1 in 8 bird species are facing extinction, including some beloved ones

April 26, 2018, 8:11 a.m.
Atlantic puffins stand on the Faroe Islands during a cloudy day
Photo: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

There's bad news in birdland. Forty percent of the world's 11,000 known bird species are in decline, and one in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction. The threatened include some of the most beloved, iconic birds, such as the European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) and the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), pictured above.

The findings come from BirdLife International's State of the World's Birds report, a global overview of avian well-being.

"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 of the report, says in a statement. "The threats driving the avian extinction crisis are many and varied, but invariably of humanity's making."

The report doesn't hedge about that last point. Whether it's unsustainable agricultural practices — identified in the report as the primary threat to birds — or poorly planned infrastructure, human industry is at the core of declining bird populations. And, appropriately enough, those bird populations serve as canaries in the world's coal mine. Since birds have adapted to live in so many different environments, they can provide valuable clues about the overall health of Earth's ecosystems.

It's not all doom and gloom, however. Thanks to conservation efforts, at least 25 bird species that would have gone extinct are still around, and a number of birds have bounced back from being critically endangered to endangered, including the red-billed curassow (Crax blumenbachii), the pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) and the black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor).

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