Donate Sign up for e-network
CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


Alarmed about declines of scores of the world’s rarest and most beautiful birds, ornithologists petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980 and 1991 to list 73 extremely imperiled bird species from around the globe under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Listing international species under the Endangered Species Act can help restrict trade in vanishing species, increase conservation funding and attention to recovery efforts, and add scrutiny to projects proposed by the U.S. government and multilateral lending agencies.

After an appalling quarter-century of delay, legal protection had been provided for only a handful of the species, and at least five of the 73 bird species had gone extinct while awaiting protection.

The Center joined the battle in 2003, suing the Service for unreasonable delay. As a result, the agency issued a long-overdue finding that more than 50 of the bird species warranted listing, but it continued to insist that listing was precluded by higher-priority actions. A series of lawsuits by the Center is finally advancing protections for these rare birds.

Five bird species from Colombia and Ecuador were listed as endangered in 2013: the blue-billed curassowbrown-banded antpittaCauca guan and gorgeted wood-quail (from Colombia), as well as the hummingbird species Esmeraldas woodstar (from Ecuador).

In 2012 protection was given to five birds from Peru: the ash-breasted tit-tyrant, Junin grebe, Junin rail, Peruvian plantcutter and white-browed tit-spinetail; the royal cinclodes (Bolivia) was also protected. The year before, listing was secured for the Cantabrian capercaillie (Spain), Marquesan imperial pigeon and Eiao Marquesas reed warbler (French Polynesia), Greater adjutant stork (Southeast Asia), Jerdon’s courser (India), Salmon-crested cockatoo (South Moluccas Islands) and slender-billed curlew (Siberia).

In 2010 the Andean flamingo (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru), black-breasted puffleg (Ecuador), Chilean woodstar, Galápagos petrel and Heinroth’s shearwater (Papua New Guinea), medium tree finch (Galápagos Islands) and St. Lucia forest thrush were protected, as well as seven bird species from Brazil: the black-hooded antwren, Brazilian merganser, Cherry-throated tanager, Fringe-backed fire-eye, Kaempfer’s tody-tyrant, Margaretta’s hermit and Southeastern rufous-vented ground cuckoo. And in 2009 the Service listed the Chatham petrel, Fiji petrel and magenta petrel (New Zealand).

In 2008 the Service provided formal protection for the black stilt (New Zealand), Caerulean paradise-flycatcher (Indonesia), giant ibis (Laos, Cambodia), Gurney's pitta (Burma, Thailand), long-legged thicketbird (Fiji) and Socorro mockingbird (Mexico).

The Center will continue our work to see that the magnificent imperiled birds that haven’t yet been listed gain the Act’s full protection.


Okinawa woodpecker
The Okinawa woodpecker lives in Yanbaru, a small, ecologically unique area of forested woodlands in northern Okinawa. The prefectural bird of Okinawa, this woodpecker is designated as a “national natural monument.” But the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Japan’s Ministry of Environment have also designated the bird a critically endangered species because it has only a single, small declining population. One of the numerous threats to the woodpecker is the proposed construction of additional helicopter landing areas and related access roads for U.S. military training activities.

Blue-throated macaw
Bolivia’s blue-throated macaw, like many other exotic species, is suffering harm from trapping and trade — primarily for sale as a pet — and likely only numbers between 75 and 150 birds in the wild. The macaw is supposed to be protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, but this treaty is relatively difficult to enforce, and without listing, the Service is unable to use the Endangered Species Act’s stronger enforcement options.

Slender-billed curlew

The slender-billed curlew is without a doubt one of the most critically imperiled bird species in the world. Though it was once commonly sighted along its migration route from Europe to Africa , humans have sighted only two curlews since 1997 and no curlew nests for more than 85 years. This bird’s wintering marsh habitat in the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea, and North Africa is being rapidly destroyed, and the current world population may be a mere 50 to 270 birds.

Photo © Bruce Marcot