Jan 7, 2009

Endangered Species - Birds

Endangered Birds
Birds of every shape, size and color are under threat. From the mighty California condor to the tiny purple-backed sunbeam, birds around the world are running out of time. And space — habitat loss is the single largest threat facing birds today. Ironically, bird enthusiasts themselves are also helping to contribute to the decline of many species, which are captured for the caged bird trade.

Of the nearly 10,000 described bird species, over 1,200 are listed as threatened or endangered by the IUCN. Some are facing seemingly hopeless battles, while others are recovering from decades of decline. The future hangs in the balance for many of our feathered friends.

The akepa is a small honeycreeper that once occurred on all of the Hawaiian Islands but is now confined to the Big Island, Kauai and Maui. Males are either bright orange (Big Island) or yellow-bronze (Maui). They nest in the cavities of large, old-growth rainforest trees, but are currently threatened by logging and predation by feral animals (e.g., pigs and rats).

IUCN Status: Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Logging and predation by feral animals
Habitat: Tropical, close-canopied forest
Location: Hawaiian Islands (Big Island, Kauai and Maui)
Diet: Mainly caterpillars, spiders and other insects

With its white body, jet-black wing and tail feathers, and a red stripe down the back of its head and neck, the Araripe manakin is a strikingly beautiful bird. It was only described in 1998, and is still only known from one location in Brazil. Despite being critically endangered, development of a recreational park threatens the remainder of the Araripe's forest home.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Major Threat: Development of recreational facilities
Habitat: ddd
Location: Foothills of Brazil's Araripe uplands
Diet: Mainly fruit

The black-billed gull is a white bird with black wing tips and, as the name suggests, a black bill. It lives in pairs along the shores of New Zealand's lake margins and riverbeds. This species is often preyed upon by the non-native animals of New Zealand such as dogs, cats and ferrets. Their numbers have declined rapidly in the past three decades and they are now the world's most endangered gull.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Predation by non-native species
Habitat: Lake margins, riverbeds and inland pastures
Location: Shores of New Zealand
Diet: Mainly fish and crustaceans

The black shama is a shy, elusive songbird that occurs only in the Philippines. Males are blue-black, females are brownish, and both have black bills, eyes, and legs. They are gifted singers, producing complicated yet melodious calls lasting 20 seconds or more. The habitat of the black shama is the lowlands and forest foothills of the island of Cebu, but deforestation has reduced its numbers and they are now quite rare.

IUCN Status: Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Habitat loss and degradation
Habitat: Lowland forest and foothills, often in deep ravines and bamboo thickets
Location: Cebu Island in the Philippines
Diet: Insects, especially beetles and crickets; also fruit sap

The blue-throated macaw is a large blue parrot with a yellow underbelly and powerful hooked beak. It is only known from the swampy regions of the central forests of Bolivia where it typically occurs in bonded pairs. With population estimates at fewer than 100 individuals, this bird is extremely rare. The primary threat to the blue-throated macaw comes from their collection for the exotic pets trade.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Major Threat: Capture for the exotic pet trade
Habitat: Tropical savannas and woodlands
Location: Central Bolivia
Diet: Seeds, fruits, nuts and berries

The brown kiwi is a stocky nocturnal bird that is native to New Zealand. A flightless bird, the brown kiwi feeds by walking slowly through the forest poking its long, slender bill — which is highly sensitive to touch — into the ground in search of worms, insects and larvae. It was once found throughout New Zealand, but is now restricted to fragmented forests and seriously threatened by non-native predators such as pigs, cats and dogs.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Non-native predators such as pigs, cats and dogs
Habitat: Temperate, tropical and subtropical forest and scrubland
Location: New Zealand
Diet: Worms, insects and larvae

California condors are large vultures with bald pink heads and a 10-foot wingspan. They are among the world's largest flying birds, and they are also one of the most critically endangered. After going extinct in the wild due to hunting, habitat loss and environmental poisons, captive breeding programs have allowed for the reintroduction of a small population of California condors into the wild. There are currently populations in California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Hunting, habitat loss and environmental poisons
Habitat: Wooded mountains and scrublands
Location: California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico
Diet: Carrion, especially larger animals like deer, cattle and sheep

The crowned eagle is a mighty bird of prey with broad wings, pale gray plumage and a distinct crest on its head. It occurs throughout central South America in both forest and semi-open areas. Like many birds of prey, the crowned eagle is endangered because of habitat loss. As top predators, they are also vulnerable to toxins present in their prey animals, and are subject to harassment by humans who perceive them as a threat to farm animals.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Habitat loss, persecution and toxins present in prey animals
Habitat: Open woodland, marshland, savanna and scrub
Location: Central South America
Diet: Birds, medium-sized mammals and reptiles

The ivory-billed woodpecker is a magnificent bird with red, black, and white feathers, a tall crest on the head (the crest is red on the male), and a long pointed bill. This bird was thought to be long extinct due to logging pressures until it was spotted along a stream in eastern Arkansas in 2004. Today, populations of the ivory-billed woodpecker are tiny but thought to be stable.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Logging pressures
Habitat: Thick hardwood swamp and pine forest
Location: Eastern Arkansas and northern Florida
Diet: Larvae of wood-boring beetles; also seeds, fruits and insects

Kirtland's warbler is a small songbird that spends the summer in Michigan and then flies south to the Bahamas for the winter. Individuals range from 4 to 6 inches, and both sexes have blue-gray bodies with white eye rings. Kirtland's warbler breeds only in jack pine woodland, so habitat loss has been particularly devastating for this species. Recent woodland management plans have improved conditions.

