With its thin red bill and delicate scale pattern along its flanks, the scaly-sided merganser is a strikingly beautiful bird. It breeds in far eastern Asia, where China, Russia and North Korea meet. The species faces a number of threats, from logging, hunting and fishing in the breeding grounds, to pollution and major habitat changes in the wintering area. Recent surveys suggest that the scaly-sided mergansers are not as widespread as hoped, and the population is largely restricted to the Primorye region in the far south-east corner of Russia (1,500 pairs), with a further 200 pairs in north-east China. This remote, densely-forested location hampers monitoring and conservation.
WWT has been closely supporting a Russian team to research the merganser and initiate conservation in its breeding area. Led by Diana Solovyova, the team has erected almost 200 nest boxes to replace potential nest sites lost to logging. As the nest boxes were far more popular with the birds on logged than on un-logged rivers, it seems that the availability of nest-sites may be limiting the population. More nest boxes could lead to further population increases.
The nest boxes have also enabled us to fit data loggers to individual birds, giving us valuable insights into their movements during migration and in winter.
In 2010, WWT organised a workshop in Vladivostok, bringing together experts from Russia, China, North and South Korea, Australia and the UK to develop an international conservation action plan. New relationships were forged and plans for collaborative surveys developed. The action plan is the first to be developed under the East Asian-Australian Flyway Partnership.