11th June 2010
In the simplest words possible, extinction is defined as the death of the last individual of that particular species, which leaves no scope of reviving them. Over the last 100 years, several bird and animals species have gone extinct from the planet. In fact, the number of extinct birds in the last 100 years is whopping 17.
Some people may feel 'its just 17 from thousands of species', but these people fail to understand that this means that 17 bird species have disappeared from the planet with no hope of revival. The factors responsible for this huge biological loss include loss of habitat, hunting, climate change etc.
The extinct birds in the last 100 years
These were some bird species which were found in abundance at one point of time, then went over to join the list of endangered birds of the world, before becoming a part of the list of extinct birds of the world.
A subspecies of ostrich native to the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian ostrich became extinct around mid 20th century. The extinction of Arabian ostrich was triggered by the introduction of firearms, which made hunting easier. The number of these species declined drastically during the first half the 20th century. The bird was last seen in Petra, Jordan, in 1966.
The Atitlan grebe was a water bird native to the Lago de Atitlán in Guatemala. The introduction of bass fish in Lake Atitlan in mid 20th century, depleted the number of crabs and other small fish which inhabited the lake, thus depriving the Atitlan grebe species of their primary food source. The last blow for the Atitlan grebe came in form of the loss of habitat when a earthquake that hit this region in 1976, fractured the river bed and drained all the water from the lake. The bird was last seen in this region in 1989.
The extinction of Bushwren, a small bird native to New Zealand, was triggered by the introduction of mustelids, a predatory mammal, in this region. Bushwren was typically characterized by its trait to nest on or near the ground, which made it an easy prey for mustelids and feral cats. The bird had become rare by the beginning of the 20th century itself. It was last seen on Kaimohu Island, where it was shifted as a last attempt to revive the declining population, in 1972.
Canary Islands Oystercatcher
The Canary Islands Oystercatcher, also known as the Canarian Black Oystercatcher, was a bird species native to the Canary Island in Spain. Human encroachment in its natural habitat and the havoc caused by predatory rats triggered the extinction of Canary Islands Oystercatcher in the beginning of the 20th century. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the bird was last seen in late 1940s in this region. The bird was finally declared extinct in 1994 after several attempts to find it were futile.
The only species of parrot native to the eastern parts of the United States, the Carolina parakeet went extinct in early 20th century. Large scale deforestation near Gulf of Mexico and Ohio Valley for agricultural purpose resulted in extensive loss of habitat for this bird species. In the following years they were hunted in large numbers, for their colorful feathers that were used for decoration, and were exterminated by farmers who considered them pests. All these factors together led to the extinction of Carolina parakeet. The last Carolina parakeet in wild was seen in 1904, and the last bird in captivity died in 1918.
Colombian grebe, an aquatic bird endemic to the Bogota wetlands in Colombia, was driven to extinction due to loss of habitat and excessive predation in the second half of the 20th century. Heavy siltation of the Bogota wetlands which these birds inhabited along with excessive reed harvest in this region resulted in loss of habitat for this bird species. Large scale predation by Rainbow-trouts and hunting by humans reduced the population of Colombian grebe to less then a hundred individuals by 1970. The last reported sighting of this bird came in 1977, after which it was added to the list of extinct birds in the last 100 years.
Grand Cayman Thrush
The beauty of the Grand Cayman Thrush, native to the Cayman Islands, proved to be a curse for this bird as it became a prime target for the bird collectors in the first half of the 20th century. Large scale destruction of habitat added to its woes by reducing their habitat and making them easy targets for bird collectors. The Grand Cayman Thrush had become quite rare by the beginning of 1930s. In the next few years the bird was virtually driven to extinction, and the final sighting took place in 1938.
The tragic tale of Hawai'i 'O'o, native to the island of Hawaii, was quite similar to that of the Grand Cayman Thrush. The beautiful plumage of this bird made it a prime target for hunters, who killed these birds extensively to collect their feathers, which were eventually used for decorations. The Hawai'i 'O'o also became a popular song bird species. Though, the bird was not able to survive in captivity for a long time, people continued to collect them. Finally, the introduction of musket made hunting more easier, which played a crucial role in the extinction of the Hawai'i 'O'o. The last bird was seen in 1934.
