Humans caused bird extinction throughout history

Using statistical modeling, researchers uncovered major extinction events

Humans have caused the extinction of about 1,400 bird species throughout modern human history. That’s twice as many than researchers previously thought. Researchers led a study published in Nature Communications using statistical models to estimate undiscovered bird extinctions since the Late Pleistocene. The findings suggested the largest human-driven vertebrate extinction event in history in the 14th century, the scientists said. During that extinction, the researchers estimated 570 bird species were lost when people arrived in the Eastern Pacific. Another major extinction, they found, occurred in the ninth century BC with people’s arrival into the Western Pacific. “Our study demonstrates there has been a far higher human impact on avian diversity than previously recognized.,” said lead author Rob Cooke, an ecological modeler at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. “Humans have rapidly devastated bird populations via habitat loss, overexploitation and the introduction of rats, pigs and dogs that raided nests of birds and competed with them for food. We show that many species became extinct before written records and left no trace, lost from history.”

Read the study in Nature Communications.

Header Image: An AI-generated image of what the unknown extinct birds might have looked like. Credit: UKCEH