Extinct birds

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Artist's rendition of a Giant Haast's eagle attacking New Zealand moa.

Since 1600, over 100 species of birds have become extinct, and this rate of extinction seems to be increasing. The situation is exemplified by Hawaii, where 30% of all now-extinct species originally lived. Other areas, such as Guam, have also been hard hit; Guam has lost over 60% of its native species in the last 30 years, many of them to imported snakes.

There are today about 10,000 species of birds, and 1186 of them are considered to be under threat of extinction. Except for 11 species, the threat is man-made.

Island species in general, and flightless island species in particular are most at risk. The disproportionate number of rails in the list reflects the tendency of that family to lose the ability to fly when geographically isolated.


Extinct species


  • Aepyornis, Aepyornis maximus
  • Moa, Dinornithiformes. Large flightless birds on New Zealand, they were probably already extinct in 1642 when Europeans landed there. The extinction of the moa and its main predator, the Harpagornis, is attributed to the arrival of human settlers around 1000 A.D. Very early European arrivals, ca 1830-40, described seeing birds that might have been the last of the moa but the sightings have never been confirmed reliably. New Zealand has no significant indigenous mammal life. The entire animal ecology consisted of birds, with the moa filling the niche of deer or cattle, and the harpagornis filling the niche of the wolf or tiger. There were ten species, among them were Slender Moa, Dinornis robustus, Great Broad-billed Moa, Euryapteryx gravis and Lesser Megalapteryx, Megalapteryx didinus.

It has been long suspected that the species of moa described as Euryapteryx curtus/E. exilis, E. huttonii/ E. crassus, and Pachyornis septentrionalis/P. mappini constituted males and females, respectively. This has been confirmed by analysis of DNA extracted from bone material for sex-specific genetic markers (Nature 425 p.175). More interestingly, the former three species of Dinornis, D. giganteus = robustus, D. novaezealandiae and D. struthioides have turned out to be males (struthioides) and females of only two species, one each formerly occurring on New Zealands North (D. novaezealandiae) and South (D. robustus) Island (in addition to the Nature paper cited above, also Nature 425 p. 172). Moa females were larger than males, up to 150% of their size and 280% of their weight. This phenomenon, reverse size dimorphism, is not uncommon amongst ratites, being most pronounced in moa and kiwis.
On a side note, the plural form of moa is also moa, as Maori words do not feature plural-s.

Ducks, geese and swans

Quails and relatives

  • Heath Hen, Tympanuchus cupido cupido, a subspecies of the Greater Prairie-Chicken
  • New Zealand Quail, Coturnix novaezelandiae (New Zealand, 1875)
  • Himalayan Quail, Ophrysia superciliosa. Officially critically endangered. Not recorded with certainty since 1876, but thorough surveys are still required, and there is a recent set of possible (though unlikely) sightings around Naini Tal in 2003. A little-known native name from Western Nepal probably refers to this bird, but for various reasons, no survey for Ophrysia has ever been conducted in that country, nor is it generally assumed to occur there (due to the native name being overlooked).



Cormorants and related birds

Herons and related birds

Bird of prey

  • Argentavis, Argentavis magnificens
  • Guadalupe Caracara, Polyborus lutosus
  • Haast's Eagle, Harpagornis moorei. Giant eagle (up to 2.6m wingspan) endemic to New Zealand. Extinct approximately 1400 A.D. due to habitat loss and the extinction of its large flightless bird prey following human occupation.


Waders, gulls and auks

Pigeons and Dodos

  • Liverpool Pigeon, Caloenas maculata. Also known as the Spotted Green Pigeon, the only specimen has been in Liverpool Museum since 1851, and was probably collected on a Pacific island for Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby.
  • Rodrigues Pigeon, Columba rodericana
  • Bonin Wood Pigeon, Columba versicolor
  • Mauritius Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas nitidissima Extinct in 19th century.
  • Forster's Dove of Tanna, Gallicolumba ferruginea
  • Marquesas Fruit Pigeon, Ptilinopus mercerii
  • Cholseul Crested Pigeon, Microgoura meeki
  • Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius. The passenger pigeon was once probably the most common bird in the world. It was hunted close to extinction for food and sport in the late 19th century. The last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
  • Dodo, Raphus cucullatus, called Didus ineptus by Linnaeus. A meter-high (yard-high) flightless bird on Mauritius. Its forest habitat was lost when Dutch settlers moved to the island and the dodo's nests were destroyed by the rats, pigs, and cats the Dutch brought with them. The last specimen was killed in 1681, only 80 years after the arrival of the new predators. See dodo tree for a dodo-dependent plant species threatened with extinction after another 300 years. Of the 45 bird species originally found on Mauritius, 24 are now extinct.
  • Rodrigues Solitaire, Pezophaps solitaria. Last seen c.1730.






Kingfishers and related birds



Related articles

External links and references

List adapted from that in Extinct Birds, Fuller, ISBN 0-19-850837-9de:Ausgestorbene Vögel fr:Liste des espèces d'oiseaux disparues pt:Aves extintas


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