Jul 25

Birdlife’s recent assessment of 350 newly recognised bird species, on behalf of the IUCN Red List, has found that 25 percent of these species are at risk of extinction. Around 13 percent of all known bird species are considered to be at risk, showing that the conservation of these newly recognised species needs to be prioritised.

This recent study focussed on non-passerine birds, such as birds of prey, owls, seabirds and waterbirds. There are 4,472 non-passerine birds known to science, of which 361 were found to be distinct species during this recent assessment. The identification of these new non-passerines shows that previous species counts have underestimated the true diversity of this avian group by around 10 percent.

Just a few Bugun liocichla breeding pairs have been found in eastern India and the species has been reclassified as Critically Endangered

One finding of the study was that an ostrich subspecies, the Somali ostrich, is in fact a distinct species and has now been classified as Vulnerable. Andy Symes, BirdLife’s Global Species Officer, said, “This species highlights both the need for improved knowledge of the world’s birds and the need for conservation action in some of the most challenging parts of the globe.” It is hoped that the early recognition of these threatened species will provoke action to ensure their future survival.

Despite the recovery of the lammergeier in Europe, the species is declining globally and has been upgraded from Least Concern to Near Threatened

Various species have also been reassessed to determine whether their Red List classification is currently correct. The population size of many species has dramatically decreased, leading to reclassification. In some species, such as the lammergeier, it was found that the population is becoming larger in certain areas but is declining in others.

The newly recognised Javan blue-banded kingfisher has entered the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered

The importance of bird hotspots was also highlighted during the assessment, especially those that are home to many endemic species. These habitats, along with the bird species that live within them, are in desperate need of conservation action to ensure their future survival. Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Head of Science, said, “The IUCN Red List is crucial not only for helping to identify those species needing targeted recovery efforts, but also for focussing the conservation agenda by identifying the key sites and habitats that need to be saved, including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas.

Read more on this story at IUCN – One tenth of bird species flying under the conservation radar.

Check out Arkive’s top 50 bird species.

Hannah Mulvany, Arkive Content and Outreach Officer

Jun 7

Nearly 100 species of Amazonian birds have a significantly increased risk of extinction, according to the 2012 IUCN Red List update for birds, which was released today by BirdLife International.

Photo of hoary-throated spinetail in forest habitat

Hoary-throated spinetail, uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List update

For Amazon species, the new conservation assessments are based on models projecting the patterns and extent of deforestation in the region. Of particular concern are species with longer lifespans, such as the Rio Branco antbird, which is unable to tolerate even moderate rates of forest loss.

Others, like the hoary-throated spinetail, may lose over 80% of their habitat in coming decades. As a result, many species have been placed into higher threat categories on the IUCN Red List.

We have previously underestimated the risk of extinction that many of Amazonia’s bird species are facing,” said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “However, given recent weakening of Brazilian forest law, the situation may be even worse than recent studies have predicted.”

Photo of Rio Branco antbird on a branch, flapping wings

Rio Branco antbird, uplisted from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered

Global declines

Undertaken every four years, the 2012 update is a comprehensive review of the conservation status of the world’s 10,000-plus bird species. Worryingly, it shows that the Amazon is not the only part of the world seeing large declines in bird populations.

In Northern Europe, the long-tailed duck is of particular concern, with over 1 million individuals disappearing from the Baltic Sea in the last 20 years. The status of this species has been uplisted to ‘Vulnerable’, but the reasons for its decline are unclear. Another sea duck, the velvet scoter, is faring even worse, and has now been listed as Endangered.

Photo of white-backed vulture with wings spread

White-backed vulture, uplisted from Near Threatened to Endangered

In Africa, white-backed vultures and Rueppell’s griffons are increasingly under threat, with rapid declines occurring as a result of poisoning, habitat loss and persecution. Their decline has wider implications, as these species play a vital role in the food chain by feeding on dead animals.

Good news

The update does not reveal all bad news, however. For example, the restinga antwren, a rare bird from southeast Brazil, has been downlisted from Critically Endangered after surveys found it to be more widely distributed than previously thought. The creation of a new protected area is also likely to make its future more secure.

For some birds, conservation efforts have helped to turn around their fate. The Rarotonga flycatcher, a species endemic to the Cook Islands, was once one of the world’s rarest birds. However, intensive conservation efforts, particularly the control of invasive alien predators such as black rats, have helped bring this species back from the brink of extinction.

Photo of male restinga antwren perched

Restinga antwren, downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered

Such successes show the remarkable achievements that are possible where effort and dedication by conservationists and local communities are backed up with political support and adequate resources,” said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Research Coordinator.

More conservation action needed

With many bird species around the world facing a number of increased threats, BirdLife has called for conservation efforts to be increased.

Photo of Rarotonga flycatcher perched on branch

Rarotonga flycatcher, downlisted from Endangered to Vulnerable as a result of successful conservation efforts

The worrying projections for the Amazon emphasize the urgent need for governments to meet their international commitments by establishing comprehensive protected area networks that are adequately funded and effectively managed,” said Dr Butchart.