IUCN Status: Near Threatened
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Loss of suitable breeding habitat
Habitat: Jack pine woodland and pine forests
Location: Lower Michigan in summer; Bahamas in winter
Diet: Insects, berries and fruit

The light-footed clapper rail is a large marsh bird with long legs and large feet for wading through water. It has a long downturned bill, an upturned tail and a 20-inch wingspan. The light-footed clapper rail is easily identified in the wild by its gray-brown head and body and a cinnamon breast. It is quite rare and populations continue to decline due to habitat loss and predation by non-native species.

USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Habitat loss and predation by non-native species
Habitat: Coastal salt and freshwater marshes
Location: Southern California to Northern Mexico
Diet: Mainly invertebrates such as crabs, snails, insects, worms and mussels

The Madagascar teal is a rare small duck that lives in the wetlands and coastal forests of western Madagascar. Both sexes are brownish with a mottled head and chest and a purple-hued bill. Because of its rarity, not much is known about the ecology of the Madagascar teal, except that its numbers are in rapid decline due to hunting and habitat loss.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Hunting and habitat loss
Habitat: Wetlands, coastal forests and mangrove swamps
Location: Western Madagascar
Diet: Invertebrates and aquatic vegetation


The marbled murrelet is a chubby seabird that appears to have no neck. It has a white mottled neck and belly with dark brown-black upperparts during the breeding season that turn grayish in winter. This species is still abundant but populations have declined by as much as 50 percent in the past few decades. Threats to the marbled murrelet include habitat loss and being taken as bycatch in fishing nets.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Habitat loss and being taken as bycatch
Habitat: Open ocean, pelagic offshore areas and protected bays; nests in old growth forests
Location: North Pacific
Diet: Mainly sandeels; also herring, capelin and shiner perch

Storks are large long-legged birds with long necks, broad wings and powerful bills. They have several adaptations to habitats with shallow water, including widely spaced toes and webbing between the front three. The oriental stork is found in the lowland forests and wetlands of a number of Asian countries, but their populations are in sharp decline due to deforestation and the draining of wetlands.

IUCN Status: Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Deforestation and draining of wetlands
Habitat: Lowland forests and wetlands
Location: China, North Korea and Russia
Diet: Fish, frogs and other small animals

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a small yet striking bird. It has white underparts, a black cap and nape, black mustache stripe down the side of each cheek, and black back with white bars. The male has a faint red spot on the side of the nape. It lives in the pine forests of the southwestern United States and at one time was very common. Logging operations and habitat degradation have led to a sharp and continuous decline in the numbers of red-cockaded woodpeckers.

IUCN Status: Vulnerable
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Logging operations and habitat degradation
Habitat: Mature pine forests
Location: Southeastern United States
Diet: Tree-dwelling insects, their larvae and their eggs

Cranes are large long-legged birds with a slender bill and rounded wings. They are found throughout the world, though many are endangered. In fact, cranes have a higher proportion of endangered species than any other bird group. The red-crowned crane — the heaviest member of the crane family — breeds on the island of Hokkaido in Japan. It may have occurred on other Japanese islands in the past, but hunting and habitat loss have restricted its numbers.

IUCN Status: Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threats: Hunting and habitat loss
Habitat: Marshes, river banks and similar habitats
Location: Island of Hokkaido in Japan
Diet: Small amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, insects and plants

The red siskin is a small finch with a black head and mostly red body. The females have a grayish head with a less brilliant red body. They live in northern Venezuela and Colombia in a variety of habitats, including mountain forests and shrubby grasslands. This species is threatened by capture for the caged bird trade and populations may include fewer than 1,000 individuals.

IUCN Status: Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Capture for the caged bird trade
Habitat: Open country, mountain forests and grassland
Location: Northern Venezuela and Colombia
Diet: Mainly seeds

The southwestern willow flycatcher is a small songbird with a green-gray body, white throat and yellow belly. It is found in the forests along rivers, streams and other wetlands in the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Most birders rely on sound rather than sight to identify this bird. It has a distinct "fitz-bew" call that is unmistakable. This species is threatened by habitat loss and there may be fewer than 1,000 individuals left in the wild.

USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Habitat loss
Habitat: Forests along rivers, streams and other wetlands
Location: Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico
Diet: Insects

Blackbirds are found exclusively in the Americas and are well-adapted for life in and around human settlements. The tricolored blackbird is found throughout the marsh, scrub and wetlands of the Central Valley of California, and breeding colonies may occur in Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The male is shiny black with red or white wing epaulets, and the females are dusky gray. This species is currently undergoing rapid population decline due to loss of habitat.

IUCN Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Habitat loss
Habitat: Marsh, scrub and wetlands
Location: Central Valley of California
Diet: Insects, seeds and other plant matter

Whooping cranes are large white birds with a red crown; long, slender legs; and broad, rounded black-tipped wings. They once occurred throughout western North America but were driven to near extinction by hunting and habitat loss. Protection of cranes is made difficult by their long migrations, which may span thousands of miles. Many cranes breed in Arctic wetlands and spend winters in the southern latitudes. Though still small, its numbers are steadily increasing.

IUCN Status: Endangered
USFWS Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Habiat loss due to drainage of wetlands
Habitat: Grassy plains interspersed with marshes, lakes and ponds
Location: Northern Canada and the Texas coast
Diet: Snails, clams, fish, blue crabs and wolf berries

The yellow-eared parrot is critically endangered because of its extremely small range and shrinking habitat due to deforestation. It is bright green with yellow ear patches and a dark, heavy bill. This breathtakingly beautiful bird is also a popular species in the exotic pet trade. It is currently only thought to occur among the wax palms in the cloud forests of the Colombian Andes.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Major Threat: Habitat loss due to deforestation
Habitat: Cloud forests, occurring exclusively in wax palms
Location: Colombian Andes
Diet: Fruits of the wax palm