The Status of Bird Species - What Are The Major Threats To Birds?, Endangered Bird Species, Back From The Brink—success Stories
threatened percent conservation habitat
Birds have always been among the best-studied biological groups, in part because of the efforts of countless amateur birdwatchers. In 2003 the World Conservation Union (IUCN) reported that 129 bird species have gone extinct, with another four species extinct in the wild. The rate of extinction among birds has increased every fifty years. Bird species have died out because of habitat destruction, hunting and collection, pollution, and predation by non-native species. The extinction rate of bird species is alarming not only because of the irrevocable loss of each species but also because of implications for the health of entire ecosystems.
The United States government has long recognized the importance of bird biodiversity and promoted habitat conservation under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, passed by Congress in 1929. This law established the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which works with the Secretary of the Interior to designate and fund avian wildlife refuge areas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for acquiring necessary lands through direct purchase, lease, or easement (agreement with landowners). The Fish and Wildlife Service has procured over 4 million acres of land for bird refuges.
Birds received considerable attention in the 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A total of 1,194 bird species were considered threatened—one of every eight described species. Another 727 bird species were considered "near threatened." There were 182 bird species categorized as "critically endangered," a significant increase from 168 listed species only seven years earlier. Of these critically endangered species, a large majority—89 percent—have been harmed by loss of habitat. The number of "endangered" birds listed by the IUCN also increased dramatically, from 235 to 331 species.
Certain groups of birds have declined particularly. All twenty-one albatross species are considered threatened under the 2003 Red List, due largely to deaths from long-line fishing. Prior to the rise of long-line fishing, most albatross populations were fairly stable. The number of threatened penguin species has also jumped, increasing to ten in 2003. Finally, rapid deforestation in Southeast Asian rainforests has increased the number of threatened doves, parrots, and perching birds.
Less than 5 percent of Earth's land area is home to 75 percent of the world's threatened bird species. The largest numbers of endangered birds are found in Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, China, Peru, India, and Tanzania. New Zealand and the Philippines have the highest proportion of threatened species, with 42 percent and 35 percent respectively.