According to Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group, “It is clear that conservation works, but more action is needed if we are to protect these magnificent species which play an integral role in maintaining healthy ecosystems on which both birds and humans depend.”

Read more on this story at BirdLife International – Threat to the Amazon’s birds greater than ever, Red List update reveals.

Find out more about threatened birds at BirdLife International – Spotlight on threatened birds.

View photos and videos of birds on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Mar 9

The status of the world’s seabirds has deteriorated rapidly over recent decades, with many populations now dangerously close to extinction, according to a new review by BirdLife International, a partner of the IUCN.

Photo of Balearic shearwater in flight

The Balearic shearwater, one of the rarest seabirds in the world

The review also reveals that seabirds are now more threatened than any other group of birds, with 28% of the 346 species being globally threatened and a further 10% listed as Near Threatened.

Almost half of all seabird species are believed to be in decline. The albatross family is particularly at risk, with 17 of the 22 albatross species currently facing extinction.

This new data details the rapid deterioration of creatures that provide a crucial window onto the condition of the oceans,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of the IUCN Global Species Programme. “We must now use this information to enact changes that will reverse the loss of such an important group of species.”

Man-made threats

The most significant threat to the world’s seabirds is commercial fishing, which is reducing the fish stocks on which many species depend. In addition, thousands of seabirds are killed every year after becoming caught in fishing gear.

Photo of wandering albatross hooked and drowned by long-line fishing

Wandering albatross caught and drowned by long-line fishing gear

Seabird breeding colonies have also been decimated by invasive, introduced species such as rats and cats, which pose a particular threat to seabirds that breed on only a few small islands.

Further threats to seabirds come from oil spills, plastic waste in the oceans, and the potential effects of climate change.

Seabirds are a diverse group with worldwide distribution, and as top predators they also provide a valuable indicator of wider marine health,” says Professor John Croxall, Chair of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme.

Photo of puffin mistaking plastic for food to provide to chick

Puffin mistaking plastic for food to give to its chick

Call for action

There may still be time to reverse seabird declines, and the review is clear on the actions that need to be taken.

In particular, sites where seabirds congregate, such as onshore breeding colonies and offshore feeding grounds, need to be protected. To this end, BirdLife International has already identified many ‘Important Bird Areas’ (IBAs) for seabirds on land, and is planning to publish the first list of marine IBAs. These areas will then be used to develop a global network of Marine Protected Areas, to help manage and protect marine habitats.

Photo of Henderson petrel on the nest

Breeding on just one small island, the Henderson petrel has declined due to predation by introduced rats

Invasive species, particularly rodents, also need to be removed from seabird colonies. Several successful eradication programmes have already taken place, and more are planned.

Finally, more research is needed to fill in gaps in our knowledge of seabird populations and to tackle new, emerging threats to seabirds, such as energy generation projects and the effects of climate change.

Read more on the seabird review at the IUCN.

Find out more about BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme.

View photos and videos of albatross, petrel and shearwater species on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Dec 20

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) has appointed a BirdLife partnership to act as part of a regional team that will implement CEPF’s $10 million investment in conservation in the Mediterranean Basin. 

Mediterranean Basin image

Maquis vegetation on mountains in the Mediterranean Basin

Biodiversity hotspot

Uniquely located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the Mediterranean Basin is one of the most biologically rich and complex regions on Earth. With almost 12,000 of its species found nowhere else in the world, the Mediterranean Basin is considered to be one of the planet’s biodiversity ‘hotspots’, due to the region’s high level of endemism.

The region encompasses 34 countries and some 2 million square kilometres, making the development of a conservation plan for the Mediterranean Basin a complicated process. Current threats to the unique ecosystems of the Mediterranean include increasing pressure from tourism, development, overuse of resources such as water, and climate change. 

Spanish imperial eagle image

The Spanish imperial eagle, endemic to the Mediterranean region

 
Investment in conservation

In order to conserve the exceptional biodiversity of the Mediterranean Basin, CEPF have been working with the MAVA Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and other conservation organisations throughout the region to create a strategy known as the Mediterranean Basin Ecosystem Profile. This strategy will see the targeted investment of some $10 million into the Mediterranean region.

As part of the implementation team for this investment, the BirdLife partnership will provide local expertise and knowledge, and will create a network of groups across the region who will work to achieve the conservation goals of the strategy.

Head of BirdLife’s Middle East Division, Ibrahim Khader, says, “We are proud to be an implementing partner within this distinguished and creative partnership. The CEPF initiative is a significant investment in the basin, addressing critical and strategic funding to conserve the unique biodiversity, species and sites within this highly diversified area.

Mediterranean scrub image

Mediterranean scrub in spring bloom

Read the full story on BirdLife’s involvement – Conservation fund for the Mediterranean Basin gives key role to the BirdLife Partnership.

Read about the work of CEPF in the Mediterranean Basin.

Find out more about the Mediterranean Basin eco-region on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

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