Bird Species Disappearing Forever


It’s a loss of beauty and songs, but more than that as researchers have learned that according to a study, published in Nature Communications  about 1,430 bird species have died out since the Late Pleistocene period, which started about 120,000 years ago. That’s 12 percent of the bird population, gone forever. And more are on their way and the problem is accelerating unless humans step in.

Known bird extinctions, identified using fossil or other records, account for about 640 species. The new estimate includes the birds that went extinct without the event being recorded – what scientists call a dark extinction.

Deforestation, overhunting, fires and invasive species are key causes of bird species loss. And while the overwhelming number of pet birds in the U.S. are now bred for captivity, that’s not true everywhere.

This is far from only an aesthetic issue. As one example, fewer mosquito eating birds, obviously lead to more mosquitoes and therefore more human deaths caused by mosquito transmitted disease.

Also missing are the important roles these birds would have played in the wider environment. Birds play a vital role in Earth’s ecosystems spreading seeds, pollinating plants, cleaning up carcasses and helping to fertilize coral reefs and the land with their droppings.

To calculate the number of unknown extinctions, Dr. Rob Cooke, an ecological modeller at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the paper’s lead author and his team extrapolated from the 640 bird species known to be extinct using a statistical model. The model used New Zealand as the baseline for bird species loss on the basis that the country had zero unknown extinctions. New Zealand because it has the most complete bird record based on found fossils and bird observations.

Future extinctions, said Cooke, would continue if the world carried on as normal. Previous research by the same team of scientists suggests the world is at risk of losing another 669 to 738 bird species over the next few hundred years, with species facing increasing pressure from the climate crisis, diminished food sources and deforestation.