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There are over 10,000 species of birds on the planet, from the largest hawks and vultures to the smallest finches and hummingbirds. Unfortunately, many of them are on the brink of extinction. As climate change and human activity impacts wildlife around the world, it is important that we work to mitigate threats like deforestation and climate change and protect these endangered birds. This is a list of 15 of the most endangered birds in the world, all classed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Why is the yellow-crested cockatoo endangered? The yellow-crested cockatoo, a medium sized white parrot native to Indonesia and Timor-Leste, is critically endangered. There are an estimated 1200-2000 individuals remaining in the wild, and their population is sadly still decreasing. The yellow-crested cockatoo’s decline is primarily due to cage-bird trade and trafficking, which effectively became illegal in 1994 after being included in Appendix I of CITES; however, illegal trapping of these birds continues in many areas. Because they breed in large tree hollows, logging and agriculture also indirectly threaten their survival.
Are cockatoos good pets? Yellow-crested cockatoos are frequent victims of the exotic pet trade. Owning an exotic pet like a cockatoo requires a substantial amount of work and time commitment. They are wild animals that can live for up to 60 years. They are not suitable family pets, as they often use their strong beaks to break and destroy wooden objects and furniture.
Why is the California condor endangered? The California condor is critically endangered, and their primary threat has historically been lead poisoning. This occurs due to the bullets used in hunting, which has also contributed to the California condor’s decline. One study found that one-third of California condors had toxic levels of lead in their blood. Other threats to this species include the use of the pesticide DDT, ingestion of trash, and west Nile virus.
How many California condors are there? When the species was last assessed in 2020, researchers found that there are only 93 California condors left in the wild. These huge birds with wingspans of about 3 meters (9 feet) are native to the US West Coast. Their former range spanned from Vancouver all the way to Mexico, but now they are only found in two small populations—one in California and one in northern Arizona. Fortunately, the IUCN reports that their numbers are increasing.
Northern bald ibis
Why is the northern bald ibis endangered? The northern bald ibis, a large black bird with a red face and long, curved bill, is endangered due to a combination of factors—different threats are affecting different populations. Hunting was the main threat to the northern bald ibis population in Syria, and it was last seen in the wild through a single female that migrated south destined for wintering in Ethiopia in 2015. In Turkey, poisoning and reduced breeding success due to pesticides has posed a major threat. The Morocco population has faced illegal building and changes in farming that have disturbed their habitats. Illegal hunting was the cause of this bird’s disappearance from Italy in the 19th century. These are just a few of the reasons why the Northern bald ibis is endangered.
How many northern bald ibises are left? Only about 200-250 northern bald ibises are left in the wild in Morocco. Populations in northern Algeria and Syria, Turkey, and Iraq have gone extinct. In some parts of the Middle East and North Africa, their presence is uncertain, while they have been recently observed on their migration route in the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
What is an ibis? Ibises are long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae. They have long, downcurved bills, which they use to poke around in the mud for crustaceans. The dwarf ibis, also known as the São Tomé ibis or dwarf olive ibis (thanks to its dark green color), is a critically endangered species of ibis native to the island of São Tomé, off the coast of West Africa.
Are ibises endangered? There are six species of ibises that are classified as endangered or critically endangered. The dwarf ibis is one critically endangered species. About 130-1700 dwarf ibises are left in the wild, and their population is sadly in decline. Their biggest threat is currently hunting.
Are Amazon parrots endangered? Out of 36 species of Amazon parrots assessed by the IUCN, five are endangered and four are critically endangered, namely the imperial Amazon, lilacine Amazon, Puerto Rican Amazon, and yellow-naped Amazon. Two species have gone extinct—the Guadeloupe Amazon and the Martinique Amazon.
Native to the island of Dominica, there are only 40-60 remaining imperial Amazon parrots. The primary threat they face is habitat degradation and loss due to hurricane damage. In 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed 30% of Dominica’s forest cover, forcing imperial Amazons to forage outside of their usual habitat. Climate change is only worsening the severity of hurricanes.
Puerto Rican Amazons have an even lower population—fewer than 50 individuals. Hurricanes Maria and Irma have also had severe impacts on these parrots.
How long do Amazon parrots live? Depending on the species, Amazon parrots can live from around 30-50 years. Though they are commonly sought as pets, they are wild animals and do not make suitable family pets due to their long lifespans, destructive tendencies, and demanding needs.
