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100 Most Endangered Species

Updated on April 11, 2014


Scientists from the US and UK have come together to form a list of the most striking and rare birds in the world. Experts from the Zoological Society of London and Yale University have created the list as part of the EDGE of Existence programme, documenting the rarest species on the planet.

Top Five

The Giant Ibis is in a number one, a bird which stands over a metre in height, weight over 4kg and is the largest member of the ibis/spoonbill family. It is the national bird of Cambodia, but there are less than 230 pairs in the wild. It is also suffering further decline due to habitat loss and its eggs being eaten by mammals.

Number two is the owlet-nightjar of New Caledonia, which is a very enigmatic bird. Just two specimens are known, and a tiny number of sightings have been reported, the last one being in 1998. There are thought to be only around 50 birds in existence.

Californian Condor


The California Condor comes in a number three, a massive bird with a three metre wingspan which reached a low point of just 21 birds in 1981. A huge conservation effort was put in but despite this, a chick didn’t hatch in the wild until 2003.

Number four is the Kakapo of New Zealand, a nocturnal, flightless bird which is the heaviest of all the parrot species in the world and is related to birds such as macaws. It only survives in three intensively managed island areas and is extinct across its natural range. There are thought to be around 125 birds left.

The Kagu is another resident of New Caledonia on the island of Gran Terre and is number five on the list. It is a flightless bird with ash-white plumage known as the ‘ghost of the forest’ by the locals. It stands alone taxonomically and is a little similar to a heron.



Top Ten

Common Name
Giant Ibis
New Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar
California Condor
Bengal Florican
Forest Owlet
Phillippine Eagle
Christmas Island Frigatebird
Sumatran Ground-Cuckoo

New Entries

A new entry on the list is a bird which was thought to be extinct until 1997, 113 years after the last sighting. The Forest Owlet comes from the centre of India and is a small owl, part of the typical owl family which includes familiar faces such as the Barn Owl. It was discovered in 1997 by Pamela Rasmussen and is now known across at least four different sites.

Likewise, the Tooth Billed Pigeon, nicknamed the Little Dodo, was thought to be extinct for around a decade until it was recently snapped, and its identity confirmed. It is the national bird of Samoa and is a medium sized pigeon which has no close relatives, but is thought to be related to the extinct dodo. It is unsurprisingly listed as endangered with around 200 birds believed to live in the undisturbed forests of Samoa.

Spoonbilled Sandpiper


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64% of the top 100 species are endemic, which means they only exist in one area. Top of the list of species featured was India with 14 while nine from the Philippines represented the highest number of endemic species. The birds are spread across 170 countries and cover 22 of the 29 living orders of birds with 18% being perching birds, or Passerines, the family which contains some of the most common species anywhere.

Giant Ibis

Only three of the species were found in Europe. The Egyptian Vulture is number 30 and is found in Ukraine as well as in the Balkans, Greece and Turkey and is severely threatened by a wide range of factors including poaching, poisoning and human disturbance. The Sociable Lapwing (number 49) lives in Armenia, Turkey and the Ukraine while the Slender-billed Curlew can be found in Russia and overwinters in various eastern European countries.

One member of the list has become a resident in the UK, with a captive breeding population in a reserve in Gloucestershire. The Spoonbilled Sandpiper is number 11 on the list and usually breeds in north-east Russia while overwintering in South-east Asia.

Egyptian Vulture



Yet despite all these figures and facts, less than half of the species on the list receive any conversation efforts. It is hoped that the list can help prioritise the help given to species across the world and help to lower the number of endangered species instead of increasing it.


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    • Angela Tempest profile image

      Angela Tempest 3 years ago from Lanchester, Durham, United Kingdom

      Thanks, I'm a bird fanatic and think it would be tragic to lose these wonderful species.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

      Good of you to have highlighted this point. Nice post