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Endangered Birds: Puffins Join Threatened Species List

Oct 30, 2015 04:39 PM EDT
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Atlantic puffins are now listed as a "vulnerable" species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species for birds. Along with puffins, European turtle doves, Slavonian grebes, and pochards are also being "upgraded" to a more serious conservation status. 

"[The] global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores," Martin Harper, conservation director with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), told BBC. "The erosion of the U.K.'s wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about puffin and turtle dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than the humpback whale,"

Atlantic puffins, also referred to as "clowns of the sea" for their multi-colored beak, are indigenous to the Atlantic Ocean and frequent Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland and many North Atlantic rocky islands to breed between April and mid-August. During most of the year, however, the birds spend their time wading in the open ocean. Atlantic puffins are about the size of a common pigeon and have black and white colored bodies. They also have bright orange webbed feet.  

Currently, there are millions of puffinsbut conservationists believe their food sources are becoming increasingly scarce. Generally, the puffins prefer to feed on small fish including herring, hake, capelin and sand lance. When foraging, the birds essentially use their wings to "fly" underwater and use their feet to control direction. 

Atlantic puffins are also threatened by pollution events such as oil spills, according to Discovery News. Ultimately, these environmental conditions could result in fewer individuals able to breed. 

European turtle doves and Slavonian grebes have recently experienced a decline in breeding pairs. Within the past 16 years, the number of turtle doves has decreased by nearly one third, which makes the animals vulnerable to extinction. (Scroll to read more...)

European Turtle Doves
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons )
European turtle doves join Atlantic puffins, Slavonian grebes and pochards on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species for birds.


Generally, pochards can be seen in the U.K. during autumn and winter, when they migrate from Russia and Eastern Europe. When the birds return to their spring homes they fly over the Mediterranean. In this area, there is a tradition for shooting the birds. Currently no law has been passed to regulate this activity, according to BBC. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List has three teirs: the most serious designation is "critically endangered" followed by "threatened" and then "endangered." The current report comes at a time when the organization is updating its worldwide database of animals. The addition of these four birds doubles the number of U.K. species on the IUCN's list to eight.

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