Found in the lowland forests and wetlands of many Asian countries, this long-necked, long-legged bird has seen its numbers dwindle sharply due to deforestation and wetlands draining. Roughly 50 oriental storks live in the wild, and 100 are kept in a public park in Toyooka, Japan.
(Photo: Getty/Kazuhiro Nogi)
While just 279 condors exist in the wild today, it’s a vast improvement since the late 1980s, when the population of the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere dipped to 22. No wild condors existed between 1988 and 1991, but reintroduction began a year later and continues today. Still, a leading threat to condor recovery is lead poisoning from ingestion of ammunition.
(Photo: Getty/David McNew)
Yellow Eared Parrot
Thought to be all but extinct in 1999 due to its popularity in the exotic pet trade industry, this aerial beauty is one of Latin America’s most successful conservation efforts. Today more than 1,000 specimens live in wax palm trees in the cloud forests of the Colombian Andes.
Classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the total wild population of the blue-throated macaw is believed to only be 250. This stunning species, which usually lives in bonded pairs, has two main threats: destruction of the bird’s ecosystem from cattle ranching in the bird’s Bolivian ecosystem and the illegal worldwide pet trade.
The population of the only penguin to live in the Northern Hemisphere has taken quite a blow since the 1970s, decreasing by an estimated 50 percent. While habitat loss and competition for food from invasive species are part of the penguin’s daily struggle, one conservation group is doing its best to ensure sunny skies are on the bird’s horizon. In October 2010 biologists from the University of Washington constructed more than 120 nesting sites for the penguins in an effort to give them a fighting chance against predators. Scientists estimate that only 2,000 specimens exist in the wild.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
A stocky, nocturnal, flightless bird, this national symbol of New Zeleand is threatened by a smorgasbord of invasive predators, including pigs and feral cats. Ninety-four percent of all brown kiwi chicks die before reaching breeding ages; as such, only 35,000 exist in the wild, a 90 percent decline since 1900.
(Photo: STR New / Reuters)
At five feet tall—and with a wingspan of seven and a half feet—the whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America. And also one of the rarest, with a wild population at just 382, according to IUCN. While that sounds bad, it used to be worse. Much worse. In 1940 just 15 whooping cranes existed in the wild at a breeding site in Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada. Capable of flying 500 miles a day at 40 miles per hour, 3,000 feet above sea level, they're nature's version of a spy plane.
(Photo: Getty /Johan Schumacher)
The wild population of this medium-sized eagle, found mostly in Botswana, numbers between 10,000 and 100,000—a 50 percent drop in the last 30 years. Its biggest threat is poison, which the bird picks up from carcasses on farms placed next to protected nesting areas.
January 5 is National Bird Day, a campaign begun by the good folks over at Born Free USA to not only bring attention to the plight of captive-bred birds but to also educate the public about the predicament of all the world’s birds.
And, boy, do birds ever need our help.
Nearly 12 percent of the planet’s 9,800 bird species could face extinction within the next 100 years, including nearly one-third of the 330 parrot species.
That’s not all.
The recent mass deaths of birds—be it 5,000 red-winged blackbirds in Arkansas or thousands of turtle doves in Italy—have both flummoxed and worried scientists since birds are a sentinel species—basically a weathervane for biosphere vitality.
Click here for nine simple steps you can take today to keep our birds where they belong—safe, sound, and soaring in the skies.