It is possible that birds of the subspecies schaferi also occur in Australia (Watkins 1993), and these breed from southern Mongolia to eastern Tibet and in adjacent Chinese provinces (De Schauensee 1984; Wiersma 1996). Within Australia, there are a number of sites of international importance in Queensland (e.g. Pelican Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Burdekin River Delta, Great Sandy Strait, Moreton Bay, Mackay Town Beach), where large numbers have been recorded. The maintenance of these sites would appear critical for the survival of the species.


The Lesser Sand Plover is not known to hybridise with other species in the wild.

Only one of the 19 known nationally important sites is fully within a conservation reserve (Moreton Bay), and another six are partly within conservation reserves (Watkins 1993).

In non-breeding grounds in Australia, this species usually occurs in coastal littoral and estuarine environments. It inhabits large intertidal sandflats or mudflats in sheltered bays, harbours and estuaries, and occasionally sandy ocean beaches, coral reefs, wave-cut rock platforms and rocky outcrops. It also sometime occurs in short saltmarsh or among mangroves. The species also inhabits saltworks and near-coastal saltpans, brackish swamps and sandy or silt islands in river beds (Marchant & Higgins 1993). In north-western Australia, the species appears to use the Port Hedland saltworks in preference to nearby beaches (C. Minton 2002, pers.comm.). The species is seldom recorded away from the coast, at margins of lakes, soaks and swamps associated with artesian bores (Marchant & Higgins 1993). On its breeding grounds it occurs in alpine valleys (Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951).


Feeding habitat
The species feeds mostly on extensive, freshly-exposed areas of intertidal sandflats and mudflats in estuaries or beaches, or in shallow ponds in saltworks (Evans 1975; Hindwood & Hoskin 1954; Johnstone & Storr 1998; McGill & Keast 1945; Thomas 1968). They also occasionally forage on coral reefs and on sandy or muddy river margins (Booth 1982; Evans 1975; McGill & Keast 1945; Pegler 1983). At inland sites, they have been recorded foraging in muddy areas around lakes, soaks and bores (Badman & May 1983; Henle 1989; McGill & Keast 1945).

Roosting habitat
They roost near foraging areas, on beaches, banks, spits and banks of sand or shells (McGill & Keast 1945; Pegler 1983), and occasionally on rocky spits, islets or reefs (McGill & Keast 1945). They rarely roost in mangroves (Hindwood & Hoskin 1954). At inland sites, the species has been recorded roosting on a sandbank in swamp associated with an artesian bore (Badman & May 1983), on the grassy margins of temporary pools on low-lying river islets (McGill & Keast 1945), and on an inland claypan (Collins et al. 2001).

Breeding habitat
The species does not breed in Australia. Breeding grounds are characterised by being at high elevations, above the tree-line, in tundra on steppes and in flat, barren valleys and basins; usually in boggy areas, such as the margins of a lake or a bog, or in channelised areas of the upper reaches of rivers (Ali & Ripley 1980; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951).
At Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, only two Plovers could be found about a day after a cyclone passed nearby; the rest of the birds are thought to have moved to sheltered areas to avoid the high winds and heavy rain (Jessop & Collins 2000).


The species does not rely on the habitat of ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act.

This species does not breed in Australia (Marchant & Higgins 1993). Lesser Sand Plovers probably first breed when two years old. The oldest known Plover was at least 20.5 years old.


Lesser Sand Plovers lay their eggs between mid-May and mid-June. Nests are usually located in scrapes in bare sand or shingle, but occasionally in the footprints of cattle, among lichen, or beside a shrub or large stone. Clutches are usually of three eggs, but occasionally two, which are incubated for 22–24 days. Chicks are precocial and usually tended by the male, but sometimes by both parents, and fledge at about 30–35 days old (Wiersma 1996). Due to their ground-nesting habit and the precocial nature of the chicks, Lesser Sand Plovers are vulnerable to predation by foxes on breeding grounds (Wiersma 1996).

During the non-breeding season Lesser Sand Plovers eat invertebrates, such as molluscs (especially bivalves), worms, crustaceans (especially crabs) and insects (Domm & Recher 1973; Lane 1987). On the breeding grounds, they mostly eat beetles and fly larvae (Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Wiersma 1996).


Prey is located by sight, using the typical run-stop-peck method used by most Charadrius plovers to glean its prey from the moist substrate (Domm & Recher 1973; Marchant & Higgins 1993), gleaning the surface of the substrate or probing just below the surface, and they sometimes dig in the sand for prey, or lunge or dart at prey (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The Lesser Sand Plover is a migratory species, breeding in the Northern Hemisphere and flying south for the boreal winter. Different subspecies have different breeding and non-breeding ranges, though the non-breeding ranges of subspecies mongolus and stegmanni overlap in southern China, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, western Indonesia and northern Australia, and subspecies schaeferi may also occur in north-western Australia (Cramp & Simmons 1983; Lane 1987; Marchant & Higgins 1993).

Departure from breeding grounds
Subspecies stegmanni generally leaves its breeding grounds by the end of September, with females leaving from late July (though mostly in August and early September), and juveniles leaving in the first two or three weeks of September (Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Wiersma 1996). The timing of departure from the breeding grounds by the nominate subspecies mongolus is unknown, but probably similar to that of subspecies stegmanni (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

Southern passage
The southern passage takes most Lesser Sand Plovers along the coasts of the Sea of Okhotsk and China between July and September (Barter 2002; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Gerasimov & Huettmann 2006; Zheng et al. 2006). Tthey are also recorded on the Korean Peninsula, mostly in September and October (Barter 2002; Gore & Won 1971; Moores 2006); in Japan ), presumably around the same time (Orn. Soc. Japan 2000); are common on passage in the Philippines, especially in August (Dickinson et al. 1991); and occur in Indonesia between August and November (Ash 1984; White 1975; White & Bruce 1986). They usually arrive in New Guinea from mid-August (Coates 1985). In addition, large numbers of eastern Siberian birds pass overland through Transbaikalia and Manchuria (Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951).

Non-breeding season in Australia
The species is present at non-breeding grounds in Australasia mostly between September and April or May, with greatest numbers in northern Australia (Alcorn et al. 1994; Lane 1987; Marchant & Higgins 1993). Birds generally arrive in Australia between August and October, and start moving along the northern and eastern coasts until October or November (Alcorn et al. 1994; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Starks & Lane 1987). Maximum numbers occur at most sites by December, and then these numbers remain fairly constant until late February (Alcorn et al. 1994; Marchant & Higgins 1993). In southern Australia, numbers usually increase gradually between August and December (Alcorn 1988; Congreve & Congreve 1982; Lane 1987). Numbers begin to increase at various sites in northern Australia between February and April (mostly March to April), suggesting that birds move along the eastern and northern coasts before they leave on their northern migration in April (Marchant & Higgins 1993). That is, they leave northern Queensland coast in mid-April (Lane 1987; Starks & Lane 1987; Storr 1953), and leave Broome-Port Hedland region of northern Western Australia in late April (Collins 1995; Marchant & Higgins 1993). In northern Australia, two waves of departure were recorded in 1985; a major one in early March; and a smaller one in early April (Starks & Lane 1987).

Local movements while in Australia
Apart from influxes and exoduses before northern migration, numbers of Lesser Sand Plovers remain fairly constant at many sites from mid-November to late February, but fluctuations in some areas (such as sites in northern Queensland) suggest that local movements take place (Marchant & Higgins 1993). It has been suggested that these local movements are linked to tidal activity (Evans 1975).

Northern passage
When undertaking northern migration to return to their breeding grounds, Lesser Sand Plovers are occasionally recorded on passage through eastern Indonesia in February but mainly between April and June (White & Bruce 1986). They leave or pass through New Guinea in mid-May (Coates 1985; Hicks 1990) and many are seen on passage through the Philippines between February and April (Dickinson et al. 1991; Magsalay 1990). They pass through Hong Kong and eastern mainland China between late March and mid-May (Chalmers 1986; Howes 1987; Ma et al. 2006) and are seen on the Korean Peninsula in May (Gore & Won 1971). The species is common on passage in Japan (Orn. Soc. Japan 2000) and birds are recorded on passage at the Sea of Okhotsk in May and early June (Gerasimov & Huettmann 2006).

Subspecies stegmanni arrives on the breeding grounds during early May, but it is not known when subspecies mongolus arrives (Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951). One-year-old birds often remain in Australia (C. Minton 2002, pers.comm.).

The Yellow Sea is a very important region for this species as it supports about 50% of the estimated combined populations of the two subspecies C. m. mongolus and C. m. stegmanni during their northern migration, and they are also common in the Yellow Sea during southern migration. Eleven sites in this region are of international importance (seven in South Korea and four in China). Six sites are internationally important during both the northern and southern migration: Yancheng NNR, Ganghwa Do, Yeong Jong Do, Namyang Man, Mangyeung Gang Hagu and Dongjin Gang Hagu (Barter 2002). Some areas in the inner Gulf of Thailand are also important stop-over sites for migrating Plovers (Lane 1987; Round 2006).


Home ranges and territories are not maintained while the birds are in Australia.

When in Australia, the species is in drab non-breeding plumage, and is often difficult to distinguish from the similar Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii), and possibly also the Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus). Thus, to untrained observers, Lesser Sand Plovers may be difficult to detect when present in mixed flocks of shorebirds.

The survey methods used successfully by the Australasian Wader Studies Group are twice-yearly counts of shorebirds at 23 sites around Australia, undertaken in early February, when numbers are most stable during the non-breeding season, and again in June/July to establish the population remaining in Australia during the breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer counts are the most useful, as they occur when the birds are present in Australia in their greatest numbers. Counts are usually conducted at high-tide, when the shorebirds are roosting. This is complemented by robust banding and leg-flagging programs (Barter 1993; Minton & Lane 1984).

