Birds on the IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of threatened species is widely considered to be the most objective and authoritative system for classifying species in terms of the risk of extinction. Information on a taxon's population size, population trends and range size are applied to standard quantitative criteria to determine its IUCN Red List Category (Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened or Least Concern). Species for which there is insufficient information to apply the criteria are assessed as Data Deficient. Additional information on ecology and habitat preferences, threats and conservation action are also collated and assessed as part of Red List process. Over 40,000 species have been assessed for the Red List, of which more than 16,000 are considered threatened with extinction (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable).
BirdLife International is the official Red List Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List, supplying the categories and associated detailed documentation for all the world's birds to the IUCN Red List each year.
How many birds are threatened with extinction?
In the latest assessment in 2012, 1,313 species are considered threatened with extinction (i.e. in the categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable). This represents 13% of the total of 9,934 extant bird species in the world. An additional 880 species are considered Near Threatened and four are Extinct in the Wild, giving a total of 2,193 species that are urgent priorities for conservation action.
Of the threatened species, 197 species are considered Critically Endangered and are therefore at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
How many birds have gone extinct?
A total of 130 species are documented as having gone extinct since 1500. A further four species are now extinct in the wild and survive only in captive populations. Although extinctions have been better documented in birds than any other group of organisms, these totals are likely to be underestimates because extinction is difficult to document. A number of other species currently categorised as Critically Endangered have probably gone extinct too, but cannot be designated as such until we are certain. Fifteen such species are categorised as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) or Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild). Thus, a total of 151 species may have been lost in the last 500 years.
Extinctions are continuing: 19 species were lost in the last quarter of the 20th century, and three species are known or suspected to have gone extinct since 2000. The last known individual of Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii (classified as Critically Endangered: Possibly Extinct in the Wild) disappeared in Brazil towards the end of 2000, the last two known individuals of Hawaiian Crow Corvus hawaiiensis (classified as Extinct in the Wild) disappeared in June 2002, and the last known individual Po‘ouli Melamprosops phaeosoma (classified as Critically Endangered: Possibly Extinct) also from the Hawaiian Islands, died in captivity in November 2004.
Are things getting better or worse?
The Red List Index for the world’s birds shows that there has been a steady and continuing deterioration in the threat status (relative projected extinction risk) of the world’s birds since 1988, when the first complete global assessment was carried out. This means that, overall, bird species are continuing to slip closer to extinction, with any conservation successes being outweighed by the number of species deteriorating in status.
Declines have been particularly severe for birds in the Indo-Malayan realm (owing to intensified deforestation in the lowlands of Sumatra and Borneo) and for the world’s albatrosses and petrels (owing to significant mortality as bycatch in commercial longline fisheries).
Please note that an updated Red List Index incorporating data from the 2012 Red List update is still being calculated and is therefore not yet shown here.
For more information on these results, see BirdLife’s work on Monitoring and Indicators.
RLI for the world's birds
Where are threatened birds found?
Globally Threatened Birds occur worldwide: nearly all countries (242 or 99%) support one or more, and some countries are exceptionally important.
What are the main threats?
The most important threats to the world’s birds are the spread of agriculture (significantly affecting 87% of Threatened bird species) and human use of biological resources, either through direct exploitation of bird populations or from the indirect impacts on bird populations of forest logging. These threats are the main drivers behind habitat degradation and conversion which are influencing 93% of Globally Threatened Bird populations. Invasive species (especially predators) also threaten nearly a third of Globally Threatened Birds. Increasing problems are being caused by human disturbance, incidental mortality (notably the drowning of seabirds in longline fisheries) and environmental pollution (on land, in wetlands and seas, and in the air), with human-induced climate change having serious longer term consequences for the world’s birds. For further information see State of the world's birds 2004 and State of the world’s birds 2008.
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