About 1,200 species of birds are considered to be threatened or endangered, reports conservation organisation Endangered Species International Inc. Since this number represents about 12 per cent of all species worldwide, this is a large number. An endangered species is defined as an animal or plant that is present in such small numbers that it is in danger of extinction.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service federal authority to determine what types of birds, plants and animals belong on the endangered species list. Although first applied to North American birds, the bird tally now applies to avian creatures found around the world. It is illegal to sell a live specimen of an endangered species in the United States
Loss of Habitat
One of the places where endangered bird species are most readily found are the old-growth forests of the world. It does not matter whether the forest of concern is located in the torrid tropics of South America or the cool conifer forests of the Northwestern United States, endangered species can be found in many different places. In the Pacific Northwest, both the spotted owl and marbled murrelet are endangered species that nest in the temperate rainforest. Since the Amazon rainforest has more than a thousand different species of birds, its list of endangered birds is much larger.
Most Dangerous Animal
In dealing with the large number of bird species that are now facing extinction, there exists one major organism that looms large in the demise of the bird population, and that animal is man. Even though the predatory actions of the human population can place a particular species in danger, more often it is the loss of habitat, use of pesticide or introduction of alien species that causes the most problems with bird species.
For example, the kagu is a flighless, dovelike bird of the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. Recent population counts have come in as low as 700. Extensive conservation efforts by international organisations have slightly increased the number of birds. Though not actively hunted, major threats to the bird include loss of habitat by logging and mining, disease and introduction of foreign animals, such as the dog, cat and rat.
On the Brink
In 2005 reliable sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas caused Cornell's department of ornithology to declare the bird rediscovered. This came as a major surprise, especially since the last proven sighting occurred in 1935. However, after five years of extensive search through eight southern states, the return of the large woodpecker remains doubtful. The search has been compounded by the swampy terrain where the bird lives and its similarity to the more common type of woodpecker known as the pileated woodpecker.