Global Threats
There are a number of threats that affect migratory shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian 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 (Barter 2002, 2005; Ge et al. 2007). 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, 2005). 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, 2005). The 33 km sea-wall across these two estuaries was completed in April 2006, resulting in significant change in the 40 100 ha area. Moores (2008) has documented the change in species' composition and numbers since the sea-wall was completed and there is some indication of a drop in the number of Lesser Sand Plovers recorded since 2006 (Moores 2006, 2008).

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; 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 2005; 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).

Australia
Within Australia, there are a number of threats common to most migratory shorebirds, including the Lesser Sand Plover.

Loss/modification of habitat
The demands of long flights make migratory shorebirds particularly susceptible to loss of, or changes to, the habitat of resting or foraging grounds along their route (DEH 2005c). Site fidelity is another feature of migratory shorebird behaviour which can compound the risk that habitat modification or loss can represent. Residential, farming, industrial and aquaculture/fishing activities represent the major cause of habitat loss or modification in Australia. Residential or other development of saltworks or land adjacent to mudflats near the outskirts of built-up areas can reduce suitable habitat for the species and increase levels of disturbance (Straw 1992a).

Increased silt in the water, pollution and weed or pest invasion of habitats can change the quality or quantity of food available from the sites or modify important biophysical aspects. Pollution is a particular threat as pollutants tend to accumulate and concentrate in wetlands (DEH 2005c). Excess nutrients, including from offsite, diffuse sources, can lead to eutrophication which in turn can impact on the availability of benthic prey species (Harding et al. 2007; Straw 1992a). Industrial pollution, such as in the case of accidental release, can lead to the build up of heavy metals or toxic elements in the substrate of wetlands which, in turn, can affect benthic prey fauna (DEH 2005). Conversely, efforts to treat effluent before it is released into the greater environment may result in lower levels of bacteria and invertebrates and their larvae which constitute a major proportion of the diet of the Lesser Sand Plover.

Disturbance
With increasing tourist visitation and development along the Queensland coast and around Broome, Western Australia, increasing levels of disturbance from human recreational activity are likely. Recreational fishing, four-wheel driving, unleashed dogs and jet-skiing may disturbe the foraging or roosting behaviour of migratory shorebirds. Migratory shorebirds are most susceptible to disturbance during daytime roosting and foraging periods (DEH 2005c). Disturbance can lead to reduced energy reserves required by the birds prior to migration.

Introduced Species
Introduced plants, such as Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) can lead to long-term changes to the nature and biodiversity of wetlands which in turn can affect their suitability for use by migratory shorebirds (DEH 2005c). Introduced plants, such as Cord Grass Spartinia, can invade intertidal mudflats and reduce the amount of suitable foraging areas, as has already occurred in other countries (Goss-Custard & Moser 1988). Exotic marine pests may also result in the loss of benthic food sources (DEH 2005c).
The biological characteristic of the species which poses a key threat to its survival is that it regularly flies for thousands of kilometres over some of the most densely populated areas of the world. The huge human population in east Asia places enormous pressure on natural resources, and manifests itself in activities such as the reclamation of mudflats (Barter 2002, 2005).

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

Australia
The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) outlines national activities to support 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; and 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 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; Harding et al. 1999; Straw 1992a, 1999).

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:

  • 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.

  • A detailed summary of all that is known of the species in Australasia is in Marchant and Higgins (1993) and international summaries are given in Cramp and Simmons (1983) and Wiersma (1996). Conservation of the species and threats are documented in two more general references; Watkins (1993) and Barter (2002). The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) outlines national activities to support flyway shorebird conservation initiatives.

    The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

    Threat Class Threatening Species References
    Agriculture and Aquaculture:Annual and Perennial Non-Timber Crops:Expansion of agriculture including cotton farming Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Harvesting for recreational purposes Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Global warming and associated sea level changes Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Climate Change and Severe Weather:Temperature Extremes:climate change Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Energy Production and Mining:Mining and Quarrying:Habitat destruction, disturbance and/or modification due to mining activities Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Energy Production and Mining:Oil and Gas Drilling:Exploration drilling Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Energy Production and Mining:Oil and Gas Drilling:Production of oil and gas resources Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:inappropriate conservation measures Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Disturbance, especially from human recreational activities and development Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alterations to hydrology through water extraction Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology due to water diversion Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Salinity Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Loss and damage of intertidal areas due to land reclamation Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Pollution:Industrial and Military Effluents:Habitat degradation due to industrial discharge Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Pollution:Pollution:Changes to water and sediment flows leading to erosion, siltation and pollution Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Pollution:Pollution:Habitat degradation and loss of water quality due to salinity, siltaton, nutrification and/or pollution Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Residential and Commercial Development:Tourism and Recreation Areas:Habitat modification, fragmentation and/or changed boat traffic caused by the construction and operation of marinas and wharves Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Transportation and Service Corridors:Shipping Lanes:Commerical shipping and port activities Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].

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    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.

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    Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Charadrius mongolus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:31:34 +1000.