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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Shortly before the spring migration to the breeding grounds the Chinese egret acquires its breeding plumage. Breeding takes place on offshore islands amongst breeding colonies of other species, on cliffs or in trees and low bushes. The disc-shaped nest is built of straw and creeping plants, and in it the female lays between three and five eggs. They are incubated by the female for 24 to 30 days, and the hatchlings remain in the nest for a further 36 to 40 days being fed crabs and fish by the female (4). The Chinese egret is a feisty feeder, running after the receding tide with open wings to catch mobile prey, such as crabs and other invertebrates. It is often found feeding amongst other heron species, and will take fish and shrimps when possible (4).
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Description

This beautifully elegant member of the heron family is characterised by its long legs, neck and bill, and upright body. It has a drooping head-crest and bluish facial skin running from the orange bill through the eye. Its feathers are pure white, and especially long on the back and breast. The legs are black but the feet are greenish-yellow (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Egretta eulophotes breeds on small islands off the coasts of eastern Russia, North Korea, South Korea and mainland China. It formerly bred in Taiwan (China) and Hong Kong (China), but is now only a non-breeding visitor or passage migrant. It is also a non-breeding visitor to Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular and eastern Malaysia (Sarawak), Singapore, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi) and Brunei. Key wintering areas are the Eastern Visayas (Leyte, Bohol and Cebu), Philippines, and the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Selangor where 30-50% of the global populaton are believed to winter based on winter counts in 2004/2005 (Li 2006). The population is estimated at 2,600-3,400 mature individuals. There has been no significant decline in this species in the last ten years (Simba Chan in litt. 2002), and recent discoveries of new colonies off southern China may represent increased observer effort, but possibly indicate some improvement in the species's status.

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Range

E Asia; winters to SE Asia, Philippines and Indonesia.

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Historic Range:
China, Korea

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Range

Occupying Russia, North Korea, South Korea and mainland China during the breeding season, the Chinese egret used to breed also in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but is now just a non-breeding visitor. It also visits Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular and eastern Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei as a non-breeder. It migrates to the eastern Visavas of the Philippines for the winter. It is not thought to have declined significantly in the last decade (2).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It occurs in shallow tidal estuaries, mudflats and bays, occasionally visiting fishponds and paddy-fields. Since 1985, all breeding records have been from uninhabited offshore islands.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Inhabits shallow tidal estuaries, mudflats and bays, and may also be seen in paddy fields and fishponds (2).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Egretta eulophotes

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTCGATGATTATTCTCAACCAACCACAAAGACATCGGTACTCTATACCAAATCTTCGGAGCATGAGCCGGTATAATTGGAACCGCCCTC---AGCCTCCTTATCCGAGCTGAACTTGGCCAGCCAGGAACGCTCCTAGGAGAC---GACCAGATCTATAATGTGATTGTCACCGCTCATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTCATACCAATCATAATTGGAGGATTCGGAAACTGACTAGTACCCCTCATA---ATTGGTGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCACGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTCCTTCCACCATCATTTATACTCCTACTAGCCTCATCCACAGTCGAAGCAGGAGCAGGCACGGGCTGAACAGTCTACCCACCCTTAGCTGGCAACCTAGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTTGACCTA---GCCATCTTCTCCCTTCACTTAGCAGGGGTATCTTCCATCCTAGGGGCAATCAACTTCATTACAACTGCCATCAACATAAAACCTCCAACCCTATCACAATACCAAACTCCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTAATCACCGCTGTTCTACTCCTACTTTCACTCCCAGTTCTCGCTGCA---GGTATTACAATACTACTAACTGATCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCTGCCGGAGGTGGCGACCCAGTCCTCTATCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTCGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTATATTCTAATCCTACCAGGATTCGGAATCATCTCCCACGTAGTAGCCTACTACGCGGGTAAAAAG---GAACCATTTGGCTATATAGGCATAGTATGAGCCATACTATCAATTGGATTCTTAGGCTTCATCGTATGAGCTCACCATATATTTACAGTAGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGAGCATACTTCACATCCGCCACTATAATCATTGCAATTCCAACTGGCATCAAAGTCTTTAGCTGACTG---GCCACA
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Egretta eulophotes

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Allen, D., Chan, S., Chen, X., Fang, W., Lin, Q. & Zhou, X.

Justification
This species has a small, declining population, principally as a result of the reclamation of tidal mudflats, estuarine habitats and offshore breeding islands for industry, infrastructure development and aquaculture. These factors qualify it as Vulnerable.

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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Egretta eulophotes , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Status

The Chinese egret is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (3).
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Population

Population
The global population was estimated to number c.2,600-3,400 individuals, roughly equivalent to 1,700-2,300 mature individuals, based on recent records and surveys (BirdLife International 2001). However, this is thought to be an underestimate, as the number in China alone is estimated at c.1,000 mature individuals and could be around 1,500-2,000 mature individuals (Xiaolin Chen et al. in litt. 2012). On this basis, the population is placed in the band for 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, which is probably equivalent to 3,800-15,000 individuals, assuming that mature individuals account for around 2/3 of the population.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
By the end of the 19th century, it had been almost totally extirpated by persecution motivated by factors including the trade in its plumes. Today, the greatest threat is habitat loss and degradation through reclamation of tidal flats, estuarine habitats and uninhabited offshore breeding islands for infrastructure, industry, aquaculture and agriculture, and through pollution. Fishers in Liaoning, China, collect eggs for food, and breeding birds are threatened by disturbance. The rapid decline of a colony at Shin-do, South Korea, in the early 1990s, was apparently a result of disturbance by photographers.

