Birds Korea Update for Members: February 2009

This Update covers February 2009. It is in three parts:

1. Conservation News

2. Birds Korea News

3. Exceptional Bird Records

1. Conservation News

Conservation, Sustainable Development, and Green Growth (all “Wise Use”) can only be achieved through an understanding of ecosystems and the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources (see our mandate: There is already much “Wise Use” guidance provided by international conventions (including Ramsar), and there are already clear targets towards Sustainable Development provided e.g. by the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. There is also an increasing body of scientific evidence to help untangle the complex web of human impacts on our planet, including for example the role that coastal wetland reclamation and agriculture have, each their own way, in contributing to human-induced climate change and loss of biodiversity.

The nation has taken several positive steps towards wiser use of natural resources in recent decades, including large-scale reforestation and membership of international conservation conventions. Furthermore, a Presidential Committee for Green Growth has now been established, which aims, among other things, to help curb growing CO2 emissions.

In a meeting on February 16th , this committee finalized a plan to encourage greater bicycle use, and to lower carbon emissions through a “cap and trade” system enforcing limits on emissions and enabling trading of credits (Joongang Ilbo, February 17th: Greater use of bicycles clearly can provide benefits, and help reduce dependence on cars. Construction of bicycle paths, as proposed by the committee and also by proponents of the Four Rivers Refurbishment Plan, can however also lead to habitat loss, and especially can cause greatly increased disturbance in sensitive areas, e.g. in wetlands (such as at Joonam reservoir and along rivers). Unless well-planned, bicycle paths can therefore lead to declines in biodiversity, in contradiction of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing rates of biodiversity loss by 2010.

Moreover, any potential benefits to be gained by promotion of cycling and the cap and trade energy system will be outweighed if reclamation of coastal wetlands continues, as at Saemangeum, Song Do, Namyang, Asan and as proposed at Aphae Island. Research has demonstrated that salt-water wetlands, while extremely important for biodiversity also play a similarly important role as carbon sinks while releasing few greenhouse gases (see e.g. Chmura et al [2003]).

This increasing understanding within the nation of the value of tidal wetlands (for biodiversity, food production, as carbon sinks and for eco-tourism), has happily led to the decision to restore tidal-flats in Sopo-Ri, Jindo, Jeollanam Province. Local villagers, now supported by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, agreed in February to restore 111.7 ha of rice-field created by reclamation back to tidal-flat ( While there is still some disagreement over funding, ownership and end-use, this will likely be the first project nationwide of its kind, aiming to restore tidal-flats through the demolition of a sea-wall. Two further tidal-flat restoration projects are also planned. Reclamation of coastal wetlands, in the Republic of Korea primarily for agriculture, makes a major contribution to human-induced climate change. Restoration of tidal-flows and tidal-flats is clearly a return to Wise Use.

Daeheungpo Seawall, Jindo island March 8 2009, Photo © Birds Korea

In addition to wetland restoration and a cap and trade system for industry, there is also a need to modify other aspects of agricultural policy and food consumption patterns. According to the Joongang Ilbo (May 18th, 2008), domestic consumption of beef per person reached 8.5 kilograms per year in 2000 (up from 500 grams a year in 1960), in addition to 8.9 kilograms of chicken and 16.5 kilograms of pork. An increase in meat production and consumption increases animal welfare concerns; increases the risk of Poultry Flu; creates health problems; causes habitat and biodiversity loss (through land-clearance for grazing and feed-crops); and it also contributes to greenhouse gas emission in a number of ways. Cows and other farm-animals emit large quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2), and a study in 2008 (described in Spiegel, August 27th, 2008) revealed that agriculture in Germany is now responsible for 133 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year, bringing it close to the level of emissions attributable to road traffic (152 million tons). The production in Germany of just one kilo of beef results in CO2 emissions equivalent to driving between 70.6 and 113.4 kilometers in a car. Reducing meat consumption is increasingly recognized as one of the easiest ways in which to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

What has any of this to do with the work of Birds Korea? A study published in early March by partners to BirdLife International shows that 75% of all European bird species are considered to be in decline due to human-induced climate change (Gregory et al. 2009), while an analysis of Christmas Bird Counts in the United States of America also reveals major shifts in distribution and status of many of North America’s bird species (

As noted by Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Research and Indicators Coordinator, "Citizen Science is allowing us to better recognize the impacts that global warming is having here and now. Only citizen action can help us reduce them."

Green Growth: Wise Use by individuals, and comprehensive and integrated policy by government.

2. Birds Korea News


Green Growth depends on good science. In addition to research on tidal-flat species (e.g. through national shorebird surveys in May 2008 and January 2009, and through the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program, 2006-2008), Birds Korea is committed to increasing knowledge of the distribution and conservation status of the avian biodiversity supported by other key Yellow Sea habitats. This includes offshore islands and open sea areas. In February, our two-year field-research started on Black Woodpigeon Columba janthina, a rather poorly known species in the Yellow Sea. Our research aims to confirm whether the species is resident or migratory; to identify the species’ ecological requirements and limits; and to develop an improved monitoring methodology that can enable population estimates and a conservation strategy to be developed. Although funding is severely limited for this research at present, we welcome researchers to join us in this work. Please contact

Revision of the present version of the Birds Korea Checklist (October 2007) is also ongoing. Changes to the Checklist include further refinement of scientific and English names (in accordance with recent revisions provided by the International Ornithological Congress); addition to the Checklist of new species (including further review of older records); and refinement of status codes. A part of this research entails review of leading birding websites and contacting observers to confirm details of records. Again, we warmly welcome the support and participation in this important process by our members, especially Korean speakers. Can you help us? Organising data and monitoring changes in species’ status will be one way in which we can all help to measure and perhaps predict some of the impacts of human-driven climate change.

