Above: While Spix’s macaws are now extinct in the wild, a population of about 60-80 birds remains in captivity, such as these birds at the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP). Photo: ACTP Facebook page


A STUDY INTO the classification of endangered birds believes that eight species have either already gone extinct in the last decade or it is deemed highly likely.

A team of researchers from BirdLife International, led by Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s chief scientist, examined 51 bird species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species using a novel quantitative classification approach over a period of eight years.

The team focused on three factors: intensity of threats, timing and reliability of records, and the timing and quantity of search efforts for the species.

A trend highlighted by the research was that mainland extinctions are outpacing island extinctions. In the past, most bird extinctions have been species found on small islands, which makes them vulnerable to hunting or predation by invasive species. But five of the new confirmed or suspected extinctions are in South America, including four in Brazil.

Dr Butchart explained: “Ninety per cent of bird extinctions in recent centuries have been of species on islands. However, our results confirm that there is a growing wave of extinctions sweeping across the continents, driven mainly by habitat loss and degradation from unsustainable agriculture and logging.”

The research paper recommends that three species should be re-classified from Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) to Extinct: the cryptic treehunter (Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti), Alagoas foliage-gleaner (Philydor novaesi) and poo-uli (Melamprosops phaeosoma). Meanwhile, the Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) should be treated as Extinct in the Wild.

The data also suggests another four species should be reclassified as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): the New Caledonian lorikeet (Charmosyna diadema), Javan lapwing (Vanellus macropterus), Pernambuco pygmy-owl (Glaucidium mooreorum) and glaucous macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus).

Dr Butchart added: “Determining whether a species has gone extinct is challenging, as it is often difficult to tell if the last few individuals have died, especially for poorly known species in remote locations.

“While we need an accurate measure of extinction rates, giving up on a species prematurely risks committing the so-called Romeo Error, where conservation efforts are abandoned prematurely on the presumption that the species has disappeared.”

The research was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

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