10 birds that were saved from extinction
There are nearly 11,000 species of birds on the planet. And the truth is, we're lucky to still have that many. Deforestation, introduced species, climate change, illegal trapping, nowadays it seems that all that humans do is destroy everything nature has to give. But it’s not all bad news. Every day all around the globe, passionate people are making an effort to help nature. And when they do, wildlife is quick to come back. Here are ten species that would have gone extinct if no one had intervened – classic examples of how intensive conservation efforts can, and do, pay off.
Seychelles White-eye Zosterops modestus
On the Seychelles, it’s a similar story to that told on remote islands around the globe; endemic species, wiped out by invasive species and deforestation. This olive-grey passerine was once so rare it was thought extinct for decades. However, conservationists have sought to expand its range by transferring it to other islands in the archipelago. It's a risky tactic which has worked wonders for many other Seychellois bird species.The resultant population boom has seen it downlisted to Vulnerable in this year’s Red List. A white-eye for Seychelles, a black-eye for extinctions!
Black Robin Petroica traversi
Endemic to the Chatham Islands, in 1980 this robin had the smallest population of any bird recorded - just five. Like many other island species, it had evolved in a world without mammalian predators, and this clumsy flyer was no match for rats and cats when they arrived on the islands. As a result, it seemed doomed to extinction. Its spectacular recovery, following intensive tree planting and habitat management, is a world-renowned conservation success. Today there are around 230 Black Robins, all of which are descended from a single female, 'Old Blue'. Although numbers continue to increase, it still has a very small population and is therefore classified as Endangered.
Rarotonga Monarch Pomarea dimidiata
Native to the Cook Islands, this monarch was once among the rarest birds in the world. It has been downlisted to Vulnerable owing to predator control and intense conservation efforts. The survival of the species remains dependent on the continuation of these efforts, and also a little luck. Random events such as cyclones or weed invasions can potentially drive it back to the Critically Endangered category in the blink of an eye.
Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus sechellarum
Originally present on at least eight islands in the Seychelles, only around 13 birds remained on the island of Frégate in 1965. Seventeen years later, the recovery programme began: new habitats, increased food, nest defence, invasive species control and translocation to other islands made all the difference. Today, the species has bounced back, with a current population of 120 individuals and growing.
Rodrigues Warbler Acrocephalus rodericanus
Habitat protection and reforestation, spurred by the need for watershed protection, have been key to the recovery of this species, aided by an absence of catastrophic cyclones. Native to the idyllic island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, its habitat is being fenced to exclude grazing animals, exotic plants have been removed and native species replanted. Thanks to these actions, it was downlisted from Endangered to Near Threatened in 2013.
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Rodrigues Fody Foudia flavicans
Once abundant in the island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, this brightly coloured weaver declined drastically to around five pairs in 1968 after its native habitat was destroyed, which was followed by other issues such as droughts and (as ever) introduced species. Populations have increased as native and exotic woodland have recovered and expanded. Today the estimated total number ranges somewhere between 4,000 to 17,000 individuals and it is trending upwards.
Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii
The numbers of this North American warbler started decreasing at the beginning of the 20th century. Its optimal breeding habitat is very specific: fire-maintained homogeneous stands of 1-5 m tall jack pines on sandy soil. By replicating the effects of natural fires, its habitat has been expanded and numbers continue to increase, although its small range means it’s still Near Threatened.
Pale-headed Brush-finch Atlapetes pallidiceps
This Ecuadorian bird occupies an extremely small range and is restricted to one ocation. However, it has been increasing in numbers since 2003 thanks to habitat protection and control of nest parasites such as Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis. Its status, however, is precarious, and continued conservation efforts will be vital if it is to further improve.
North Island Saddleback Philesturnus rufusater
South Island Saddleback Philesturnus carunculatus
Double trouble! These two species have a small population confined to a number of predator-free islands around New Zealand. Owing to intensive conservation management measures such as predator and weed control, the populations are now increasing. They are considered Near Threatened because they only occur at a small number of sites and are therefore moderately susceptible to human impact and chance events such as cyclones.