The spoon-billed sandpiper is beautiful, reddish shorebird from northeast Russia that's critically endangered and whose population has plummeted in recent years. The little birds have extremely specific breeding habitat needs, found only in marshland and lagoons near the coast of eastern Siberia, and migrates to Southeast Asia, Japan, and China for the winter. They rarely stray far from the shore, which means their habitats have been unduly affected by development, industrialization, and pollution.
There are thought to be only around 100 breeding pairs left, which makes this video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology so amazing. Gerrit Vyn, a videographer and producer with the lab whose incredible work we've seen before, headed out to the Chutkosk Peninsula with a crew of 10 to capture the sandpipers on film before they disappear. While finding the birds is already a challenge, as they're basically camouflaged needles in a barren eastern Russian haystack, but what Vyn and company captured was even more impressive: footage of spoon-billed sandpiper chicks, which he suggests is likely the only such footage ever captured.
Seeing the chicks tumble about is brain-numbingly cute, and at least a positive sign that the birds are still breeding. But don't let it belie the fact that the birds are in serious trouble–they were listed only as "vulnerable" as recently as 2000–and their population is still trending downward. Wetlands and shore habitats are some of the most fragile and most heavily impacted habitats on Earth, and in many regions are disappearing. While the spoon-billed sandpiper is a particularly dire case, coastal development and degradation has pushed many shorebirds into decline. So while the video is stunning, let's not let it be the last time we see the awesome spoon-billed sandpiper.