It seems like everyday, the animal kingdom shrinks a little bit further. An analysis by BirdLife International confirms these fears with a report in Biological Conservation, announcing that eight bird species have gone extinct (or are nearly extinct) in the past decade. The study took a team nearly a decade to complete as they poured over records and surveys of sightings of 51 critically-endangered bird species. One of the birds, the Blue Spix’s macaw, was featured in the movies Rio and Rio 2.
The Blue Spix’s macaw faced deforestation and while there are 60-80 in captivity, they are now extinct in the wild. In fact, the study guesses they were extinct by 2000. The first Rio movie came out in 2011. Blue Spix’s macaw join three other Brazilian birds listed as “extinct or nearly extinct,” where logging and agriculture have destroyed their habitat. The cryptic treehunter and Alagoas foliage-gleaner are believed to be completely gone in the wild.
One bird on the extinct list was native to Hawaii. Known locally as the po’o-uli, the black-faced honeycreeper was seen last on Maui in 2004. It was unique to honeycreepers and depended on snails for food. It also didn’t possess any close relatives. Despite attempts to breed the birds in captivity, multiplying and reintroducing the po’o-uli into the wild has not been successful.
Extinctions among bird species is speeding up. Factors like agriculture, hunting, and natural predators all drive the numbers down. BirdLife International lists 187 species of birds as extinct, with 90% of them trapped on islands where they couldn’t fly to new habitats or avoid invasive species. However, that’s changing, as the birds from Brazil show us. If protection is not implemented quickly and efficiently, even more species could disappear from their habitats. Scientists may have to turn to new technologies, like cloning, to prevent endangered birds from vanishing completely.