The world’s rarest bird species are the most threatened by extinction, according to a review of 99 percent of the world’s avian species

photo of common kingfisher flying above river
Photo by Monique Laats on

The world’s rarest bird species are the most threatened by extinction, according to a review of 99 percent of the world’s avian species

Jarome Ali, a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University who completed the research at Imperial College London and was the principal author of the paper said that their work suggests that extinctions would most certainly prune a high fraction of unique species off the avian tree. The particular roles that these rare species provide in ecosystems will disappear if they become extinct.

Ecosystems will be severely affected if we do not take action to safeguard vulnerable species and prevent extinctions.

The authors of the research employed a collection of measurements taken from 9943 different bird species, including living birds and museum specimens. Physical characteristics such as beak size and form as well as the lengths of wings, tails, and legs were measured.

Based on the IUCN Red List’s current danger classifications for each species, the authors linked the morphological data with the risk of extinction. Then they performed simulations to see what would occur if the most endangered bird species were extinct.

The information utilized in the study was able to demonstrate that the most distinctive birds were also listed as threatened on the Red List, but it failed to demonstrate the relationship between avian uniqueness and extinction risk.

According to Jarome Ali, one theory is that species with the most unique ecological roles may be directly threatened by human influences since highly specialized organisms are less able to adapt to a changing environment. The relationship between distinctive features and extinction danger requires further study.


Jarome Ali et al. (2022). Bird extinctions threaten to cause disproportionate reductions of functional diversity and uniqueness, Functional Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.14201

Related Links:

Research Summary: Comparing Aerodynamic Efficiency in Birds and Bats Suggests Better Flight Performance in Birds

ABSTRACT Flight is one of the energetically most costly activities in the animal kingdom, suggesting that natural selection should work to optimize flight performance. The similar size and flight speed of birds and bats may therefore suggest convergent aerodynamic performance; alternatively, flight performance could be restricted by phylogenetic constraints. We test which of these scenarios … Continue reading

Research Summary: Identification of Birds through DNA Barcodes

Abstract Short DNA sequences from a standardized region of the genome provide a DNA barcode for identifying species. Compiling a public library of DNA barcodes linked to named specimens could provide a new master key for identifying species, one whose power will rise with increased taxon coverage and with faster, cheaper sequencing. Recent work suggests … Continue reading