Half of Earth’s Bird Species are in Rapid Decline, Report Claims Humanity to Blame

by Tia Bailey
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A report shows a disturbing study about a decline in species. Half of the world’s bird species are in rapid decline, and we ourselves are to blame.

The State of the World’s Birds report, which is released every four years, shared that nearly half of the species are in decline. Among all the species, only 6% are increasing. Additionally, 1 in every 8 species currently faces extinction. This is 1,409 species in danger of extinction.

“We have already lost over 160 bird species in the last 500 years, and the rate of extinction is accelerating,” science officer for BirdLife and lead author of the report, Lucy Haskell, said in a statement. “Historically, most extinctions were on islands, but worryingly there is a growing wave of continental extinctions, driven by landscape-scale habitat loss.”

The report also shared what is making the species decline. Nearly every threat to the birds has something to do with human activity. The leading cause of the decline, impacting 73% of the threatened species, is agriculture. The report states that both expanding into important habitats and using more machinery and chemicals have contributed to the issue.

Another big threat highlighted by the report is “the unsustainable logging and management of forests.” It reveals that over seven million hectares are lost every year — this impacts nearly half of the threatened bird species in the entire world.

Unsurprisingly, another huge factor is climate change. According to the report, climate change has already affected over 34% of the species. With the amount of unprecedented storms, wildfires, droughts, and more, they predict that climate change affecting the species will rapidly increase over the next few years.

Humans Impact Bird Species Decline

The Convention on Biological Diversity meeting (CBD COP 15) is happening this December, and it is happening at a very crucial time. The meeting will finalize a 10-year strategy for nature.

“Birds tell us about the health of our natural environment – we ignore their messages at our peril,” Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO, said in a statement. “Many parts of the world are already experiencing extreme wildfires, droughts, heatwaves and floods, as human-transformed ecosystems struggle to adapt to climate change. While the COVID pandemic and global cost of living crisis have undoubtedly diverted attention from the environmental agenda, global society must remain focused on the biodiversity crisis.”

The report shares that a crucial part of sustaining bird species is conserving and restoring the critical sites that the birds depend on.

“There is no denying that the situation is dire, but we know how to reverse these declines. Our research shows that between 21 and 32 bird species would have gone extinct since 1993 without the conservation efforts undertaken to save them,” Dr. Stuart Butchart, Chief Scientist at BirdLife International, said. “Species like the Echo Parakeet, California Condor, Northern Bald Ibis and Black Stilt would no longer exist outside museums were it not for the dedicated efforts of the many organizations in the BirdLife Partnership and beyond. If we give nature a chance, it can recover.”