As per the 2013 Red List of Birds, prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 15 species of birds from India continue to remain Critically Endangered (CR). In fact, the report shows that three new bird species, which were earlier in the Least Concern (LC) category now face potential extinction, and have been added to the Near Threatened (NT) and Vulnerable (VU) categories.
The species in the country that are listed as Critically Endangered include the following:
Migratory Wetland Species: Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri), Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus), and Siberian Crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus)
Non-migratory Wetland Species: White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis)
Grassland Species: Bengal Florican(Houbaropsis bengalensis), Jerdon’s Courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus), Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious), and Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps)
Forest Species: Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti)
Scavengers: Indian Vulture or Long billed vulture (Gyps indicus), White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Slender-billed Vulture(Gyps tenuirostris), and Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)
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Further, the Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa) and the Pink-headed Duck(Rhodonessa caryophyllacea) are now considered to be Extinct for all practical purposes.
Besides the above, River Lapwing and River Tern have been moved to the Near Threatened List from the Least Concern List, while the Long-tailed Duck has been moved from the same list to the Vulnerable List in the 2013 IUCN Red List of Birds.
Habitat Loss a Concern
Studies by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and other organizations have revealed that in addition to destruction of wetland habitats, several other natural habitats such as grasslands and forests also face severe threat due to developmental pressures. The BNHS has also indicated that incidences of chemical components in the environment are threatening the survival of certain species, as in the case of certain vulture species that are being affected by the chemical ‘diclofenac’.
The same studies show that extreme loss of grassland habitats in recent decades has severely threatened a number of birds such as the Great Indian Bustard, Jerdon’s Courser, and the Bengal Florican. Moreover, destruction of deciduous forests in central India has resulted in the decline in the population of Forest Owlets, while the destruction of forests in the Himalayas and the fragile Western Ghats continues to pose a threat to many other species.
“There is an urgent need to conserve the remaining habitats and species dependent on them, based on insightful scientific field research,” said BNHS-India Director Asad Rahmani. “Policies that ensure this through sustainable development should be framed and implemented urgently,” he added.
Bird Species Threatened Globally
The fact remains that humanity’s relentless and unsustainable drive for ‘development’ has forced many birds all over the planet to the brink of extinction. In fact, studies by BirdLife International and its global conservation partners show that the number of bird species listed as Critically Endangered has reached an alarming number, with almost 200 bird species currently facing real danger of being wiped out.
“Almost 200 species of bird are now in real danger of being lost forever”, said Dr. Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “They are being hit on multiple fronts. Habitat loss, agricultural changes, invasive species, and climate change are the principle threats. Without these problems being addressed the list will continue to grow,” added Dr. Leon.
The Critically Endangered list is the highest risk category in the IUCN Red List of species facing extinction in the wild. The main factors that are threatening these species include habitat destruction and the larger effects of climatic changes. However, all is not grim as sustained conservation efforts have succeeded in improving the condition of certain species such as the Black-browed and Black-footed Albatross, and the Rodrigues Fody and Rodrigues Warbler.
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Spoon-billed Sandpiper Image courtesy Conservation Report