Rare Bird Is Again Seen on Island

The endangered black-faced spoonbill has returned to Chongming Island after disappearing five years ago, wildlife preservationists said yesterday.

During a month of field research that ended on April 25, ornithologists saw several black-faced spoonbills four times on Chongming's east coast. During one sighting, they even saw 14 black-faced spoonbills, ornithologist Tang Chendong said.

Only one was seen five years ago, he said.

"We were greatly surprised to find so many spoonbills," Tang said. "This proves that the east coast of Chongming Island plays an important role in protecting migratory birds."

There are fewer than 600 spoonbills - their mouths look like spoons - in the world. Most are in China, Russia, Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He said one of the birds had a ring on its foot, indicating that other researchers were tracking its migratory pattern. But they couldn't clearly see the markings on the ring.

Ornithologists theorize that the ring was placed on the spoonbill in Taiwan or Hong Kong, where the species live during winter.

Black-faced spoonbills were known to stay in Chongming for about a week during migration north.

Their monthlong stay in Chongming is likely due to the abundant food they found in fishponds and open shoals, Tang said.

Judging from the mating behavior they observed, ornithologists said the spoonbills are likely to use Chongming to reproduce.

Tang said a project to create more of a bird habitat on Chongming will start next year. It's a way to encourage birds to stay longer, he said.

Habitats will be customized for different species, such as the spoonbill and the whooping crane, Tang said.

(Eastday.com.cn 05/16/2001)