State of the world's birds: It ain't good

Even the world's most common bird species are disappearing, according to a new study from BirdLife International.

The study's findings are bleak. In Europe, 45% of once-common birds are in decline. In Australia, 81% of wading birds have seen population drops. In North America, 20 different common species have lost half of their populations. And as we've written before, more than 99% of India's vultures have disappeared.

All told, BirdLife has identified 1,226 bird species (1 in 8) as threatened, and 190 facing imminent risk of extinction.

BirdLife released their study, State of the World's Birds, and its accompanying website at their world conference today in Buenos Aires.

"Many of these birds have been a familiar part of our everyday lives, and people who would not necessarily have noticed other environmental indicators have seen their numbers slipping away, and are wondering why," said Dr. Mike Rands, BirdLife's CEO. "Because birds are found almost everywhere on earth, they can act as our eyes and ears, and what they are telling us is that the deterioration in biodiversity and the environment is accelerating, not slowing."

Threats to bird species include the usual suspects: habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and diseases, and climate change. Every single one of these threats can be traced back to human activities.

So what can we do to reverse this rapid decline before it gets too late? BirdLife says that government action is necessary (Rands estimates it would cost just $1 billion a year to preserve all of Africa's biodiversity). They also recommend greater efforts to establish key conservation areas on land and sea and linking biodiversity conservation to peoples' livelihoods around the world.

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