8 Bird Species, Including a Blue Macaw, Are Declared Extinct

Patrick Pleul, AFP/Getty Images
Patrick Pleul, AFP/Getty Images

Eight bird species, including one from Hawaii, have most likely gone extinct this century, The Guardian reports. This announcement is the result of a new statistical analysis of critically endangered birds by BirdLife International, whose findings were published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Five of these species are native to South America, where much of the forest has been destroyed by practices like unsustainable agriculture and logging. While four of the eight species have been labeled by BirdLife as extinct or near-extinct, the nonprofit organization reports that three species have been completely wiped out. These include two Brazilian birds—the cryptic treehunter and the Alagoas foliage-gleaner—and the Hawaiian poo-uli.

Also known as the black-faced honeycreeper, the poo-uli (alternately spelled poʻo-uli) was last spotted on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 2004. There have been some attempts to breed them in captivity, but those were unsuccessful.

There is still a glimmer of hope for the Spix’s macaw, a bright blue Brazilian parrot that's extinct in the wild. Captive macaws are currently being bred in hopes of eventually reintroducing them to their habitat.

Other species on BirdLife’s extinct or near-extinct list include the Pernambuco pygmy-owl from Brazil and the glaucous macaw from Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

These findings are especially worrisome because bird extinctions typically occur on isolated islands where they're vulnerable to invasive predators—not on major continents like South America. Not only are extinctions continuing, but they’re also “accelerating,” according to BirdLife International chief scientist Stuart Butchart. He told The Guardian he hopes the new classification will “inspire a redoubling of efforts to prevent other extinctions.”

[h/t The Guardian]

Pet Obesity is Causing Big Health Problems, According to a New Report

iStock/dennisvdw
iStock/dennisvdw

If you’ve recently picked up your cat and felt your back give out, your furry friend may be among the 60 percent of the feline population that’s overweight. Dogs are also getting chubbier: about 56 percent of pet pooches are obese.

According to Banfield Pet Hospital, America's largest general veterinary practice with more than 1000 hospitals nationwide, those fat cats and chunky puppies are at risk for chronic health issues. In a new report, the hospital finds that osteoarthritis (OA) in pets is on the rise, with a 66 percent increase in dogs and a 150 percent increase in cats over the past 10 years.

Osteoarthritis is a kind of arthritis caused by inflammation or damage in joint tissue. Genetics, injury, or bone abnormalities can all be factors. The disease is chronic and degenerative and can make it difficult for pets to move around as they get older.

Excess weight can both precede OA and make it worse. When a pet is overweight, they can develop chronic pain that leads to stress on joints. If they already have OA, that joint discomfort can prevent them from being active, leading to weight gain. That worsens the condition, and the cycle continues.

A dog is 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with OA if it's obese, while cats are 1.2 times more likely. Dogs suffering from the condition tend to display symptoms like putting their weight off to one side when sitting, avoiding stairs, or appearing uninterested in playing. Cats might have loose or matted hair because they can't maneuver to groom certain parts of their body.

Although OA can be seen at any age, it’s often mistaken for old age and a pet slowing down naturally. If you notice your pet is either soft around the middle or moving more slowly, it’s best to see a veterinarian. Pets who are overweight or suffering from OA—or both—can benefit from treatments like special diets.

There Are 2373 Squirrels in New York's Central Park, Census Finds

iStock/maximkabb
iStock/maximkabb

Central Park in New York City is home to starlings, raccoons, and exotic zoo animals, but perhaps the most visible fauna in the area are the eastern gray squirrels. Thanks to a team of citizen scientists, we now know exactly how many of the rodents occupy the space—approximately 2373 of them, according to a census reported by Smithsonian.

In October 2018, a group called the Squirrel Census—with help from the Explorers Club, the NYU Department of Environmental Studies, Macaulay Honors College, the Central Park Conservancy, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation—organized a squirrel survey across all 840 acres of Central Park. For 11 days, more than 300 volunteers staked out their sections of the park twice a day—at dawn and dusk when the crepuscular animals are most active—and noted each squirrel they spotted. They also recorded how the squirrels looked, vocalized, behaved, and reacted to humans.

The research was analyzed and presented at an Explorers Club event in New York City on June 20. All the non-peer-reviewed findings—which includes a printed report, an audio report on a vinyl 45, 37 pages of data, collectible squirrel cards, and large maps of the park and the squirrel locations—are available to purchase for $75 from the Squirrel Census website.

This isn't the first time a massive census has been conducted of a public park's squirrel population. In 2011, the Squirrel Census launched with its first survey of Atlanta's Inman Park. They've conducted satellite squirrel counts at other parks, but Central Park is just the second park the organization has investigated in person.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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