Parrots Are The Worlds Most Threatened Birds

New research by scientists from Birdlife International and the Australian National University has revealed that parrots are among the most threatened groups of bird species. 28% of all parrot species not already extinct are listed as globally threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Of course many populations of birds are in decline; even once common species however the study has shown that parrots are more threatened than comparable groups of birds (including seabirds, pigeons and raptors). This is likely due to a culmination of anthropogenic causes such as hunting and habitat degradation as well as their likelihood to occur in small distributions.

Unfortunately large-bodied birds like parrots tend to occur in low population densities as well as having a long generation time. This puts them at higher risk from human hunters. Those which inhabit islands are at particular risk of unsustainable hunting due to their already low population densities. This is exemplified by the fact parrots are the most commonly found bird in the wildlife trade.

Loss and degradation of forest habitat especially for agricultural expansion is also playing a key role in the species decline. Forest parrots are more often than not tree-cavity nesters so you can imagine the detrimental impact this can have on their ability to nest and reproduce successfully.

Interestingly the severity of extinction risk is positively related to the per head gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. In other words countries which are more developed thus have a higher GDP and are more urbanised contain populations of parrots more severely threatened with extinction. This is because the increased urbanisation is causing a loss of remaining habitat for the parrots.

Moreover the study also revealed the risk of extinction is lower for the species more commonly involved in the wildlife trade. This mirrors recent studies which have shown that the majority of species within the bird trade are non-threatened. This is likely because poachers prefer to concentrate on species which are readily available and of course easier to catch. It should however be noted that this practice is unsustainable and will eventually drive many non-threatened species towards extinction.

Birdlife International are now calling for a variety of actions to be implemented in order to prevent further parrot species to be threatened with extinction.

The study (‘Ecological and socio-economic factors affecting extinction risk in parrots’) is published in the Feb 2016 issue of the journal Biodiversity Conservation.

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Featured Image by Luc Viatour /

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Emily Stewart
Owner of Inspirewildlife - a site dedicated to sharing positive conservation news stories from around the world. Zoo Management Graduate from University of Chester
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