One in eight bird species may soon be extinct

Tu-whit, tu-who: Can you guess the names of these birds?

Should we all be birdwatchers? Birds are some of the most popular wildlife on the planet, yet many species are dying out. What is killing them, and what can they teach us about nature?

What’s happening

Birds are in trouble. According to a major new study, one in eight species could soon be extinct around the world. Overall, 40% of species have shrinking populations, while only 7% are growing. The study blames human activities, such as farming, logging and fishing, for much of this decline.

Find out more

Different birds face different threats. Yellow-breasted buntings are hunted for food. White-crowned sparrows are harmed by insecticides. Black-browed albatrosses are accidentally caught in fishing nets.

Our winged friends are found all over the planet. They are the most studied animal group on Earth. They have been worshipped as gods and inspired countless artworks. Many nations have an official “national bird”.

An estimated one in three Britons feeds or watches birds. Many birdwatchers travel far and wide to glimpse rare species. The most dedicated have spotted over 9,000 kinds — in other words, almost every bird species in existence. They can also help scientists keep track of bird populations in the wild.

Should we all be birdwatchers?

Some say…

Definitely. Birdwatching is interesting, healthy and fun. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a rare bird for the first time. It is also a great way to learn about nature: birds are closely connected to their environments, as this study shows. The more attention we pay to the world around us, the more we recognise its beauty — and its dangers.

Others think…

Birdwatching is mad. Nobody (except experts) needs to know the name, sounds and feeding habits of every bird. It says more about human nature than the natural world that people spend lots of money trying to tick off as many bird sightings as possible. It is good to feel close to nature, but going for regular walks in the wild is enough.

You Decide

  1. Is it always bad when animals go extinct?

Activities

  1. The next time you spot a bird that you do not recognise, remember what it looks like, and then use the internet (or someone’s help) to work out which species it belongs to. You could try taking a photo of the bird to help.

Some People Say...

“It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.”

Aesop

What do you think?

Word Watch

Extinct
When a species has died out, it is “extinct”.
Logging
Cutting down trees for wood.
Insecticides
Chemicals that kill insects. Farmers often use them to protect their plants.
National bird
Some nations have chosen a bird to represent their identity. For example, the US has picked the bald eagle. The UK does not have one.
Glimpse
Briefly see.
Dedicated
When someone is passionate about something and spends a lot of their time on it, they are said to be “dedicated” to it.

Subjects

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