VANCOUVER – The world’s birds are literally the canaries in the coal mine and their ongoing decline should serve as a warning signal of a global environment in peril, says an international report on the state of the world’s birds.
Globally, one in eight species — 1,313 — are considered at threat of extinction, said the report by U.K.-based BirdLife International. Of these, 200 are considered on the brink.
Nature is a crucial part of Earth’s life support system, said Leon Bennun, the group’s director of science, policy and information, and the numbers don’t bode well.
“Birds are a great window into nature. They’re a wonderful indicator of the wider environment,” Bennun said.
“Our assessment, unfortunately, shows us that birds are in decline, an indicator that nature itself is not in good shape.”
In Canada, progress has been made in reversing the decline of several species, but the report released Thursday said even in this country, more bird species are in decline than are increasing.
“By and large Canada is faring probably better than many other countries,” said Jon McCracken, of the conservation group Bird Studies Canada, a contributor to the report.
Although Canada’s bird population has dropped about 12 per cent since 1970, waterfowl and birds of prey have seen dramatic recovery, thanks to conservation efforts that included wetland protection and the banning of the pesticide DDT. And there are positive signs in the recovery of the endangered whooping crane, due largely to conservation efforts.