Birds you won’t believe are threatened with extinction

Seven birds that were once considered common and widespread are now plummeting towards extinction. Some of the species on this list will shock you. The European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur is so familiar in Europe that it even features in the second verse of the wildly popular Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”. Imagine if we had to change the words of the song to reflect the loss of this much-loved species…

This bird used to be hugely abundant and wide-ranging, migrating to Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East from the Sahel zone of Africa. The species is now declining across its range, especially in Western Europe, and its conservation status has recently been re-classified as Vulnerable to extinction.

The Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus is surely one of the most widely recognised birds in the world, made even more famous through the Harry Potter franchise. It is also exceedingly widespread, occurring throughout the Arctic tundra of the Northern Hemisphere. Yet it is experiencing a rapid decline. It has recently been classed as Vulnerable.

With its charmingly striped beak and waddling walk, the Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica has stolen hearts throughout the North Atlantic Ocean. This much-loved seabird even formed the inspiration for Star Wars’ Porgs, since its breeding colonies were too numerous to digitally remove from the filming location on the island of Skellig Michael, Ireland. The species is now considered Vulnerable to extinction.

Until recently, the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola was one of Eurasia’s most abundant bird species, breeding across the Northern Hemisphere from Finland to Japan. However, since 1980, its population has declined by 90%, whilst its range has contracted by 5,000 km, and the species is now considered Critically Endangered.

Nothing could be more familiar than the sight of the Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus – a species that is so synonymous with the word “bird” that it’s frequently used to illustrate “B for Bird” in children’s alphabet books. This friendly and highly intelligent parrot is a favourite companion that can be found in pet shops and homes around the world – but that’s part of the problem. Their popularity fuels an illegal trade which, combined with the deforestation of their habitat across central Africa, now renders the species Endangered in the wild.

The Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla is the default European seagull species, right? Not anymore. The sight of cliffs heaving with these sociable seabirds may soon be a thing of the past. On the island of St Kilda in Scotland, UK, populations have plummeted by 96% since 2000, and cliffs are now lying barren.

We think of vultures as the ultimate survivors: carrion feeders that clean up after other animals have died, and will probably still be doing so when human civilization is long gone. So it may shock you to learn that across Africa and Eurasia, many vulture populations are in free fall. Today, just two of the 16 species of “Old World” Vultures remain off the Endangered list, while eight are classified as Critically Endangered and are at risk of imminent extinction; three are Endangered; and three Near Threatened.

Source: BirdLife International, 25 April 2018…