Extinct Birds: In life, people are often told that they only realize the true value of something when it goes missing from their lives.
In a scientific sense, the real value of conservation is better discovered by appreciating the very loss of biodiversity. Scientists predict that in the coming decades, species on our planet will slowly perish and have a rate of extinction almost 1000 times the natural one. When that happens, we may lose more than half of all living organisms on our planet.
Unfortunately, due to the advancement of technology and the continuously increasing human population, scientists’ predictions might come true (even sooner).
There have already been numerous reports about the extinction of many living organisms – many bird species.
This page will explore the 25 (already) extinct birds and discover what caused their mass extinction. Also, we will explore several reasons why birds are becoming extinct.
Table of Contents
- Top 25 Extinct Birds
- 1. Dodo Bird (†Raphus cucullatus)
- 2. Carolina Parakeet (†Conuropsis carolinensis)
- 3. Bachman’s Warbler (Vermivora bachmanii)
- 4. Tasmanian Emu (†Dromaius diemenensis)
- 5. Arabian Ostrich (†Struthio camelus)
- 6. Great Auk (†Pinguinus impennis)
- 7. Seychelles Parakeet (†Psittacula wardii)
- 8. Laysan Rail (†Porzana palmeri)
- 9. Passenger Pigeon (†Ectopistes migratorius)
- 10. Stephen’s island Wren († Traversia lyalli)
- 11. Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (†Campephilus principalis)
- 12. New Zealand Quail (†Coturnix novaezelandiae)
- 13. Labrador Duck (†Camptorhynchus labradorius)
- 14. Laughing Owl (†Sceloglaux albifacies)
- 15. Chatham island Penguin (†Eudyptes chathamensis)
- 16. Mauritius Blue Pigeon (†Alectroenas nitidissimus)
- 17. Elephant Bird (†Aepyornis maximus)
- 18. Marianne White Eye (†Zosterops semiflavus)
- 19. Himalayan Quail (†Ophrysia superciliosa)
- 20. Saint Helena Dove (†Dysmoropelia dekarchiskos)
- 21. Kangaroo Island Emu (†Dromaius baudinianus)
- 22. Norfolk Island Kaka (†Nestor productus)
- 23. Reunion Shelduck (†Alopochen kervazoi)
- 24. Hawaiʻi ʻōʻō (†Moho nobilis)
- 25. Hawaiʻi Mamo (†Drepanis pacifica)
- Reasons Why Birds Are Becoming Extinct?
Top 25 Extinct Birds
1. Dodo Bird (†Raphus cucullatus)
- By evolution, the dodo birds did not have any natural predators (of course, except humans!)
- The start of the 1500s marked the arrival of humans to the island. Dodo birds have since then been widely hunted for fresh meat, thus reducing their large number.
- The rise of human exploitation and invasive species population is the main reason for the extinction of the Dodo bird in 1681.
2. Carolina Parakeet (†Conuropsis carolinensis)
- Carolina parakeets were considered to be poisonous as animals (like cats) that feed on them die from doing so.
- During the 1800s, these parakeets had become a serious agricultural pest as they formed loud flocks that would feed on fruits and crops. As a result, enraged farmers held mass slaughter of these birds. The killing and hunting of these birds, combined with the degradation of forests, led to the decline of the bird population.
- By the 1920s, the Carolina parakeet was extinct. The above image from the Oklahoma Museum shows the dead Carolina Parakeet collected in the 1880s.
3. Bachman’s Warbler (Vermivora bachmanii)
- The last breeding was officially recorded in 1937; no further reports have been done since then.
- Scientists believed that the ‘Bachmans warbler has already become extinct due to widespread habitat destruction. However, they still hope to find some, as not all remnant patches have been searched.
4. Tasmanian Emu (†Dromaius diemenensis)
- In comparison to their relative Emus, the Tasmanian Emus were believed to be smaller and appeared to be darker with the absence of the black feather that distinguishes Emus.
- Records show that in just 20 years (from 1830 to 1850s), the Tasmanian emu went extinct from being locally extinct.
5. Arabian Ostrich (†Struthio camelus)
- In the Middle East, this bird was widely hunted for its feathers, skin, and eggs. In addition, the large size of these birds makes them ideal as a dinner choice, along with other animals like camels and zebras.
