Extinct & Rare Birds

Have you ever used the expression ‘as dead as a Dodo’? The Dodo is one of the most well known extinct bird species. Sadly, the Dodo is not the only bird that has been classified as extinct.

When we refer to an extinct bird we are referring to a bird species that is no longer in existence. Recent studies have determined the main reasons for extinction are: loss of habitat due to development by humans; and harassment by humans or predation by exotic species. 42 species and 44 subspecies have become extinct within the last 280 years, most of which are island dwellers. The three extinct species below clearly illustrate the seriousness of this issue.

The Dodo was a large flightless bird living on the island of Mauritius. Dodos were killed by sailors, and their nests and young were destroyed by newly introduced cats, rats and pigs brought to the island by the settlers. Another extinct flightless bird was the Great Auk. Its population decreased due to hunting, with the last two being killed by collectors of rare specimens. The Passenger Pigeon was one of the most plentiful bird species in the world in the 19th century. The trees in which they nested were cut down to make way for farm land, decreasing their numbers. Additionally, a mass slaughter was conducted yearly. As Passenger Pigeons required large groups to breed and thrive in, this led to their extinction.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done for these and many other extinct species. However, we can make an effort to preserve those species which are considered to be rare and endangered. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies 168 species as having a critical conservation status (50% probability of becoming extinct within 5 years) and 235 species as endangered (20% probability of extinction within 20 years). Many people consult rare bird alerts to find out the latest status on these bird species as well as when/where they have been spotted. Lists of rare birds are released and updated regularly by the IUCN.

Many programs have been set up to curb this trend towards extinction. Why not find out what rare birds are in your area and how you can help them survive.