One in Eight Birds in Danger of Extinction

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one in eight bird species is currently facing extinction. The most recent update of the Red List of threatened bird species listed 190 bird species as ‘critically endangered’. Eight of the birds on this list were added this year and a further sixteen species have been given a higher threat status. In sharp contrast, only two species were found to have improved prospects of survival. Clearly things are spiraling out of control.

Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International, an organization which helped IUCN compile the list, sighted the destruction of natural habitats and climate changes brought about by global warming as the biggest factors in this unfortunate trend. Sadly things seem unlikely to change anytime soon. Burchart noted that the resulting fragmented populations become even more susceptible to climate changes and this, in turn, can bring about a higher level of localized extinctions. He further added that to ultimately turn things around, we would have to see “broad-scale climate-change mitigation measures” as well as a change in “society’s values and lifestyles.” However, while there has been an ever-increasing trend amongst first world countries to go ‘green’, it is unlikely that we will see these changes implemented on a large-enough scale to prevent this wave of destruction.

There are approximately 10 000 known bird species. Of these over 1200 are now considered to be ‘threatened’. At least eight species have been bumped up the list to the status ‘critically endangered’. The statistics include the Floreana mocking bird, which is limited to a tiny population of only 60 animals, and the Mallee emuwren – of which there are only about 100 individuals still left in the wild. These are two of the most endangered species on the list, but more familiar bird species also merit attention. The sandpiper and albatross are also listed as endangered, and the spotted kiwi in New Zealand has had its status marked up from near threatened to vulnerable.

One of the birds marked down was the Marquesan imperial pigeon. The change from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’ comes as the result of determined conservation efforts. This shows that conservation can be effective, but it has to be implemented for all these endangered species if we are going to see any major changes. While activities, such as the clearing of forests to make way for palm-oil plantations, continue to destroy vital bird habitats, BirdLife has set a program in motion to try and stop this ongoing trend in its tracks. Called the “Preventing Extinctions” program, the aim is to find groups who will be willing to protect each of the 190 birds that are listed as critically endangered. Bird lovers can only hope that the new program will prove to be a success.