Planning and Design

Green Growth requires integrated planning and policy, at the site and the national level, and in accordance with national laws and international agreements. Our final report on the Ramsar-based restoration guidelines proposal for the Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland, funded by the UNDP-GEF Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem project, was completed in mid-February, and planning has now started for a Birds Korea symposium about wetland restoration in Mokpo, tentatively scheduled for early April. Part of this project has already included the development of a bilingual slide-show, including images from both the ROK and overseas. We would like especially to thank Mr. Graham White (RSPB), Mr. Martin Sutherland and Ms. Kim Sona (Birds Korea UK Representative), and other contributors for donating so much excellent information and so many images for use in this work (see e.g. Nature Reserves pages).

Mokpo Urban Wetland, Photo © Birds Korea


Education is the key with which to change attitudes and influence the behaviours that lead to unsustainable development and unsustainable lifestyles. During February, work has continued on our shorebird education book, “Wings Across the Ocean”, to be published by the Nakdong Eco-centre, Busan City, this summer. We have also been in contact with several educators and educational bodies about the development of environmental education programs and materials, with this work coordinated by Ms. Park Meena, Birds Korea National Coordinator (Responsible for Korean-Language Education) and Mr. Geoff Styles, Birds Korea-Canada representative (Responsible for English-language Education). We again invite all those interested in environmental education to contact and join our small but hard-working Education Team. For more information:

3. Exceptional Bird Records

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca NT, V3 (So)
One “male-type” seen by Nial Moores on Gageo Island on February 20th is only approximately the 7th national record.

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis V3
Two, one juvenile and one immature, have been present in the Haenam area since early January (Park Jong Gil). There are only approximately six previous records.

Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca VU, V1
At least four have been present in the Haenam area since early January (Park Jong Gil), with one present still until at least February 24th (Tim Edelsten, Andreas Kim & Robin Newlin).

Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia V3 (So)
One was photographed at sea in Gosong-gun on February 15th (Im Kwang Wan: KWBS), at:

Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus INC, P5 WV1
A flock of up to 51 were photographed at Jumunjin, Gangwon Province (Park Heung-Sik) on February 9th (via KWBS and BirdDb).

Russett Sparrow Passer rutilans S4 W4 PV1
A large flock of c.250 was photographed at Pohang on February 22nd (Ee Yang-Sop, (via KWBS).

Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea DEC, V1
At the Namdae Stream in Yangyang on February 1st one was found dead by Kwak Ho-Kyoung and another was photographed by Ji Jong-Man (both KWBS). On 18th , Kim Woo-Yuel of the Korea National Parks found a flock of approximately 35 on Heuksan Island. Examination of photos and repeat counting of this flock by Nial Moores and Park Jong-Gil on 18th and 19th confirmed the presence of at least 30 (and possibly as many as 33) Common Redpoll, with two or more Arctic Redpoll also present. Four were also seen on Gageo Island on February 22nd (Nial Moores), and on 23rd, a flock was then found in Paju (Jong Da Mi), with 25 still there on 28th (Im Kwang-Wan, Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin). These are the largest numbers of Common Redpoll recorded in recent decades in the Republic of Korea. It appears that the species might once have been more numerous as Gore and Won (1971) wrote that in some years “huge flocks may be encountered throughout the country.” However, in a review of the literature Park (2002) could only trace 30 or so records of the species in total.

Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea, Paju February 28, Photo © Robin Newlin

Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni V3
At least two, and possibly three (or more), were photographed (Nial Moores and Park Jong-Gil) accompanying the flock of Common Redpoll on Heuksan Island on February 18th and 19th.
This is apparently only the second record for the Republic of Korea, after the first on Eocheong Island in late October 2002.

Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni, Heuksan Island, February 19, Photo © Park Jong-Gil

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis V3
One winter-plumaged male was seen (but not photographed) at Kongreung stream on February 4th by Kim Seok Min (via KWBS website).

Correction to the January 2009 Update:

The dark morph Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius photographed by Thomas and Jörg Langenberg at Oido on January 11th is no longer the first record of this type in Korea known to us. Mr. Park Jong-Gil earlier traced a similar-looking museum specimen.


  • Chmura G., Anisfield S., Cahoon D., & J. Lynch. 2003. Global carbon sequestration in tidal, saline wetland soils. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. (Accessed March 2009)
  • Gore, M. & Won P-O. 1971. The Birds of Korea. Published by the Royal Asiatic Society in conjunction with Taewon Publishing Company.
  • Gregory RD, Willis SG, Jiguet F, Voříšek, P., Klvaňová, A., et al. 2009. An Indicator of the Impact of Climatic Change on European Bird Populations. PLoS ONE 4(3): e4678. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004678
  • Park J-Y. 2002 Current status and distribution of birds in Korea. Seoul: Department of Biology, Kyung Hee University (unpublished thesis). (In Korean.)

Finally, a gentle reminder to all of our members (past and present) living in Korea. Birds Korea depends entirely on the support of our members and volunteers. Donations and domestic membership fees are vital to us! Please renew your membership (annual membership fee is only 30,000 Korean won; and life-time membership only 150,000 Korean won at this time), and help us to help the birds!

This update was prepared through the joint efforts of Nial Moores, Kim Sona, Andreas Kim, Park Meena, Park Ju-Seong, and Tim Edelsten, with contributions by many members.

Birds Korea, March 6th 2009.