Environment News Service (ENS)
ENS logo

More Critically Endangered Birds Listed Despite Conservation Efforts
GLAND, Switzerland, May 14, 2009 (ENS) - Nine more bird species have been added this year to the list of Critically Endangered birds that face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild, according to the latest annual evaluation of the world's birds, released today.

Conducted by BirdLife International for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the assessment now lists 192 species of birds as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category.
Critically Endangered Flores hawk-eagle from Indonesia (Photo by Ulrike Wizisk)

At the same time, six bird species that had been considered Critically Endangered have been downlisted to Endangered, a lower category of threat.

BirdLife International scientists found that 1,227 species, 12 percent of the world's birds, are classified as globally threatened with extinction to some degree.

"It extremely worrying that the number of Critically Endangered birds on the IUCN Red List continues to increase, despite successful conservation initiatives around the world," says Simon Stuart, who chairs the IUCN's Species Survival Commission.

In total, nine bird species have been uplisted to the Critically Endangered category:

  • Flores hawk-eagle, Spizaetus floris: Native to Indonesia, this species inhabits lowland and submontane forests of the Lesser Sunda Islands group. Threats include ongoing habitat loss, small population size, limited range and hunting.

  • Nightingale Reed-warbler, Acrocephalus luscinius: This species was once found on five of the Northern Mariana Islands. Now only a few thousand birds survive on Saipan. Threats include the brown tree snake and expanding U.S. military activity on Saipan.

  • Marquesan Kingfisher, Todiramphus godeffroyi: Following its extinction on the island of Hiva Oa, fewer than 1,000 birds now inhabit a single small island where they are declining owing to habitat deterioration and predation.

  • Crow Honeyeater, Gymnomyza aubryana: Endemic to New Caledonia, the remaining few thousand birds are endangered due to introduced rats.

  • Medium Tree-finch, Camarhynchus pauper, one of the Galapagos finches observed by Charles Darwin becomes Critically Endangered, partly as a result of an introduced parasitic fly, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

  • Palila, Loxoides bailleui: A Hawaiian honeycreeper, this species feeds on the mamane tree, which is disappearing due to logging and invasive species encroachment.

  • Sidamo Lark, Heteromirafra sidamoensis: This species from the Liben Plain of Ethiopia is in danger of becoming mainland Africa's first bird extinction due to changes in land use.
  • Critically Endangered Gorgeted puffleg from Colombia (Photo by Alex Cortes courtesy BirdLife)

  • Gorgeted Puffleg, Eriocnemis isabellae: This recently discovered hummingbird from Colombia only has 1,200 hectares of habitat remaining in the cloud forests of the Pinche mountain range in southwest Colombia and eight percent of this is being damaged every year to grow coca. It appears for the first time on the IUCN Red List.

  • Antioquia Brush-finch, Atlapetes blancae: A new species of brush finch from the northern Central Andes of Colombia, this bird was first described in 2007 on basis of three museum specimens. All three museum skins were collected in the 20th century, but only one label has a date, 1971. Subsequent fieldwork in Antioquia has failed to find this species again.
"Across Africa, widespread birds of prey are also disappearing at an alarming rate, and emblematic species such as bateleur, Terathopius ecaudatus, and martial eagle, Polemaetus bellicosus, have been placed in a higher category of threat as a result," said Jez Bird, BirdLife's Global Species Program officer. "These declines are mirrored in many species, in every continent."

Rare birds are becoming rarer and common birds are becoming less common, this year's assessment found. In eastern North America, the chimney swift, Chaetura pelagica, is disappearing following continent-wide declines of nearly 30 percent in the last decade. This common species has been reclassified from Least Concern to Near Threatened.

The good news is that when conservation actions are taken, species can be saved, BirdLife officials say.

"In global terms, things continue to get worse, but there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward," says Dr. Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science and Policy.

Six bird species have been downlisted this year from Critically Endangered to Endangered:

  • Lear's Macaw, Anodorhynchus leari: This species from the eastern state of Bahia, Brazil is now increasing in numbers due to intensive conservation action. Although many birds have not reached breeding maturity, the number of mature birds is now considered to have exceeded 250 for over five years.
    Lear's macaws fly over the Brazilian forest. (Photo by Andy and Gill Swash courtesy World Wildlife Images)

  • Chestnut-bellied hummingbird, Amazilia castaneiventris: While this species remains range restricted within a fragmented landscape in the valleys of northern Colombia where continuing declines are likely, it is now known to have a larger range than was previously thought.

  • Minas Gerais tyrannulet, Phylloscartes roquetti: Endemic to central Brazil, this species was discovered in 1926 on the banks of the rio São Francisco near Januária in Minas Gerais but, apart from a sighting in 1977, it has not been seen again at the original site.

  • Kaempfer's tody-tyrant, Hemitriccus kaempferi: This small greenish flycatcher has been found in 11 localities in southeast Brazil, including a number of new locations, extending its known range. However, within its small and severely fragmented range, the species is predicted to decline rapidly in the next three generations owing to habitat loss and fragmentation.

  • Mauritius fody, Foudia rubra: Restricted to southwest Mauritius, this species suffered rapid population declines since 1975, descending from 247-260 pairs to about 108-122 pairs in late 2001, owing to heavy predation by invasive mammals. Its extremely small population has been stable since the early 1990s and is now increasing following an island translocation.

  • Chatham Petrel, Pterodroma axillaris: Once present throughout New Zealand's Chatham Islands before the arrival of humans, hunting and introduced rats and cats as well as the loss of forest habitat restricted the species to Rangatira island. Before conservation efforts began, the size of the Rangatira population was limited by burrow competition with another bird species, the broad-billed prion, with an estimated 330,000 pairs on the island. Now Chatham petrel burrows are being protected against prion incursion and captive breeding is also boosting petrel survival.
"Both the petrel and fody have suffered from introduced invasive species, and tackling these is one of the 10 key actions needed to prevent further bird extinctions that BirdLife has identified," says Dr. Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's global research and indicators coordinator. "But to achieve this goal, more resources are needed."

"What the changes in this year's IUCN Red List tell us is that we can still turn things around for these species," Butchart said. "There just has to be the will to act."

IUCN Red List categories are:

  • Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild
  • Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild
  • Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild
  • Near Threatened, close to qualifying for Vulnerable
  • Least Concern, species not qualifying for the other categories, including widespread and abundant species
Species are assigned to categories using criteria with quantitative thresholds for population size, population trend, range size and other parameters. For more information visit: http://www.iucnredlist.org

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

  Let's Keep the Upper Lillooet River Wild! Three-time EUEC Keynote Speaker Gina McCarthy Confirmed to Head the EPA Aquaponics Revolutionizes Local Food Growing by Recycling 90% Water