Eight types of birds, including Spix’s macaw, the blue parrot featured in the movie Rio, are the latest species added to the list of confirmed or highly likely extinctions.
The last known sighting of Spix’s macaw was in 2000. A sighting in 2016, reported by BirdLife, was later determined to have been a captive bird on the loose, rather than an indication that the parrot had returned to Brazil’s forests.
The study, published by Biological Conservation, conducted by BirdLife International, monitored 51 species of “critically endangered” birds. While the report indicates that several species of birds are no longer present in their natural habitats, the results weren’t all disheartening. Researchers found that one type of bird, the Moorea reed warbler, was less endangered than previously thought, and recommend that it be removed from the “possibly extinct” list.
In addition to Spix’s macaw, the analysis finds the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner, a small Brazillian bird, to have become extinct in 2011, likely due to deforestation. The cryptic tree-hunter has not been seen in over 10 years since the small forests it inhabited were converted into sugar cane plantations. Two other species, the glaucous macaw and the Pernambuco pygmy-owl, have seen their habitats destroyed by deforestation.
The poo-uli, or black-faced honeycreeper, was once a candidate for breeding in captivity, but conservationists were unable to boost the population. It has not been seen in Hawaii since 2004.
Stuart Butchart, the chief scientist from BirdLife International, calls attention to how humans have affected wildlife populations.
“Historically 90 percent of bird extinctions have been small populations on remote islands. Our evidence shows there is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continent driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage and logging.”
“People think of extinctions and think of the dodo but our analysis shows that extinctions are continuing and accelerating today.”
Butchart hopes that these findings can help drive conservation efforts. Citing limited resources for the preservation of endangered species, he said, “If some of these species have gone we need to redirect these resources to those that remain.”
“Obviously it’s too late to help some of these iconic species but because we know birds better than any other taxonomic class we know which other species are most at risk. We hope this study will inspire a redoubling of efforts to prevent other extinctions.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers a species “extinct in the wild” when no members of a species are known to exist in their natural habitat, excluding zoos.