Puffins and Three Other British Birds at Risk of Extinction
There may still be several million of them, but the colourful North Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), that can be found on northern coasts of the British Isles, is in danger of extinction according to a new report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Puffins, Slavonian Grebes, Pochards and European Turtle Doves have all been added to the list of UK bird species included in the Red List of Threatened Species.
Loss of “British Wildlife”
Climate change is influencing the number and location of sand eels, the main food of Puffins and these attractive birds rely on a glut of sand eels to help them raise their young each spring. Fewer sand eels has led to a reduction in Puffin numbers as fewer chicks are being raised. A total of eight UK species of birds are now included on the Red List of Threatened Species of Birds.
The Curlew Sandpiper is on the endangered list. This shorebird has been classified as “Near-Threatened”. Loss of estuarine habitat has seen a dramatic fall in the numbers of these birds.
Commenting on this revision of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for Birds, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:
“Extinction is not just something that happened in the past, many species once thought of being invulnerable are under threat and a number of scientists have stated that we are now experiencing a global mass extinction event. It is not just exotic species like Rhinos and Snow Leopards that are threatened, extinctions are happening in the British Isles as well.”
The number of UK species listed as critical has now doubled to eight, a further fourteen species associated with the United Kingdom are considered “near threatened”.
The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis)
The Atlantic Puffin is distantly related to the Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), a large, flightless bird that once shared much of the Puffin’s habitat. The birds were slowly and systematically hunted during the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries. They were hunted for their meat, their eggs were collected and the down of these black and white birds was highly prized for use in pillows. By around 1800, this bird that had once ranged across the whole of the Northern Atlantic was virtually extinct. The last accredited sighting of a Great Auk, occurred in 1852, when a single bird was spotted on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. This report, the last report of a Great Auk sighting, has been ratified by the IUCN. Let’s hope that the Atlantic Puffin and the other birds now listed do not share the same fate.
For further information on the potential of a sixth mass extinction event, here is a link to an article published by Everything Dinosaur in 2014 that summarises a report into the potential accelerated loss of species worldwide: Are We Heading for a Sixth Mass Extinction Event?