Half of the world’s birds are in decline, new study warns

Nearly half of the world’s bird species are declining with at least one in eight species threatened by extinction, a new study found.

BirdLife, a 100-year-old conservation organization, released their fifth edition of the “State of the World’s Birds” report with some alarming findings.

“This wealth of information paints a deeply concerning picture,” the report notes.

The majority of bird populations are in decline and already have very depleted populations.

The study found that 49% of the world’s bird species are now in decline, with only 6% having increased their populations since the last report in 2018.

Over 160 bird species have been lost in the last 500 years and “species are moving ever faster towards extinction.” In North America, the bird population has lost 2.9 billion individuals since 1970.

“Historically, most extinctions were on islands, but worryingly there is a growing wave of continental extinctions, driven by landscape-scale habitat loss,” the report states.

Nearly half of the world’s bird species (5,412) have declining populations


The US is one of the top ten countries with the greatest number of globally threatened birds.

The US is one of the top ten countries with the greatest number of globally threatened birds.


There are 1,409 bird populations globally threatened mostly by agriculture and logging.


BirdLife found that the majority of the issues detrimentally impacting the birds are driven by human factors, including agricultural expansion and intensification, unsustainable logging, invasive species, overexploitation and climate change.

An estimated 97% of bird species in the United States could be affected by two or more climate-related threats by 2100 if global temperatures rise by 3 degrees Celsius.

Bycatch from fisheries, expanding residential and commercial development, the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, and poorly planned energy production are also affecting these animals.

The report suggests targeted recovery actions such as captive breeding and release and increased conservation efforts by local communities and governments.

Flock of migrating birds
The report notes that the next decade is critical but that many species have been saved from the brink of extinction with calculated and active responses.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Most urgent is the conservation and effective management of the global network of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), particularly through protected areas, or where appropriate through other effective area-based conservation measures.”

Birds are an “excellent barometer for planetary health” because they are widely distributed, relatively easy to survey, and responsive to environmental change giving insight into wider trends in their natural ecosystems.

The report optimistically notes that there are many examples of species being saved from extinction and ecosystems being restored and outlines a multitude of responses.

“The next decade is critical if we are to stop unraveling the fabric of life and destroying our global safety net,” the report reads.

“The future of the world’s birds and ultimately our own species depends upon it.”

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