Unless you live in the center of a metropolitan city, you’re probably used to seeing birds all around you. However, depending on your age, you might have noticed there aren’t as many birds as there were decades ago.

Unfortunately, this is true — the population of birds is dropping all around the world. If you’re interested in the numbers and reasons, keep reading.

Is There a Bird Population Decline?

Yes, there is. According to a study from 2018, almost 40% of all known bird species are in decline. Moreover, one out of every eight species is critically endangered — likely to go extinct in the next 10 years or three generations.

Below, we’ll go deeper into the numbers and factors affecting them. 

(AllAboutBirds, 2018)

Top 10 Stats And Facts About Birds

General Bird Population Stats

Have you ever wondered how many birds are in the world in 2022? We’ll try to answer that question in the following stats, as well as share some other general details about birds.

1. Research from 2021 estimates there are around 50 billion birds in the world.

(PNAS, 2021)

In order to protect birds, we must know how many birds there are. Of course, calculating this number is difficult, as birds have much greater freedom of movement than many other animal species. 

However, by taking into consideration the estimated bird population of 9,700 species, which is 92% of all known bird species, scientists have come up with the number above.

2. According to bird statistics, there are 11,158 bird species in the world.

(OurWorldInData, 2022)

Such a number is hard to determine with exact accuracy. After all, there could still be bird species that we haven’t discovered yet. At the same time, some endangered bird species have not been spotted in a long time and could possibly be extinct.

3. Scientists estimate that 159 bird species have disappeared in the last 500 years.

(OurWorldInData, 2022, Duke Today, 2006)

Similarly to the stat above, it’s possible that some species have gone extinct without us even knowing about them. 

Moreover, it’s important to note that more than half of the known bird species were discovered only after 1850 — in 1815, only about 5% of the world’s birds were known to researchers. With that in mind, this number is likely to be much higher.

4. Thanks to conservation, about one bird species is lost every 3–4 years.

(Duke Today, 2006)

This is still not a positive statistic, though, especially considering that without human-related factors, only one bird species would be lost in 100 years. 

Moreover, in 2006, experts warned that even with all the conservation efforts, due to increased human influence, we could expect about 1,200 fewer bird species by the end of the 21st century.

Stats About Bird Population Decrease in the US

The US is home to many birds, but unfortunately, not as many as it used to be. Considering the factors below, it’s safe to say that when it comes to bird population decline, people can only blame themselves. Keep reading to learn why.

5. In North America, there are around 2,059 bird species.

(Boston Herald, 2020, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2016)

Some of the most common birds in the US are Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, And American Robins. 

Moreover, research about the decline of the North American avifauna from 2016 shows that 37% of US bird species are at risk of extinction if nothing is done to prevent it. 

The most endangered are seabirds and species that live in Mexican tropical forests, which are being destroyed for large-scale agriculture and cattle ranching.

6. Since 1970, there has been a 29% decrease in the number of birds in the US.

(Science, 2019, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2022)

A study released in 2019 emphasizes that all bird species are in danger, not just the rare ones. So, this loss of 29% translates to nearly 3 billion birds from various biomes around the US. Forests, for example, lost about 1 billion birds, while grasslands lost 720 million.

7. According to research from 2013, free-ranging cats in the US kill 1.3–4 billion birds every year.

(American Bird Conservancy, 2013)

In the US, 42.7 million households have at least one cat. Unfortunately, many of those cats are free-ranging — allowed to explore their environment without their owner’s supervision. While this may be fun for the cat, it’s not so fun for all the wildlife they hunt.

Together with stray cats, they cause substantial damage to the bird population.

8. In the US, 365–988 million birds die every year from colliding with windows and other reflective surfaces.

(Plos One, 2019)

According to research published in 2019, this mostly happens in cities where there are many residential and commercial buildings. Also, it’s more common in spring and fall, when birds migrate.

Additionally, this number is only a part of much more significant bird death statistics — up to 1.5 billion birds die annually from collisions with vehicles, buildings, energy infrastructure, and communication towers.

9. Wind turbine bird death statistics show wind farms kill between 140,000 and 679,000 birds in the US each year.

(Plos One, 2020)

Wind energy is considered one of the most sustainable types of energy today. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely safe for everybody, and thousands of birds pay the price every year.

