Vanishing Into Thin Air

Today, 12 percent of bird species risk extinction

10-01-2006 // NWF Staff

SCIENTISTS BELIEVE that birds, without human influence, would naturally go extinct at a rate of about one species per century. But over the past 500 years, habitat loss has resulted in a rate closer to one species per year, according to a new study coauthored by Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm. Researchers previously documented 154 bird extinctions since 1500. But Pimm calls that number “hugely misleading”: Most bird species were unknown to humans before 1850, so earlier extinctions generally went unnoticed. Today, 12 percent of bird species risk extinction.

There is some good news: Pimm found that extinctions in the last 30 years have actually slowed, thanks to conservation efforts. But many birds are still in trouble, says Pimm. “We have a lot of work to do if we don’t want to see the extinction rate accelerate to 1,000 times what it should be.” —Hannah Schardt

     Flickr Icon           Find NWF on Facebook.           Follow NWF on Twitter.           YouTube Icon    
Shop our Garden for Wildlife Gift Guide!
Certify your yard today!