Are woodpeckers endangered? Out of the over 200 species of woodpeckers, seven total species are endangered or critically endangered. One of the most endangered is the imperial woodpecker, which has fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild—in fact, the species is possibly extinct. Formerly found in forests across Mexico, the imperial woodpecker has faced hunting and deforestation to such a level that they have not been spotted since 1956.
Are woodpeckers bad for trees? No, woodpeckers aren’t generally bad for trees. They peck through wood so they can access sap and insects, important parts of their diet. Rather than harming them, eating insects can be beneficial for trees. Woodpeckers play a key role in their ecosystems as insectivores, controlling populations and preventing insect infestation.
African grey parrot
Are African grey parrots endangered? Yes, African grey parrots are endangered. Native to Central and West Africa, these birds are highly in demand for the exotic pet trade around the world. Illegal trapping and trafficking of African greys has largely led to their decline, in addition to habitat loss.
How long do African greys live? African grey parrots have a lifespan similar to that of humans—living around 60 to 80 years. This makes them unsuitable as pets, because they will most likely have to be rehomed several times throughout their lives, which is a traumatic experience. Though they are known for their unparalleled intelligence and mimicking ability, which makes them highly sought after, African grey parrots should not be kept as pets, as they are wild birds that require a large amount of space and have demanding needs.
What is a nuthatch? Nuthatches are a genus of birds with large heads, short tails, and strong, pointed beaks. Most species are blue-grey with black eyebrows. Bahama nuthatches have brown heads and white underbellies.
Why is the Bahama nuthatch endangered? Native to the Grand Bahama Island of the Bahamas, the Bahama nuthatch is one of the most critically endangered nuthatch species, with an estimated fewer than 50 individuals remaining. The main threat Bahama nuthatches face is hurricanes. Since Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, hit the island in 2019, the species has not been sighted, meaning it is possibly gone extinct.
Are vultures endangered? While not all vultures are endangered, there are many species of vultures that are vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. One such species is the Indian vulture. Because vultures are scavengers, meaning they feed on carcasses and the remains of dead animals, they frequently ate dead livestock, including cattle and buffalo. If these livestock animals had been treated with diclofenac, a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug, the vultures ingested this drug and were killed as a result. This has caused significant mortalities among the Indian vulture population. Other drugs used to treat livestock have also been found to be toxic to vultures. Despite regulations, these drugs still threaten the survival of the species.
How many Indian vultures are left? A recent survey suggests that a rough estimate of 8,000 mature Indian vultures remain. Their population continues to decrease. While once found throughout the entire country of India and in southeast Pakistan, these vultures are now extinct in many areas.
What is a Maui parrotbill? The Maui parrotbill is a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper, which is a member of the finch family. It’s a small, yellow-green bird with a peculiar, hooked beak resembling that of a parrot—but the parrotbill is unrelated to the parrot family. Despite its small size, this beak is powerful—they use it to remove bark and wood from trees to eat the insects that live underneath.
How many Maui parrotbills are left? Found only in a small area on the island of Maui, there are an estimated 250-540 parrotbills left. Unfortunately, they are critically endangered and have a decreasing population. Maui parrotbills previously experienced decline due to an invasion of feral pigs into their habitat. Now, their remaining habitat is fenced—this may be able to help the species recover. However, malaria and climate change both threaten their survival.
What is the mangrove finch? The mangrove finch is a species in Darwin’s finch group, part of the tanager family, with dull brown, olive-toned, and white plumage. It’s native to the Galápagos.
As Darwin famously observed in this group of finches, the Mangrove finch has a beak specially adapted for its diet. Its long, pointed beak is used for lifting the scales of tree bark to grab insects underneath them.
Is the mangrove finch endangered? The mangrove finch is one of the most critically endangered finches. It has a decreasing population of only 20-40 individuals. The mangrove finch is declining due to threats of predation and parasites from invasive species.
Seychelles scops owl
What is the Seychelles scops owl? Residing only in Morne Seychellois National Park on the island of Mahé, the Seychelles scops owl, also known as the bare-legged scops owl, is an owl with un-feathered legs, brown plumage, and large, golden-yellow eyes.