- During the early 20th century, the population of the Arabian ostrich was greatly reduced as a byproduct of World War II. Finally, the last Arabian ostrich recorded was found in Bahrain in 1941.
6. Great Auk (†Pinguinus impennis)
- Because of the “Little Ice age“, a large decline in the Great Auk population was observed by the mid-16th century. These birds became widely exposed to predation and massive human exploitation as their down feathers were plucked for pillow production.
- While laws have prohibited the hunting of Great Auks, a great volcanic eruption during the 1830s almost wiped out the Great Auk population. Unfortunately (in 1844), the last pair of Great Auks was killed as their egg was smashed by merchants to be used as specimens.
7. Seychelles Parakeet (†Psittacula wardii)
- This bird appeared to be very similar to the Alexander parakeet, only smaller and lacking the distinct pink-colored collar. Its body was green with purple patches on its wings and a yellow underside tail.
- The Seychelles parakeet became extinct due to intense hunting pressure, and they are believed to be already gone by 1893.
8. Laysan Rail (†Porzana palmeri)
- It has grey underparts, a black tail, red eyes, green legs, and yellow beaks.
- The population of these birds was wiped out due to the introduction of non-native rats in 1944.
9. Passenger Pigeon (†Ectopistes migratorius)
- The Passenger pigeon, endemic to North America, is characterized as a noisy low-flying bird that comes in large flocks.
- Despite their overwhelming number, by the early 20th century, not a single bird was left in the wild due to the increase in predation and human exploitation. The above painting shows the shooting of passenger pigeons by hunters in northern Louisiana, Smith Bennett, in 1875.
- The very last Passenger pigeon named Martha was found dead in 1914.
10. Stephen’s island Wren († Traversia lyalli)
|Animalia||Passeriformes||Acanthisittidae||†Traversia||† Traversia lyalli|
- Interestingly, this bird was flightless as it possessed no keel on its breastbone to attach the muscles necessary for flight. It also had very short wings and loosely attached feathers.
- Because of the extensive island development and widespread predation by the exotic cats, the population of this bird was wiped out in 1895.
11. Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (†Campephilus principalis)
- Its extinction in the mid-20th century is believed to be caused by the destruction of its habitat as well as human exploitation.
- As its name suggests, this bird species was highly notable for its enormous white bill resembling ivory. As a result, these woodpeckers were hunted for their bills to be used as decorations.
12. New Zealand Quail (†Coturnix novaezelandiae)
- This genus of birds was composed of small ground birds and was the only representative of the quail and pheasant bird family.
- Unfortunately, this was the first bird species that went extinct after European colonization in the region.
- Only a little information about the biology of this bird is available.
13. Labrador Duck (†Camptorhynchus labradorius)
- Also known as the Pied duck , this duck fed on mollusks like mussels.
- Even before its extinction in the 1870s, the Labrador duck was already considered to be rare; however, hunters continued to seek it thus, resulting in its extinction.
14. Laughing Owl (†Sceloglaux albifacies)
- During the mid-19th century, this bird was still common but slowly decreasing in number.
- The extinction of the Laughing owl in 1914 was highly attributed to the destruction of its habitat and the introduction of exotic species (such as stoats ferrets) that became its predators.
15. Chatham island Penguin (†Eudyptes chathamensis)
The Chatham Island penguin is a species endemic to Chatham’s Island in the Pacific Ocean, east of New Zealand.
- The Chatham Island penguin is a crested bird of the Eudyptes family, which is characterized by the presence of white and black plumage with distinct yellow eyebrows.
- This penguin became extinct as a result of the arrival of the human population (sometime between 1867 to 1872).
16. Mauritius Blue Pigeon (†Alectroenas nitidissimus)
- This bird was very distinct because it somehow resembles the Dutch flag with its white feathers around its head, breast, and neck, blue body feathers, and red tail.
- Like the Dodo bird, also native to Mauritius, this blue pigeon has gone extinct due to human colonization of the islands in the 1600s.
17. Elephant Bird (†Aepyornis maximus)
- The Elephant bird is considered the largest bird ever. Like its close relatives, the emus and ostriches, this bird had a massive physique and sharp claws. However, this bird was not capable of running swiftly and even flying.
