Spix’s macaw, a bright blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children’s animation film Rio, has become extinct in the wild.
It joins seven other bird species declared extinct by a new analysis of endangered animals – making them the first avians to have died out this decade.
Scientists blame deforestation for the losses, which include the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter.
Most birds that die out are small-island species, making them vulnerable to hunting, but five of the eight extinctions have occurred in South America, researchers said.
The Spix’s macaw is one of eight bird species now deemed extinct following a new statistical analysis. The birds, which include the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter, are the first to die out this decade
Researchers at BirdLife International, a group of conservation NGOs based in Cambridge, UK, carried out a statistical analysis of endangered species.
They said the study highlighted an extinction crisis on larger continents caused by damage to the environment by humans.
Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s chief scientist, said: ‘People think of extinctions and think of the dodo but our analysis shows that extinctions are continuing and accelerating today.
‘Historically 90 per cent of bird extinctions have been small populations on remote islands.
‘Our evidence shows there is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continent driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage and logging.’
The researchers examined 51 species judged ‘critically endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list.
The Spix’s macaw is a bright blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children’s animation film Rio
More than 26,000 of the world’s species are now threatened, according to the list, leading scientists to warn that humans may be driving the planet’s sixth big extinction event.
According to the new analysis, eight species of bird can now be added to the growing list of confirmed or ‘highly likely’ extinctions.
Four of the extinctions took place in Brazil, including the Spix’s macaw, which was traded in cages for 150 years before a trio of wild birds were found in 1985.
Two of these were illegally captured, while attempts to breed the third failed.
The last known wild sighting was in 2000, though captive birds are now being used to breed for restoration programmes.
Three other species, the poo-uli, the cryptic treehunter and the Alagoas foliage-gleane, may have disappeared forever, according to the analysis.
WHAT IS THE ENDANGERED ‘RED LIST’?
Species on the endangered red list are animals of the highest conservation priority that need ‘urgent action’ to save.
An Amber list is reserved for the next most critical group, followed by a green list.
Red list criteria:
- Globally threatened
- Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
- Severe (at least 50 per cent) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years
- Severe (at least 50 per cent) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years
Last year, in the UK, several more species were added to the list.
- Atlantic puffin
- Long-tailed duck
- Turtle dove
The Alagoas foliage-gleaner, a small forest bird also native to Brazil, became extinct in 2011 following heavy deforestation.
Following its discovery in two patches of forest in north-eastern Brazil in 2002, the cryptic treehunter has not been spotted since 2007.
The small forests where it was found have been cut down and replaced with sugar cane plantations.
The poo-uli, found only on the island of Maui in Hawaii, has not been seen since 2004, and attempts to breed it in captivity have been unsuccessful.
Of the eight species to be reclassified as extinct, four are ‘critically endangered (possibly extinct)’.
They include the glaucous macaw, once found in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil before its palm grove habitat was destroyed for farming.
Another is a small insect-eating owl, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl, which hasn’t been spotted in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco since 2002.
Much of the bird’s habitat has been destroyed by logging.
Dr Butchart hopes the shocking results spark better conservation of endangered species in future.
‘Because we know birds better than any other taxonomic class we know which other species are most at risk,’ he said.
‘We hope this study will inspire a redoubling of efforts to prevent other extinctions.’