The World's Most Threatened Birds

An Edward's Pheasant.
An Edward's Pheasant.

Since 1970, BirdLife International has worked in unison with other organizations such as EDGE, IUCN, and CITES in identifying and protecting areas considered to be of great significance to the conservation of the world’s most threatened birds. A total of 1,313 bird species are threatened with 193 being critically endangered. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission, these 11 species are the world's most threatened.

11. Araripe Manakin

The Araripe Manakin is an Alliance for Zero Extinction species meaning that it is endangered and its population is restricted to a single remaining site. It is only found at the base of the Araripe plateau in Brazil with less than 1,000 individuals left. The biggest threat to the survival of the Manakin is the lack of breeding grounds following the construction of asphalt roads and a theme national park in its habitat. Banana plantations also replaced the native trees that acted as a breeding and nesting grounds for the bird.

10. White Bellied Heron

The White-bellied Heroine has been listed by IUCN and a critically endangered bird species due to its catastrophic declining population. The imperial heron is mostly solitary and found on undisturbed wetlands and riversides of tropical and subtropical forests of the Himalayas in India and Myanmar. Its declining population is attributed to disturbances and degradation of its natural habitat. Conservation efforts are underway to minimize disturbance and restore the heron’s territory.

9. Liben Lark

The Liben Lark is a critically endangered bird found in only one small area of open grassland in southern Ethiopia. The greatest threat towards the survival of the Liben Lark is destruction of the grasslands where it inhabits by livestock herding. Overgrazing and suppression of wildfire have led to the encroachment by shrubs interfering with the natural breeding grounds. Conservation efforts have been undertaken to reduce excessive breeding and clearance of shrubs in some areas.

8. Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard is among the critically endangered birds in the world with only 50 individuals found in Kutch. Historically, the bird was widespread in India and Pakistan but due to years of poaching and hunting for sports and food precipitated its decline. The current threats to its survival are mostly from loss or degradation of their habitat in favor of mechanized agriculture, infrastructural development, and industrialization.

7. Northern Bald Ibis

The Northern Bald Ibis is a migratory bird found in barren semi-desert and rocky areas near running water. The bird was once widespread in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe but its population had declined drastically in the last decade. There are only 500 individuals identified in Morocco but their existence is highly threatened by human persecution in particular hunting as a source of food, pesticide poisoning and dam construction.

6. Spoon-Billed Sandpiper

Then-Billed Sandpiper is a critically endangered wading bird with less than 100 breeding pairs in existence. The migratory bird inhabits the coastal lagoons and bays on the Pacific coast of Japan, Russia, China, and Korea before retiring to Southeast Asia where they winter. The single-most threat to the bird is trapping a common practice in Myanmar. Elimination of migratory stopover habitats along its major migratory route of the Yellow Sea region, and subsistence hunting on the wintering grounds continue to threaten the survival of the bird likely to be extinct by 2020.

5. Amsterdam Albatross

The Amsterdam Albatross is an enormous bird that breeds only in the Amsterdam Island, in the Indian Ocean. Attempts by human beings to settle on the Island in the 18th and 19th century, led to the destruction the birds breeding grounds by cattle and goats. The introduction of ship rats and feral cats on the Island also threatened the survival of nestlings. Conservation efforts are underway to eliminate the dogs, pigs, and cats from the Island as a way of restoring the natural habitat for the Amsterdam Albatross.

4. Madagascar Pochard

The Madagascar Pochard is an extremely rare duck though to have been extinct until it was rediscovered in 2006 in Lake Matsaborimena. There are only 80 individuals of the duck in the world. It is believed to have originally inhabited the shallow freshwater and marshes of Lake Alaotra before its extinction in 1930. The catastrophic decline is attributed to a range of environmental issues such as siltation of the lake due to deforestation, pollution, introduction of invasive plants and mammals, and competition of the habitat with new fish species.

3. Fatuhiva Monarch

The Fatuhiva Monarch is a critically endangered bird with only 25 adults left in the world and only 5 fertile pairs. It is dominant in the native dense forest of Fatu Hiva, a remote island of the Marquesas Archipelago, and 1,000 miles from Tahiti. Its population decline is attributed to predators, in particular, the black rats and feral cats that prey on the bird and its eggs. The mission to save the bird from extinction is dependent on controlling the predators from its habitat.

2. Chinese Crested Tern

The Chinese Crested Tern is a critically endangered seabird endemic in Matsu Islands, China. It previously inhabited the coastal wetlands of Shandong Province. It was thought to be extinct until four pairs were rediscovered in 2000. The decline of the seabird is attributed to past hunting and egg collection for food and loss of the coastal wetlands where it inhabited. Efforts to conserve the only colony have been futile to the disputed status of the Matsu Island administered by Taiwan but claimed mainland by China.

1. Edwards’s Pheasant

The Edward pheasant, named after the French ornithologist Alphonse Milne-Edwards is among the critically threatened birds in the world. It is endemic in limited areas in Vietnam forests. The Vietnam War in the 1960s followed by massive deforestation in the 1990s led to the destruction of major forests to pave way for agriculture and provide charcoal lumber. Although captive breeding of the pheasant has been done in major zoos, their survival in the wild can only be guaranteed through the restoration of the forests.


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