Forty per cent of all bird species are in decline and one in eight is at risk of global extinction, according to a new report.
Iconic birds such as the snowy owl, turtle dove and the puffin are all struggling to survive and humans are to blame for the shrinking numbers, scientists warn.
Agriculture and logging are the main culprits, with climate change and hunting also a major concern.
Despite some limited conservation success over the past decade, the global crisis is worsening, scientists said.
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Puffins could be consigned to the history books as a report has found that it is one of the 40 per cent of bird species that are in decline. One in eight is at risk of global extinction
The State of the World’s Birds report monitored the fluctuating numbers of birds around the world.
The five-year study found that the current crisis is being driven by human activity, with birds failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
Farming is the biggest issue and currently accounts for 74 per cent of the 1,469 bird species globally at risk of extinction.
Logging is responsible for the decimation of half of all endangered species around the world, according to the report .
Other major issues that are killing birds around the world are: invasive species (39 per cent), hunting and trapping (35 per cent), climate change (33 per cent) and residential and commercial development (28 per cent).
As reported by The Guardian , Tris Allinson, senior global science officer for BirdLife International, which produced the report, said: ‘Each time we undertake this assessment we see slightly more species at risk of extinction – the situation is deteriorating and the trends are intensifying.
‘The species at risk of extinction were once on mountaintops or remote islands, such as the Pink Pigeon in Mauritius.
‘Now we’re seeing once widespread and familiar species – European turtle doves, Atlantic puffins and kittiwakes – under threat of global extinction.’
Declining numbers of the snowy owl are linked to climate change, with reducing snow cover in the Arctic making prey harder to come by. This is one of the indirect hazards humans are causing for bird species
It is thought that up to 38 million birds are illegally killed every year in the Mediterranean region alone.
The yellow-breasted bunting is a perfect of example of how this can damage a bird population.
Once widespread throughout Europe and Asia, this bird is now relentlessly pursued by hunters to be served in Chinese restaurants, where it is considered a delicacy.
Since 1980, numbers of this specific bird have plummeted by 80 per cent and its range has shrunk by 1,900 square miles (5,000 square km).
It is thought that up to 38 million birds are illegally killed every year in the Mediterranean region. A perfect of example of how this can damage a bird population is the yellow-breasted bunting (pictured) which is being relentlessly pursued by hunters as a Chinese delicacy
Seabird species feel the wrath of humans in a more subtle, but equally as destructive way.
Overfishing and climate change are indirectly wreaking havoc with the numbers of these coastal birds.
The Atlantic puffin and the black-legged kittiwake are both now considered ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Declining numbers of the snowy owl are linked to climate change, with reducing snow cover in the Arctic making prey harder to come by.
The sudden struggle of the European turtle dove is caused by both hunting and habitat loss as a result of agriculture.
The sudden struggle of the European turtle dove (pictured) is caused by both hunting and habitat loss as a result of agriculture. Neonicitinoids, the chemical in pesticides that is the primary villain in the cull of bumblebees, are also damaging bird species
Neonicitinoids, the chemical in pesticides that is the primary villain in the cull of bumblebees, are also harming birds.
The flying insects that ingest these chemicals are eaten by the birds which then suffer the consequences.
Migrating white-crowned sparrows, for example, exposed to neonicotinoids lost a quarter of their body mass and suffered impaired their migratory orientation.
Whilst the overall outlook is bleak, there have been some success stories.
By estimates from BirdLife, the world would have lost 25 species to extinction if it was not for the intervention of conservation biologists.
Ornithologists, ecologists and biologists have combined to remove these species from the ‘critically endangered’ list.
THE IUCN RED LIST
Species on the endangered red list are animals of the highest conservation priority that need ‘urgent action’ to save.
An Amber list is reserved for the next most critical group, followed by a green list.
Red list criteria:
- Globally threatened
- Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
- Severe (at least 50 per cent) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years
- Severe (at least 50 per cent) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years
In recent years, in the UK, several more species have been added to the list.
- Atlantic puffin
- Long-tailed duck
- Turtle dove
This appears to be a mere drop in the ocean as several hundred bird species continue to struggle as a result of industrialisation.
‘Everything is reversible because everything is unfortunately of humankind’s making,’ said Ms Allinson.
‘It’s one thing to work at the last-minute on particular species and drag them back from the edge but what we do need is wide-scale solutions to agricultural intensification and expansion in particular – they are the biggest driver of extinction in birds.
‘We could easily feed the world’s population and leave room for birds and other wildlife if we were more sensible and reduced our food waste and pesticide use and put the right crops in the right areas.
‘They are big challenges but there are successful systems that marry wildlife conservation and productive landscapes for people.’
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