OVER 350 newly recognized bird species have been assessed by BirdLife International for the first time on behalf of The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. However, it was alarming to find that over 25 percent of these birds have been listed as threatened on the IUCN list—making them urgent priorities for conservation action.
The first of a two-part comprehensive taxonomic review has focussed on non-passerine birds such as fowls of prey, seabirds, waterbirds and owls—and has led to the recognition of 361 new species that were previously treated as “races” of other forms.
The new total of 4,472 non-passerines implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by more than 10 percent.
“Put another way, one tenth of the world’s bird species have been flying below the conservation radar,” said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s head of Science.
Species such as Belem Curassow ( crax pinima) from Brazil, and Desertas Petrel (pterodroma deserta) from Madeira, have been listed as “globally threatened.” In the case of the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (oxypogon cyanolaemus), a beautiful hummingbird from Colombia, it may already be too late, as the species has not been seen for nearly 70 years.
The new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species have created a level playing field, in which all bird species can be assessed equally. They also bring an added precision to help us shine a light on the places most important for birds, nature and people—the areas of the planet that we need to urgently protect and save.
Until now, only one species of ostrich had been recognized and was assessed. However, Somali Ostrich (struthio molybdophanes) found in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, is now recognized as a distinct species and listed as “vulnerable.”
“This species highlights both the need for improved knowledge of the world’s birds and the need for conservation action in some of the most challenging parts of the globe”, said Andy Symes, BirdLife’s Global Species officer.
Assessing newly recognized species, the 2014 Red List also re-assesses the status of some existing species. The colorful Bugun Liocichla (iocichla bugunorum) is known from only three small areas in the Himalayas of eastern India, where just a few pairs have been located.
Following the recent construction of a road through its habitat, and damage caused by uncontrolled fires, the species has been re-classified as “critically endangered.” With successful conservation efforts, the Bearded Vulture (gypaetus barbatus) is recovering in Europe, but globally it is declining because of poisoning, disturbance and collisions with power lines, and it has now been up-listed from “least concern to near threatened.”
The 2014 assessment raises the importance of several threatened bird hotspots. Many of the newly recognised species are found in Southeast Asia, where biodiversity is highly threatened.
Parts of this region have already been identified as globally important areas of endemism (holding many species that occur nowhere else on Earth). Some have now been shown to host even more unique species than previously thought, including the Indonesian islands of Talaud and Sangihe, and parts of the Philippine archipelago, such as the island of Cebu.
These areas need immediate conservation attention to protect the remaining habitat and safeguard the future of critically endangered birds like Sangihe Dwarf-kingfisher (ceyx sangirensis) and Cebu Brown-dove (phapitreron frontalis)—neither of which have been recorded recently, but both could still be clinging on in small numbers.
Haribon Foundation is the BirdLife partner in the Philippines. For more information, log on to www.birdlife.org/globally-threatened-bird-forums.