- Scientists believed that the extinction of this species in the 1700s was mainly because of human exploitation. This bird had eggs big enough to feed an entire family; hence, it is no wonder that they were hunted for food.
18. Marianne White Eye (†Zosterops semiflavus)
- Very little information is known about this bird, but it is believed to have an overall greenish plumage with a very distinct white eye ring (hence the name).
- This species went extinct between 1870 and the 1900s.
19. Himalayan Quail (†Ophrysia superciliosa)
- According to the records, this bird had characteristics of both a quail and a partridge. However, one distinguishing feature of this bird was its broad tail which is relatively long compared to other species of quail in India.
- This bird was considered as extinct as it was last verified in 1876.
- At present, various attempts to look for this bird in India are being conducted.
20. Saint Helena Dove (†Dysmoropelia dekarchiskos)
- The genusDysmoropelia is a monotypic genus, meaning it is the only member of that specific genus.
- Years after the island’s discovery (1502), this bird became widely hunted until it became extinct.
21. Kangaroo Island Emu (†Dromaius baudinianus)
- Compared to the mainland emus, this species of emu was relatively smaller in size.
- This bird species went extinct in 1827 due to extensive hunting and habitat destruction.
22. Norfolk Island Kaka (†Nestor productus)
- Scientists believed that this bird had a limited ability to migrate between islands; hence it spent most of its time in the islands where it was given birth.
- During the early 18th century, the population of this bird started to decline, and finally, in 1851, the last known Norfolk Island Kaka died in captivity.
23. Reunion Shelduck (†Alopochen kervazoi)
The next bird in this extinct bird list is the Reunion Shelduck or Reunion Sheldgoose, which was endemic to the region of Reunion Island situated in the Indian Ocean.
- Little information is known about this organism since only fossils were found.
- The destruction of the forest habitat of the Etang de Saint-Paul is believed to be the main reason why this bird became extinct in 1710 .
24. Hawaiʻi ʻōʻō (†Moho nobilis)
- The arrival of humans on the island, coupled with habitat destruction and the introduction of exotic species, had caused a great decline in the Hawaiʻi ʻōʻō population.
- Unfortunately, this bird became extinct in 1987.
25. Hawaiʻi Mamo (†Drepanis pacifica)
- This bird was very popular because of the color of its feathers (overall black plumage with a yellow undercoat). Because of their feathers, they were extensively hunted by the Hawaiʻian nobilities, thus decreasing their number.
- The exploitation of the Americans in 1898 finally caused the extinction of this bird species.
Reasons Why Birds Are Becoming Extinct?
Birds are becoming endangered or even extinct for an array of reasons:
- The first reason is Habitat loss due to human-made urban development activities (i.e., deforestation, industrialization, etc.), natural catastrophes, cell phone towers with amplified frequencies more than recommended levels, and climate change.
- One main reason birds go extinct is hunting and poaching. The introduction of non-native species (examples: rats, snakes) to the environment also disturbs the birds’ population since these animals make the birds nesting on the trees and ground very unsafe to hatch or raise the off-springs.
- Birds starve for food due to the shortage of food resources, or other bird species compete for the same food resources in the ecosystems.
- Bycatch of marine birds in fisheries occurs regularly when birds such as albatrosses and petrels inadvertently get tangled in gill and trawl nets, causing them to lose their lives.
- Pesticides play a major destructive role in birds’ population. The concentrated pesticides on the field get stuck on the grains birds consume. This, in turn, alters the hormonal balance in the birds and results in weak eggs which cannot survive too long.
- Another reason is Biological Magnification (i.e., chemical toxins travel from the lowest chain species in the ecological pyramids to top of the chain). For example, man-made contamination in the ocean bed gets into the fish diet, which is then consumed by seabirds. The toxic poisoning makes the bird infertile or even fatal.
- In some rare situations, losing a bird species is inevitable. The bird might be a new species that evolved from other bird species (such as cross-breeding) and lack adaptability and is extremely sensitive to new environmental changes.
In summary, if humans take conscious initiatives to conserve the environment, the birds going extinct can be reversed. Birds also share the planet earth, and it is not just for humans!
With the kind of technology we have at present, it is not impossible to retrieve these extinct organisms. However, the real and more important question is whether we want these species back.