Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

222 Bird Species Worldwide Now Critically Endangered

Animals
The critically endangered yellow-breasted bunting. Edmond Sham (CC BY 2.0)

By John R. Platt

What do the southern red-breasted plover, ultramarine lorikeet and Rimatara reed warbler have in common?


Here's the unfortunate answer: They're just a few of the bird species newly listed as critically endangered in the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The update, released last month by BirdLife International, cites climate change and overfishing as causes of the population declines of many species, particularly seabirds.

All told 222 bird species worldwide are now considered critically endangered, putting them one step above extinction. In fact, some of those species may already be gone: 21 species haven't been seen in years and are actually listed as "critically endangered, possibly extinct."

The yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola) could join that list of extinct species before too much longer. Previously considered to be of least concern, this once-common Asian species has experienced a catastrophic 80 percent population decline over the past 13 years and is now listed as critically endangered. The brightly colored bird is commonly trapped and sold as food on China's black market, despite being legally protected in that country.

In addition to the critically endangered list, another 461 bird species are now listed as endangered, with another 786 considered vulnerable. Fully 13 percent of the world's bird species are now considered threatened.

BirdLife didn't reassess every bird species this year, but it did publish new data on 238 of them. Among the most striking examples:

  • Snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus), previously listed as of least concern, are now considered vulnerable, with threats ranging from illegal hunting to climate change.
  • Nesting black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) are having trouble feeding their chicks as overfishing and climate change have robbed them of their food, a situation echoed with several other seabird species. The Cape gannet (Morus capensis), for example, has resorted to following fishing vessels in search of food and now relies on the discards thrown off the boats—essentially low-nutrition "junk food" that lowers the survival rates of newborn chicks.
  • Similarly, the kea (Nestor notabilis), a parrot from New Zealand, has been listed as endangered because tourists keep feeding them unhealthy food like bread and potato chips.

Thankfully, there are several bright spots amongst all of this bad news. BirdLife found that several dozen bird species are now doing better than they were and have been downlisted to lower threat categories. This includes two species of kiwi, five owls, three parakeets and a number of warblers and babblers. Most notably the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), the world's largest freshwater bird, has been downlisted from vulnerable to near threatened—a testament to decades of protective efforts and proof that the fate of many of these endangered species can still be turned around.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Deserted view of NH24 near Akshardham Temple on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, but recently air pollution levels have started to drop dramatically as the second-most populated nation endures the second week of a 21-day lockdown amidst coronavirus fears, according to The Weather Channel.

Read More Show Less
A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan on April 2. ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP / Getty Images

By Eddie Ndopu

  • South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
  • Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
  • The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. on Nov. 9, 2015. Al Drago / CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two malarial drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, despite only anecdotal evidence that either is proven effective in treating or slowing the progression of the disease in seriously ill patients.

Read More Show Less
Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
The recovery of elephant seals is one of the "signs of hope" that scientists say show the oceans can recover swiftly if we let them. NOAA / CC BY 2.0

The challenges facing the world's oceans are well known: plastic pollution could crowd out fish by 2050, and the climate crisis could wipe out coral reefs by 2100.

Read More Show Less