Red List splits mean more endangered birds

More than 350 newly recognised bird species have been assessed for the first time by BirdLife International for the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species – and worryingly, more than 25 per cent of them are classified as threatened. This compares with 13 per cent of all bird species being under threat, making the latest additions to the list urgent priorities for conservation action.

curlew preening - Mark Hamblin
Most of the ‘splits’ are actually already recognised by the International Ornithologists’ Union, but come under scrutiny by BirdLife as it completes the first part of a two-stage comprehensive taxonomic review; the results will be published in checklist form shortly. The new total of 4,472 non-passerine bird species implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by more than 10 per cent. “Put another way, one-tenth of the world’s bird species have been flying below the conservation radar,” explained Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Head of Science.

‘New’ species such as Belem Curassow from Brazil and Desertas Petrel from Madeira have been listed as Globally Threatened. In the case of the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest, a beautiful hummingbird from Colombia, it may already be too late, as the species has not been seen for almost 70 years.

Other species newly highlighted as of conservation concern include Somali Ostrich, found in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, which is now recognised as Vulnerable. Its population is thought to be in rapid decline because of hunting, egg collecting and persecution, and its status could worsen if action is not taken soon.

BirdLife says the new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species established by the review have created a ‘level playing field’, by which all bird species can be assessed equally. They also help identify the areas of the planet that need to be most urgently protected.

As well as assessing newly recognised species, the 2014 Red List also reassesses the status of some species already recognised by the two organisations. Thanks to successful conservation efforts, Bearded Vulture is recovering in Europe, but globally it is declining because of poisoning, disturbance and collisions with powerlines, resulting in it being assessed as Near Threatened rather than Least Concern.

The total number of species recognised by BirdLife in the 2014 Red List update is 10,425. The number of species in the organisation’s conservation categories includes:
Extinct: 140.
Extinct in the Wild: 5.
Critically Endangered: 213.
Endangered: 419.
Vulnerable: 741.
Near Threatened: 959.
Least Concern: 7,886.
Data Deficient: 62.

Taken from

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