bird species now face a wave of extinction not seen on the Earth since the dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago, according to a report from the Worldwatch Institute, a us-based research organisation. Pressures from a human population of more than 6.2 billion have put about 12 per cent of the world's 9,800 bird species at risk of extinction, states the report Winged Messengers: The Decline of Birds. "Declining bird populations mark the unravelling of delicate natural balances," says Howard Youth, one of the authors of the report.
Habitat loss stands as the biggest threat to the bird species. Tropical species have in particular felt the brunt of deforestation. Loss of wetlands and grasslands is also wiping out critical habitats of many birds, especially migrating species that depend on these areas for food and shelter along their migratory paths. Habitat loss often brings additional threats from human development, such as roads. Communication towers alone kill an estimated 40 million birds in the us each year.
Some 25 per cent of threatened bird species are at risk because of non-native species, including snakes, rats, cats, plants and insects. Till date, these animals have contributed to the extinction of 22 bird species. They kill an estimated one billion birds annually just within the us. Some insects threaten birds directly, such as the yellow crazy ant in Australia, and some indirectly, such as mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. Climate change is an emerging threat to bird species, according to the report. Some migrating species, those that travel long distances as well as those that migrate to nearby places, seem to be responding to climate change by arriving earlier on nesting grounds.
Efforts by governments and private organisations to reintroduce bird species paint a bright future for some jeopardised species, but careful wildlife management can go awry, says Youth. The best way out is to not let species become threatened in the first place.
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