Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Birds plummeting to extinction

27 September, 2012 - 09:33 -- John Burton

World Land Trust (WLT) often collaborates with American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and their recent newsletter concentrated on declining shorebirds, or waders to those on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

It should be sounding really serious alarm bells. The Eskimo Curlew, like the Passenger Pigeon, was once one of the most numerous birds in the world. The Pigeon became extinct when a lone female died in 1914. The Eskimo Curlew may have lingered on for a few years after the last one was shot in Barbados in 1963, but is almost certainly extinct now. 

Almost everywhere, shorebirds are declining.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is heading dramatically towards extinction, while the number of shorebirds wintering in Delaware Bay (one of the great wintering sites in North America) has declined by 80 per cent.

Semi Palmated Sandpiper numbers have crashed from 1.8 million in 1982, to 350,000 on their main wintering grounds in South America.

Concerted efforts reversed the alarming declines of Birds of Prey that occurred in the 1960s, but whether or not it is possible to halt the decline in wading birds is largely unknown. But I rather doubt that these declines can be halted under increasing threats, mostly to the winter feeding grounds, as well as threats to the stopping off areas.

Like the Passenger Pigeon and the Eskimo Curlew, birds that live in large concentrations, may not be able to survive once their numbers drop below a certain level.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot that the WLT is able to do about this particular issue. Estuaries and shores are usually controlled by governments and it is these wetlands that are vital for shorebirds.

However we can do something about the huge number of species living in rainforests and other inland habitats. While there are many organisations researching and discussing the issues, we are one of the very few who can actually measure positive outcomes: hundreds of thousands of critical habitats saved.

Find out more about WLT’s conservation projects across the world

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