Many scientists have found that there is evidence that we are currently incurring a major extinction event, one of only a handful known ever to occur on Earth. Climate change is one major reason for the concern of extinctions, however, habitat loss due to encroaching human population is seen as one of the biggest contributors worldwide.
A study recently published in the journal PLoS ONE indicates that bird species extinction rates appear to be increasing. In fact, the study indicates that bird extinction rates have increased since the middle of the 20th century. According to the study, 279 bird species have become extinct in the past 500 years, largely species from islands.
According to BirdLife International, approximately twelve percent of all known bird species globally are threatened with extinction. There are about 9,865 known species which according to the new study are increasingly threatened not on islands, but on continents. (Nearly half of all seabird populations are also threatened with extinction.)
Typically bird species extinctions occur on islands due to species only being found on one island, therefore changes can decimate populations. Invasive species and hunting have been found to be main causes for bird extinctions in the past, according to the study. In fact, all extinctions studied by the researchers indicated human pressures as the cause, aside from one species which perished due to volcanic ash (the San Benedicto Rock Wren on a Mexican island).
Now the researchers indicate that increased pressures on continents are threatening even greater populations of bird species. The main pressure for these bird species is habitat loss, largely due to agriculture. Stuart Butchart, a researcher on the study from BirdLife International, stated: “[…] we need to scale up our efforts substantially to avoid further human-induced extinctions” Butchart was referring to the findings by the researchers that approximately thirty-one bird species have been rescued from extinction due to conservation efforts.