For many people in Hong Kong, talk of endangered species conjures up images of wildlife whose natural habitats are “out there”, somewhere far away – such as giant pandas in the bamboo forests of Sichuan province, polar bears in the Arctic and miniature monkeys in the Brazilian rainforest. If, like me, you are a birdwatcher, however, the list of threatened species feels far closer to home.
A worldwide catastrophe is underway among an extraordinary group of birds — the marathon migrants we know as shorebirds. Numbers of some species are falling so quickly that many biologists fear an imminent planet-wide wave of extinctions. These declines represent the No. 1 conservation crisis facing birds in the world today. No doubt you’ve seen some of these birds while on vacation at the beach, skittering back and forth along the cusp of waves as they peck with their long beaks for tiny sand flies or the eggs of horseshoe crabs.
Over five years in the making, The State of South Africa’s Birds 2018 report used national survey and monitoring data to create a picture of the conservation status of the country’s birds and their habitats. Unfortunately, the study outlines several troubling tends. Overall, it found that 132 of the 856 species in the country were threatened or near-threatened in the country, with 13 Critically Endangered – just one step away from being extinct in South Africa.
The Kittiwake bird (Rissa tridactyla) has been placed on the world’s most-threatened birds list. The Kittiwake is a small cliff-nesting species of gull names for its distinctive “kitt-i-wake” call. Ireland is home to significant numbers of the Kittiwake species, which breed at colonies around the Irish coast. It has now been considered to be globally threatened, as it was listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
A seabird placed on an endangered species list has seen its numbers in Wales decline by 50% in 25 years, an expert has said. The kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) , along with the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), joined the IUCN Red List of endangered species on 12 December. The two both nest in Wales and are part of a group of nine UK-visiting birds which were put on the global list. Many of Wales' seabirds are found on south west coastal islands such as Skomer and Skokholm off Pembrokeshire.
Birds that are now globally threatened include the kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), which breed on UK sea cliffs. Meanwhile, on land, the Snowy Owl is struggling to find prey as ice melts in the North American Arctic, say conservation groups. The iconic bird is listed as vulnerable to extinction for the first time. Worldwide, over a quarter of more than 200 bird species reassessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have been moved to higher threat categories.
The population of blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) - the seabirds with characteristically colorful feet - has been declining in the Galápagos islands. The birds' numbers have dropped more than 50 percent in less than 20 years, according to a study published Monday (April 21) in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. The researchers speculated that a lack of sardines, a source of food for the boobies, might be to blame for the decline.
Concern is growing for the future of the Scottish colony of the small seabird species Leach’s storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) which is suffering a serious decline in numbers off the Scottish coast. Though the Leach’s storm petrel is plentiful in numbers on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of North America, it is in decline on this side of the Atlantic where St Kilda, under the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), hosts the largest colony for the species.
The Numeniini — a tribe of large waders including curlews and godwits — is one of the most threatened bird groups on the planet. The once-abundant Eskimo Curlew Numenius borealis of the Americas is now considered Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct), having last been spotted with certainty in the 1960s. Like the Eskimo Curlew, the possibility of the extinction of the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) cannot be confirmed for sure until we have scoured the entirety of its known breeding grounds in the Siberian wilderness for a remnant population.
In his book, Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes (2010) makes the case that the contamination of surface water by neonicotinoids is so widespread in the Netherlands (and possibly elsewhere in Europe), that loss of insect biomass on a continental scale is behind many of the widespread declines that are being seen, be they of marsh birds, heath or meadow birds or even coastal species. This suggests that we should be looking at possible links between neonicotinoid insecticides and birds, not on a farm scale, but in the context of whole watersheds and regions.