Why is the Seychelles scops owl endangered? An estimated 200-280 individual Seychelles scops owls are left, and they are critically endangered due to deforestation—though much of this has been limited; introduced species including rats, cats, and Barn owls; as well as disease and climate change.
Are fruit doves endangered? Four species of fruit doves are endangered or critically endangered. The Rapa fruit dove and the Negros fruit dove are critically endangered species with very limited remaining populations.
The Rapa fruit dove, a colorful bird with an orange-yellow belly, green wings, gray chest, and bright pink crown, lives only on the small island of Tubuai, located in the remote South Pacific. There are fewer than 250 estimated Rapa fruit doves remaining.
The population of Negros fruit doves is even smaller, at fewer than 50 estimated individuals. This species is native to the Philippines, where only one individual has ever been observed. This is a small, bright green dove with yellow around its eyes and underneath its tail.
Why are fruit doves endangered? Habitat destruction threatens the survival of the Rapa fruit dove, in addition to predation by rats and feral cats. Though very little is known about the Negros fruit dove, it likely faces the threats of hunting and habitat destruction that all pigeons and doves on the island of Negros endure.
What is a bunting? Buntings are a family of passerine (perching) birds from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Related to finches, they eat seeds and are commonly recognized by their typically brown, streaked feathers and bold markings on their heads.
Why is the yellow-breasted bunting endangered? Not to be confused with the yellow bunting or the golden-breasted bunting, the yellow-breasted bunting is a species with a large range that extends from the eastern coastline of Russia all the way to Finland. In the winter, it migrates to South and Southeast Asia. Sadly, the yellow-breasted bunting is now extinct in Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, and large parts of Russia where it used to live. It is unknown how many of these birds are left across Asia, so there are no total population estimates, but the European population has declined to just 120-600 individuals.
Yellow-breasted buntings are increasingly being hunted, trapped, and illegally sold along other buntings for cooking, which has led to their decline. Increased agricultural activity has also depleted their winter habitats.
What is an ou? The ou (or ʻōʻū) is a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper (like the Maui parrotbill). It’s rather medium-sized bird at 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) long, and it has dark green plumage aside from its yellow head—though females are green all over. Like the parrotbill, it has a hooked, parrot-like beak, uniquely adapted for eating fruit.
The ou is possibly extinct and has not been recorded with certainty since 1989. If it still survives, its population is estimated to have fewer than 50 individuals. Originally widespread throughout Hawaii, its population has faced extreme decline due to hurricanes and lava flows, as well as human activities like logging, agriculture, and the introduction of feral pigs to its habitat.
Are crows endangered? While many crow species are not classed in a threatened category—the American crow, for example, is classed as least concern—some are endangered. One critically endangered species of crow is the Mariana crow. This crow is found only on the island of Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands. It used to inhabit Guam, but it recently went extinct there (as of 2014). There are likely fewer than 250 of these crows remaining. Invasive species, typhoons, predation by feral cats, and deforestation have contributed to the Mariana crow’s decline.
New Zealand storm petrel
What is the New Zealand storm petrel? Native to the waters between New Zealand’s North Island and eastern Australia, the New Zealand storm petrel is a small seabird. Similar to the more common Wilson’s storm petrel, it has a black head, wings, and tail and a bright white stripe around its back. This bird only comes to land to breed and spends the rest of its life at sea.
Why is the New Zealand storm petrel endangered? It is estimated that fewer than 50 remaining New Zealand storm petrels. Researchers attribute their population decline to predation by invasive species, and they were thought to be extinct after not being observed for over a century. However, in 2003, they were rediscovered. They are now seen breeding on islands which no longer have rats and feral cats, so there may be hope for the New Zealand storm petrel’s recovery.
New Caledonian rail
What is the New Caledonian rail? The New Caledonian rail is a large, brown, flightless bird native to the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. It has a yellow downward-curved bill and looks a bit similar to a duck—but it is a rail. It belongs to the Rail family, which is a group of diverse terrestrial or semiaquatic birds that typically live in marshlands or other wet habitats. Not much is known about the New Caledonian rail’s habitat, as it is presumed to have moved into inaccessible forests due to predators.
Is the New Caledonian rail extinct? There have been no confirmed sightings of this bird since 1890, which suggests it may be extinct. If the species still survives, it has a very small population of fewer than 50. The likely cause of its decline was predation by introduced species such as cats, pigs, rats, and hunting dogs.