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WHOOPING CRANE: Ultralight aircraft and humans mimicking mating dances have all been necessary to bring North America's tallest bird back from the edge of extinction. View slideshow. Image: ©RYAN HAGERTY, FWS
North America's passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet and, most recently, dusky seaside sparrow have disappeared. Driven to extinction by hunting or habitat loss, the list of dead birds is relatively short (and one species, the ivory-billed woodpecker, may actually still exist). But the list may grow longer if efforts are not made to halt habitat loss and global warming, according to the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.
By analyzing population size and trends as well as distribution and threats, the groups reveal that 178 bird species out of 700 surveyed are in imminent danger of extinction or seriously declining. Drawing on both expert efforts as well as amateur data compiled during the Christmas Bird Count—the oldest wildlife census in the world—and the U.S. Geological Survey's annual North American Breeding Bird Survey, the list identifies species of greatest concern in order to target conservation efforts, according to Greg Butcher, Audubon's director of bird conservation and co-author of the new list.
But it is not all bad news. At least four birds on the list—the California condor, piping plover and whooping crane as well as Kirtlandt's warbler—have all recovered with the help of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The California condor population, for instance, has gone from just nine to more than 300, including 148 in the wild, and Kirtlandt's warbler has increased by more than 600 percent since the mid 1980s. Photographs of some of these success stories and their threatened peers—seven of which are not currently protected by the ESA—follow: