1 In 8 Bird Species Threatened With Extinction


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

This Snowy Owl looks happy, but it's probably unaware its species is in deep trouble. James.Pintar/Shutterstock

One in eight of the world’s bird species are now threatened with extinction. Among the hundreds of birds in this grim list are some of the world’s most recognized and beloved species, including the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus), the European turtle-dove (Streptopelia turtur), and the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica). Yep, even the puffin.

The findings come from a new report, State of the World’s Birds 2018, by BirdLife International that looked at the health of the world’s bird populations. Along with the particularly shocking fact that one in eight birds are threatened with extinction, they found that up to 40 percent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline.


“The data are unequivocal. We are undergoing a steady and continuing deterioration in the status of the world’s birds,” Tris Allinson, BirdLife’s senior global science officer and editor-in-chief of the report, said in a statement. “The threats driving the avian extinction crisis are many and varied, but invariably of humanity’s making.”

The puffin's decline is primarily put down to overfishing, as well as climate change. Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock

No surprises, human and human-related activity is the main force behind the trend, primarily in the form of agriculture. They found that the expansion and intensification of agriculture impacted 1,091 (74 percent) of globally threatened birds. This is usually a result of habitat destruction, although the report also points to the controversial use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Invasive non-native species, logging, hunting, trapping, and extreme weather caused by climate change were also among the prime forces to blame – ultimately all human-caused factors.

As for the puffin, their decline is primarily down to overfishing. BirdLife International explains that assessing the health of bird populations is much like "taking the pulse of the planet”. Considering that the findings are, on the whole, pretty damn depressing, that might not sound too promising. Adding further to this uncomforting idea, another recent study has found that the world's large mammals are in a sticky state of affairs. 

Not all doom 'n' gloom: Red-billed curassow went from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Leonardo Mercon/Shutterstock 

But hey, it wasn’t all bad news. The report detailed a number of species that have gone from Critically Endangered to Endangered, such as the red-billed curassow (Crax blumenbachii) in Brazil, the pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) of Mauritius, and the black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor). Equally optimistic, the report showed how at least 25 bird species would have gone extinct if it wasn’t for recent conservation programs.

“Although the report provides a sobering update on the state of birds and biodiversity, and of the challenges ahead, it also clearly demonstrates that solutions do exist and that significant, lasting success can be achieved,” added Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO.


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