Wednesday, June 01, 2005

One-fifth of Earth's bird species in danger

Infoshop News has posted a Reuters story regarding Earth's bird species in danger:
More than a fifth of the planet's bird species face extinction as humans venture further into their habitats and introduce alien predators, an environmental group said on Wednesday.

While there have been some success stories of species that reappeared or recovered, the overall situation of the world's birds is worsening, BirdLife International said in its annual assessment of the feathered fauna.

"The total number (of bird species) considered to be threatened with extinction is now 1,212, which when combined with the number of near threatened species gives a total of exactly 2,000 species in trouble -- more than a fifth of the planet's remaining 9,775 species," BirdLife said.

Several species from Europe appear in the list for the first time, including the European roller, for which key populations in Turkey and European Russia have declined markedly.

BirdLife, a global alliance of conservation groups, said 179 species were categorised as critically endangered, the highest level of threat. They include the Azores bullfinch, one of Europe's rarest songbirds that has fewer than 300 left.

There has been some good news on the bird front.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was sighted in the United States for the first time in decades.

On the Seychelles the magpie-robin, a species that had dwindled to just 12-15 birds on one island by 1965, recovered to over 130 after birds were relocated to small, predator-free islands off Africa's east coast.

But news has been bad elsewhere. BirdLife said two of New Zealand's species have moved closer to joining five others that are extinct there, largely because of introduced rat population explosions in 1999 and 2000.

These resulted in the loss of two populations of yellowhead and almost wiped out the orange-fronted parakeet, reducing its numbers to tens.

Habitat destruction and the introduction of alien predators are among the biggest threats to bird populations globally.

"Despite the recent rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, overall more species are currently sliding towards oblivion," said BirdLife communication officer Ed Parnell.

"One in five bird species on the planet now faces a risk in the short or medium-term of joining the dodo, great auk and 129 other species that we know have become extinct since 1500."

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