How Many Bird Species Have Gone Extinct?

by OBDK on June 14, 2021

Looking back at birds that have gone extinct helps us learn from past mistakes and plan better for the future. With a better understanding, we can take better action to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Many birds have gone extinct and almost all of them have been because of human action.1


The IUCN has 159 bird species on their list that are considered Extinct. Other birds are listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) – these are birds that haven’t been sighted in their habitats in a long time, but we don’t know for sure they’re gone completely.1 This gets us into an interesting debate of when to consider a bird extinct or not. Scientists don’t want to prematurely call a species extinct, which would end conservation efforts of that species, but at the same time, they don’t want resources to be wasted for birds that may not be around anymore.2


What’s clear is that human actions and invasive species pose a real threat to birds everywhere. Many bird extinctions have occurred on islands, but now we’re seeing more bird species threatened on mainlands.2 


Threats to birds include: 

  • Invasive species 

  • Hunting & trapping

  • Unsustainable agricultural practices 

  • Destruction of habitat2 


Some of the bird species we’ve lost throughout the world are the: 


  • Least Vermilion Flycatcher – this was the first recorded bird extinction in the Galapagos, due to invasive plants that affected their food supply. 

  • North Island Piopio – they lost their habitat and were preyed on by cats, rats, and humans. 

  • Lord Howe Gerygone – rats ended up on their Australian island after a shipwreck and went after their nests.

  • Bishop’s Oo – these birds, including their entire genus, went extinct due to human activities like deforestation, hunting, and invasive species.3


A study done by Birdlife International within the last few years points to some more recent possible extinctions: 


  • The New Caledonian Lorikeet – thought to have been affected by habitat loss and/or introduced species of cats or rats. 

  • The Pernambuco Pygmy Owl – its habitat was destroyed by logging.

  • The Java Lapwing – a combination of hunting and habitat destruction is thought to be responsible.2


It’s clear that birds are very susceptible to the impacts of our own actions and the threat of invasive species. More than 26,000 species are considered close to extinction on the IUCN’s Red List.2 As we learn more about how certain species were affected, we can take more informed action to save them and their habitats. 


Did you read our blog on why birds sing? If you missed it, you can read it here!