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Demand for the beautiful plumes of the Chinese egret threatened to drive this species to extinction before the end of the 19th Century, although this has been refuted by some authorities. Declines continued into the last century, due to habitat loss and degradation following conversion of tidal flats and estuaries to areas for aquaculture, agriculture and industry. In China, it is disturbed by egg collectors and photographers and breeding success is consequently reduced. In particular, disturbance by photographers in the 1990s caused a colony in South Korea to suffer startling declines (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I. It is legally protected in Russia, China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan, and South Korea. Some important breeding, staging and wintering sites are protected, including the Far Eastern Marine Reserve (Russia) and sites in China, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey the coast of China, North Korea and South Korea for breeding sites and monitor existing sites. Survey its wintering range for new sites and establish a winter monitoring programme. Create a network of environmentally stable sites for it in the central Philippines. Extend the boundaries of the Far Eastern Marine Reserve to include the coast between the Tumen river mouth and Pos'yet Bay (Russia). Establish as protected areas Thai Thuy in the Red River delta and Bai Boi in the Mekong delta (Vietnam). Incorporate mudflats and mangroves near Krabi within the Hat Nopparat Tara National Park (Thailand). Establish protected areas at Pulau Bruit, Sarawak (Malaysia). Protect offshore breeding islands in China and North Korea. Prohibit egg-collecting in the breeding grounds in China and North Korea.

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Conservation

The Chinese egret is legally protected in Russia, China and South Korea, and benefits from protected land covering several key breeding, staging and wintering sites. Proposed measures to conserve this species include the creation of a network of environmentally stable sites in the central Philippines and the extension of the boundaries in the Far Eastern Marine Reserve. It is crucial to establish further protected areas and to prohibit the collection of eggs in China and North Korea (2).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

IUCN Red List Category

Vulnerable
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
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Wikipedia

Chinese Egret

The Chinese egret or Swinhoe's egret (Egretta eulophotes) is a threatened species of egret from east Asia.

Description[edit]

The Chinese egret averages 68 cm in height. The plumage is white throughout the bird's life and resembles the little egret Egretta garzetta. Outside the breeding season the bill is dusky with the basal portion being flesh coloured and the lores and legs are yellow-green, while the iris is yellow. All individuals are similar in this season. In the breeding season the adults develop a luxuriant crest which is sometimes over 11 cm long. It also develops long lanceolate plumes on its breast and dorsal plumes extending beyond the tail, called aigrettes and similar to those of little egret. The bare parts change too, the bill becomes a bright, almost orange, yellow while the lores turn bright blue and the legs black with yellow feet.[2]

Distribution and population[edit]

The Chinese egret breeds on small islands off the coasts of far eastern Russia, North Korea, South Korea and mainland China. It formerly bred in Taiwan and the New Territories of Hong Kong although it is now only a non-breeding visitor or passage migrant to these countries. It is also a non-breeding passage migrant or winterer in Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. The most important wintering areas are the Eastern Visayas, i.e. the islands of Leyte, Bohol and Cebu in the Philippines, and the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Selangor where between one third and a half of the world population are believed to winter, based on the results of a winter census undertaken in 2004/05. The total population is estimated at 2,600-3,400 individuals. During the decade 2002-2012 there was no significant decline in the population of this species, and there are newly discovered colonies off the coast of southern China which may represent increased observer effort, but could also indicate a real growth in the population.[3]

It is classified as Vulnerable, the biggest threat being habitat loss.

Habitat[edit]

Outside the breeding season the Chinese egret occurs in shallow tidal estuaries, mudflats and bays, occasionally visiting rice-fields and fish ponds. All recent breeding records have been from offshore islands.[3]

Behaviour[edit]

In South Korea the first returning Chinese egrets, almost always already in full-breeding plumage, start to arrive back in mid-April. Their first appearance is in small numbers on offshore islands, especially in stormy weather, with immigration over by mid-May. The period of spring migration is therefore rather short, and most birds are thought to arrive in their Korean breeding colonies without staging anywhere along the Korean coast. The autumn migration is rather more leisurely with many egrets appearing to move southwards along the west coast during August and September, before departing Korea probably out through the south-west of the peninsula across the Yellow Sea. Other Chinese egrets probably move westwards directly across from Gyeonggi Bay towards the Shandong Peninsula, and then down the Chinese coast. During August and September 1998 two survey circuits were conducted along most of the west and south coast of South Korea and provided some insight into the suspected autumn migration strategy, with around 475 Chinese egrets found between August 18 and September 2, increasing to 615 between September 13 and 28. Most were found in the north-western Gyeonggi Bay, which also holds most of South Korea's breeding birds, but significant counts were made at several more southern sites, especially in the second survey circuit.[4]

Conservation[edit]

The nuptial plumes Chinese egret, like other egrets were in demand for decorating hats. They had been used for this purpose since at least the 17th century but in the 19th century it became a major craze and the number of egret skins passing through dealers reached into the millions. This is thought to have contributed to the decline of all of the white Egretta species. The greatest modern threat is habitat loss and reclamation of tidal flats and estuarine habitats, and through pollution.[3]

References[edit]

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