Tracking finds Great Knots sites! Liaohekou and Yingkou coast in Liaodong Bay of international importance but currently not a tentative World Heritage Site

What the tracks of satellite tagged birds told us

Five of the tracked Great Knots are currently (11 May 2017) at the Yingkou coast of Liaodong Bay. This is remarkable as voiced by Theunis Piersma: “The Great Knots that went north, select Yingkou coast over Yalu Jang!”. Prof dr. Zhengwang Zhang (Being Normal University) replied with “We should pay more attentions to this site”.

Map 1: Track of Great Knots converging on the coast of northern Bohai Bay, at Yingkou coast of Liaodong Bay. The track on one Great Knot staging in Yalu Jiang is visible on the right (close to the border with North Korea)

The team at work

Hebo Peng, RUG PhD student based at Royal NIOZ, is ground-thruthing sites used by satellite tagged birds and he reported on 8 May 2017:

“We just arrived Gaizhou, Yingkou this afternoon, will survey the benthos and shorebirds in Liaodong Bay from tomorrow. Besides, we will also try to survey a shoal in the Shuangtaizi Delta, but the closing of the fishing season began from 1st May this year, so it may be hard to find a ship to the shoal. Let’s see what will happen in this important area!”

The team has surveyed the area every year since 2015, because earlier a similar number of satellite-tagged Great Knots have been staging at that area. The consistent use of the area in the three last year shows the potential importance of this region! Last year the team made a video of one of the satellite -tagged bird – 6LBBR – at Gaizhou at the head of Liaodong Bay.

Fullscreen capture 2017-05-12 71735 AM.bmp
Map 2. Tracks on 5 Great Knots (thick lines) and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits (thin lines) at Yingkou coast where Hebo Peng is sampling benthos and following foraging birds. The area called Gaizhou is on the right, in the corner of the bay (Melville et al. 2016)

Where is this site?

The northern coasts used by the birds are in the province of Liaoning, near the town of Yingkou. Importantly, the site in not on the tentative list of sites to be considered on the World Heritage List of sites of outstanding universal value coast in the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea of China, see

How should we name the area that covers the mudflats currently being used by the 5 Great Knots and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, and are the sites protected? We asked the experts.

Nicola Crockford (RSPB) remarked that the northern coast of Liaodong Bay was put forward in the IUCN Situation Analysis as key intertidal area (MacKinnon et al. 2012). It is mostly taken up by the Liaoning Liaohekou National Nature Reserve (formerly Shuangtaizihekou NNR), which makes up 80,000 ha of protected area (see Map 3).

Map 3: Liaodong Bay key area, as identified in the IUCN Situation Analysis (MacKinnon et al. 2012). The light purple line denotes the approximate border of the key area. Red lines show the area of the IBA named Shuangtai (Shuangtaizi) Estuary and Inner Gulf of Liaodong, which after the name change of the river is now Liaohe Estuary (or Liaohekou)

Simba Chan (Birdlife China) says that Liaodong Bay is actually the entire ‘northern Gulf’ of Bohai Bay; in 2009 recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and was then named Shuangtai (Shuangtaizi) Estuary and Inner Gulf of Liaodong (Chan et al. 2009).

Prof dr. Zhijun Ma (Fudan University) reports that the site is recognized as Laobian-Yingkou coast Nature Reserve and Liaoning Liaohekou National Nature Reserve which is one of China’s top 21 priority wetlands. For details see the paper by Xia and colleagues in Biological Conservation (Xia et al. 2016). Both sites are of high importance (see Map 4).

Map 4: Priority sites in Liaoning following Xia et al. 2016. In red: Laobian-Yingkou coast Nature Reserve and Liaoning Liaohekou National Nature Reserve (NNR). In green two other unprotected sites: Panjin Nanxiaohe/Liaohe (also called Yingkou Wetland Park and Ridao Saltwork Yinghekou. Note the high irreplaceability value for the two Liaoning sites

Also David Melville and colleagues have reported that Gaizhou (at the head of Liaodong Bay) is a previously unknown site that is of international importance for Great Knots and four other shorebird species and two gulls, however it is threatened by development (Melville et al. 2016)!


Chan, S. (Editor-In-Chief), M. Crosby, S. So, W. Dezhi, F. Cheung & H. Fangyuan (2009) Directory of Important Bird Areas in China (Mainland): Key Sites for Conservation. BirdLife International. 231 pp. Available at ChinaBirdNet.

MacKinnon, J., Y.I. Verkuil. & N. Murray (2012) IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asianintertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea). Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 47. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 70 pp. Available at the EAAFP website.

Melville, D.S, H.-B. Peng, Y.-C. Chan, Q. Bai, P. He, K. Tan, Y. Chen, S. Zhang & Z. Ma (2016) Gaizhou, Liaodong Bay, Liaoning Province, China – a site of international importance for Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris and other shorebirds. Stilt 69-70: 56-60. Available at Research Gate.

Xia, S., X. Yua, S. Millington, Y. Liua, Y. Jia, L. Wang, X. Hou & L. Jiang (2016) Identifying priority sites and gaps for the conservation of migratory waterbirds in China’s coastal wetlands. Biological Conservation:

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