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Rare Birds at Risk of Extinction
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Rare Birds at Risk of Extinction

Critter Culture Staff



No matter where you live in the world, you can enjoy bird watching. Unfortunately, birds are also sensitive to human-made changes in their environment. While some birds can adapt to humankind, many bird species have gone extinct recently in history. For example, some, like the Eskimo curlew and Bachman's warbler, haven't been seen in decades.

Conservationists and researchers actively search for and try to preserve as many critically endangered species as possible. Each bird species fills an ecological niche and is vitally important to their native environments. Many species only exist in captivity, but conservationists strive to return them to the wild.

While the list of critically-endangered birds is extensive, conservationists hope they can save many of them. While you may not see many of these birds now, future generations may one day see them fly free again. Some of these species have a long and bumpy road to recovery. Setbacks are, unfortunately, common.


Stresemann's Bristlefront

This South American bird is often said to be one of the rarest birds in the world. Some sources state only one individual is confirmed to exist. Others say a small population lives in a small reserve. The bird's natural habitat makes it difficult to find.

Habitat loss and fires have taken their toll on this forest bird. Efforts to maintain and protect their habitat, as well as find more individuals, are underway.


Bali starling

A couple of Bali myna (aka. Bali starling) birds perching on a tree branch and are about to kiss

The Bali starling, also known as the Bali myna, Rothschild starling, and the jalak Bali, live in a protected forested area on the island. These primarily white birds usually gather in large flocks during the breeding season. However, numbers are currently very low. Poaching and the caged bird trade are major factors in their decline.

This activity also hinders reintroduction efforts as poachers quickly go after recently-released birds. Many zoos worldwide maintain breeding programs to bolster their populations until they can return them to the wild.


Orange-bellied parrot

Critically Endangered Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) perched on a branch

This small migrating parrot is native to a small area of southern Australia and Tasmania. Their numbers are tiny, and many conservationists fear they may be extinct soon. One problem they have is there are very few females around. Also, a recent disease outbreak has hurt their population. They also suffer from habitat loss. Local zoos maintain captive breeding and release populations to help strengthen their numbers.


Black stilt

Himantopus novaezelandiae - Black stilt - kaki near lake Tekapo, New Zealand, wading bird found in New Zealand. It is one of the world's rarest birds.

The black stilt is also known as the kaki by native New Zealand people. This all-black shorebird with long red legs suffers from invasive predators. Habitat loss and disturbance are also big factors in this species' decline. Also, black stilts that cannot find a mate will often interbreed with other species. Breeding programs and releases have helped boost their numbers.


New Caledonian owlet-nightjar

Many New Caledonian species, such as this owlet-nightjar, are becoming rare. This particular species is difficult to find in the wild. It is active at night, blends into its environment, and tends to stay out of sight. Therefore, conservationists cannot accurately gauge its numbers or learn anything about it.

As a result, researchers and conservationists have difficulty devising an effective conservation program.


Spix's macaw

Spix's macaw

Many people know this species from the Rio movies. This extremely rare blue Brazilian parrot is extinct in the wild, but several of them live in captivity. Habitat loss is a major factor in their decline. Breeding programs have been successful in boosting this parrot's numbers. Conservationists hope to return this bird to the wild.



Antioquia brushfinch

 Atlapetes schistaceus, Slaty-brush Finch. Bird looking curiously from a tree with an insect in its beak. Urrao, Antioquia, Colombia

This brushfinch is a newly-described species native to Colombia. Not long after its discovery, many feared this species to be extinct as no one could find one. Recently, researchers discovered a small population and deployed conservation efforts to keep the species alive. Habitat loss, as well as nest parasitism by cowbirds, are their biggest threat.


Blue-eyed ground dove

Conservationists once considered these Brazilian doves extinct. However, researchers found a few of these doves living on private land. That property is now a protected park. Unfortunately, efforts to capture them for breeding programs have been unsuccessful. Their main threat is habitat destruction, so the focus is on the protection of the known wild population.


New Zealand kakapo

Kakapo Parrot Endemic to New Zealand

The New Zealand kakapo is a rare flightless parrot. Their flightlessness wasn't a problem until humans brought predators like cats to the island nation. As a result, their numbers dropped to critically low levels. Conservation and protected areas have helped stabilize their population. However, the threat of non-native predators remains.


Madagascar pochard

Madagascar Pochard Resting on Pebbles

A pochard is a type of diving duck. Many species of pochard exist in the world, but this one is endemic only to Madagascar. Originally, conservationists considered this species extinct in the wild. This duck is especially sensitive to water pollution. However, researchers recently discovered a small population in an isolated, relatively pollution-free area. While a breeding program has been successful, release programs have been more difficult.


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