Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is difficult to determine but it appears to be declining, however the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population is estimated to number c.150,000-340,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2016). This roughly equates to 100,000-225,000 mature individuals. National population sizes have been estimated at < 10,000 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in China; and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in Taiwan (Brazil 2009). The European population is estimated at 600-1,000 pairs, which equates to 1,200-2,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).
The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the impacts of habitat modification on population sizes. However, the species appears to be in decline (Wetlands International 2016). In Europe, the current population trend has not been estimated, but the population size is thought to be decreasing by at least 10% in three generations (BirdLife International 2015).
Behaviour This species is fully migratory, and is likely to migrate without stopping on a broad front between breeding and non-breeding areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Migratory flocks form after the end of breeding between mid-June and early-August, and arrive in the wintering grounds between mid-July and November (adults and immature birds arriving before juveniles) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Those birds wintering in South-East Asia start moving northwards to the breeding grounds in late-February (the migration peaking in March to early-April), arriving from mid-March to May; whereas those wintering in East Africa and southern Asia depart for breeding grounds from mid-April to early-May (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Most non-adult wintering birds remain in the wintering areas during the breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species is typically gregarious, feeding in flocks of 2-50, and sometimes congregating in groups of up to 1,000 when roosting (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Habitat Breeding During the breeding season, this species is predominantly found in open, dry, treeless, uncultivated areas up to 3,000 m, including dried mud, silt and clay flats, hard salt-pans overgrown with halophytic plants, and rocky plains near mountains in desert or semi-desert (Johnsgard 1981, Flint et al. 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). In Turkey the species frequents heavily grazed saline steppe (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species usually breeds near water, but exceptionally it will nest up to 20 km away from it (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding During the non-breeding season, the species shows a preference for littoral habitats with mixed sand and mud substrata (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005). It is found on sheltered sandy, shelly or muddy beaches, large intertidal mudflats, sandbanks, salt-marshes, estuaries, coral reefs, rocky islands, tidal lagoons and dunes near the coast, although it may sometimes feed on coastal grasslands (Hayman et al. 1986, Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). Whilst on migration the species will occasionally utilise inland habitats such as salt-lakes and brackish swamps, usually roosting on sandbanks and spits (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Diet This species is carnivorous: during the breeding season its diet consists mainly of terrestrial insects and their larvae (especially beetles, termites, midges and ants), and occasionally lizards; whereas during the non-breeding season its diet contains mainly marine invertebrates such as molluscs (snails), worms and crustaceans (such as shrimps and crabs) (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape on the ground amongst sand-hills, gravel, or on other barren substrates (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996).
In some parts of its breeding range this species is threatened by the destruction of wetlands and bordering fallow steppe through drainage and water extraction for irrigation (Turkey) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). The species is threatened by habitat degradation and loss throughout its non-breeding range: in Australia agricultural developments are reducing the area of coastal and inland habitat, and hydrological changes to estuaries are modifying important intertidal areas (National Parks and Wildlife Service 1999); key wetland sites in southern Africa (for example Walvis Bay, Namibia) are being degraded through wetland reclamation for suburb and port development, and changes in the flood regime due to road building (Wearne and Underhill 2005). Favoured migration staging posts, such as the Çukurova delta in southern Turkey are under increasing pressure from hunting, tourism and industrial activities and are often polluted along the coast with oil (Tucker and Heath 1994). One of the species's migratory staging areas in China (Chongming Island) is undergoing significant habitat loss and degradation through conversion to aquaculture ponds, farmlands and vegetable gardens, the cultivation of the alien plant Spartina alterniflora on tidal flats (promoting rapid sedimentation with the intention of reclaiming the area), and the Three Gorges Dam on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River reducing the supply of river-borne sediment to mudflats in the area (Ma et al. 2002). The species is also susceptible to disturbance from tourists in its non-breeding range (National Parks and Wildlife Service 1999, Wearne and Underhill 2005), and commercial hunting (for sale at market or to restaurants) is a major threat in the area of Chongming Island, China (Ma et al. 2002).
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix II.
Conservation Actions Proposed
In the species's European range, preserve large areas of steppe habitat bordering wetlands to maintain breeding populations as well as maintaining low-intensity sheep farming at some sites to preserve the optimum vegetation structure. Prevent the drainage of wetland sites frequented by the species, including IBAs, and give these sites national protection (Tucker and Heath 1994).
Text account compilers
Malpas, L., Ekstrom, J., Elliott, N., Butchart, S., Ashpole, J
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Charadrius leschenaultii. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/greater-sandplover-charadrius-leschenaultii on 01/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 01/06/2023.