A subspecies of the Greater Prairie-Chicken endemic to the heathland barrens of coastal New England, the Heath hen was driven to extinction by large scale hunting of this bird for food. Their number had declined extensively by the mid 19th century, however, they managed to survive the human assault for a few more years before succumbing to it. The Heath hen had become quite rare by the beginning of the 20th century. The number declined rapidly in the next few years as a result of the blackhead disease. The last sighting of this species was reported in 1932.
The Kaua'i 'O'o, was a small honey eater bird endemic to the Kauaʻi island in Hawaii. The extinction of Kaua'i 'O'o began in the 20th century with the introduction of black rats and domestic pigs, which acted as carriers of various avian diseases. The Kaua'i 'O'o was last sighted in 1987, and after several failed attempts to find them and revive their population, they were finally declared extinct.
The Laysan crake, or the Laysan rail, was a small bird found on the Laysan Island in Hawaii. The major factor responsible for the extinction of the Laysan crake was introduction of rabbits to this area, which resulted in loss of habitat for the bird species. Rabbits, with no predators to hunt them, multiplied rapidly and fed on the vegetation which triggered a domino effect on this bird species. Another prominent reason for the extinction of the Laysan crake was colonization of the island by rats. Slowly and steadily both these factors resulted in loss of habitat for the bird, which was finally driven to extinction by 1944.
New Zealand Thrush
The New Zealand Thrush, also known as the South Island Piopio, was one of the most common birds in New Zealand at one point of time. This bird species was subjected to large scale predation by cats and rats introduced to the island along with human settlement. Human encroachment also led to loss of habitat for the bird species and by the end of 19th century the most common bird became the rarest bird in the country. Occasional sightings were reported from various parts for several years to come. The last time the bird was seen was in 1963, after which it was declared extinct.
A colorful parrot species native to the northeastern region of the Australia, the Paradise parrot was added to the list of extinct birds in the last 100 years, after it was wiped off the planet due to loss of habitat, hunting and predation. Loss of habitat due to human activities, hunting by bird collectors and predation by wild cats were responsible for the decline of the Paradise parrot species. After a few more sightings were reported, the last of which came in 1927, it was declared extinct.
The Passenger pigeon was one of the most common bird in the continent of North America at one point of time, however, large scale hunting for food led to its extinction by the beginning of the 20th century. The migratory bird species, which were found in large flocks, became an important source of food for the native Indians as well as the European travelers. The bird become quite rare by the end of 19th century, and finally became extinct in the first decade of the 20th century. The last reported sighting of the Passenger pigeon came in 1912.
A subspecies of the pigeon, native to the Okinawa archipelago in Japan, was driven to extinction as a result of habitat destruction. Human encroachment in the tropical forests of this archipelago, destroyed the forest which was home to the Ryukyu Wood-pigeon. After initial depletion, the bird finally became extinct by 1930's. The last reported sighting of the bird came in 1936, after which it was added to the list of extinct bird species.
Wake Island Rail
The Wake Island was a flightless bird, native to the Wake island in the Pacific ocean from which it derives its name. The bird was found in abundance on this island prior to the second World War, however the Japanese forces which occupied the island during the course of war hunted these birds and drove them to extinction. It was not at all a difficult task for the Japanese soldiers to hunt these flightless birds, found in abundance, then. Owing to this large scale killing, the Wake Island Rail population began declining rapidly, and finally the bird became extinct in 1945.
The White-faced owl, also referred to as the Laughing owl, was an owl species native to New Zealand. The main reasons which led to extinction of the White-faced owl were loss of habitat and collection of these species as a research specimen. The population of this species had declined considerably by the end of the 19th century. Occasional unconfirmed sightings were reported once in while, the last of which came in 1914, after which the bird was declared extinct.
This was the just the list of extinct birds in the last 100 years, and actual list of extinct birds as of now, is quite big. Other then these birds, several animal species went extinct as a result of excessive hunting, loss of habitat, large scale predation etc. In fact, the list of extinct animals in the last 100 years is quite lengthy, and features some of the prominent names including the Barbary lion and the Western Black Rhino. Even lengthier, is list of endangered animals which are on the verge of extinction. If proper wildlife conservation measures are not initiated at the earliest, these birds and animals will become a part of the list of extinct animals pretty soon, and the loss of this members of animalia will be a huge loss of the biodiversity of the planet.