Moreover, since those estimates were given, more wind turbines have been built in the US, so the numbers today could be much higher too. 

10. Between 1990 and 2019, there have been about 227,005 wildlife strikes by planes in the US.

(FAA, 2022)

It’s important to note that while 97% of those strikes are with birds, other animals, like deer, bats, and coyotes, can get in the way of planes too.

Also, aircraft bird strike statistics tell us that more than half of those strikes happen during landing, while 36% of them happen during take-off. Only 3% happen during the flight. 

11. A commonly used pesticide is a reason for the Songbird population decline in the US.

(National Geographic 2019, Center for Biological Diversity, 2021)

Experts have proven that neonicotinoids can have severe effects on birds if ingested. What this type of insecticide does is suppress the birds’ appetite, delaying their migration and harming their health. Consequently, this makes them less likely to breed successfully.

In 2018, the EU banned the use of such chemicals because they were also killing the pollinators, but unfortunately, they’re still used in the US.

Global Bird Population Stats

The population of birds is dwindling everywhere, not just in the US. Here are a few stats about the number of birds in the rest of the world.

12. Indonesia is home to the highest number of endangered endemic species.

(OurWorldInData, 2022)

There are 106 bird species that are endemic to Indonesia and also close to extinction. After Indonesia, Brazil has 98 such bird species, which is 40% of the total number of endangered bird species in the country. 

What makes this number worrisome is the fact that these birds only live in those countries — if they disappear from those places, they’re gone for good.

13. In the EU, there were 5% fewer common birds in 2018 than there were in 2000.

(OurWorldInData, 2022)

Stats on bird population decline tell us that while there were 5% more forest bird species, there were 17% fewer common farmland species in 2018 than there were in 2000. Overall, it’s still a significant decline.

14. Stats for 2015–2020 show that 80% of bird species in India are in decline.

(State of India’s Birds, 2020)

Research for that period was done on 146 bird species in India, and out of those in decline, nearly 50% are declining much more seriously. Only a bit over 6% are stable, and 14% are growing in population.

Additionally, the same report shows that since 2000, out of 261 bird species, 52% have decreased in population. This includes 22% that decreased drastically.

15. Free-ranging cats in China kill 2.69–5.52 billion birds per year.

(ScienceDirect, 2021)

According to the study from 2020, this number is only an estimate based on 2,187 questionnaire responses from cat owners in China. 

However, even if we focus on the lower number, the impact that cats have on the environment is quite significant. It’s definitely one of the main causes of bird deaths in China.

16. In Australia, a pet cat that roams kills an average of 56 birds per year.

(PestSmart, 2022)

A feral cat in the bush, on the other hand, kills about 129 birds every year. 

Overall, about 1.2 million birds are killed every year in Australia by cats, and 99% of those killed by feral cats in the bush are native species. Moreover, records show that of the recorded species hunted by cats, 71 are threatened at an either national or global level.

Interesting Bird Facts

For the last section of this article, here are a few interesting facts about birds that you may find surprising.

17. There are 1.6 billion House Sparrows in the world.

(PNAS, 2021)

Unsurprisingly, House Sparrows are the most abundant wild birds in the world. According to bird population data, they’re followed by European Starlings (1.3 billion), Ring-billed Gulls (1.2 billion), and Barn Swallows (1.1 billion).

Not many bird species are this abundant, though — 1,180 species, or 12% of the analyzed 9,700, have fewer than 5,000 representatives.

18. Stresemann’s Bristlefront is the rarest bird in the world.

(American Bird Conservancy, 2022, American Bird Conservancy, 2019)

The last bird of this species was spotted in late 2019, before the pandemic. We couldn’t find any update on the species, so it can’t be said whether there are any individuals left today.

What led to this was the destruction of their habitat by people as well as natural disasters like drought and fires.

19. According to Hummingbird statistics, the oldest Hummingbird in the wild lived to be 12 years and 2 months old.

(Sciencing, 2019)

Often called “marvels of micro-engineering,” Hummingbirds are known for their small size and incredible flying skills — they are the only birds that can fly backward. Due to their fast metabolism, most of them only live a few years. However, they can live longer — in captivity, they’ve been known to live up to 14 years. 

20. Dodo went extinct less than 200 years from its discovery.

(Britannica, 2022, BBC News, 2003)

From the moment it was discovered in 1507, it was last seen in 1662. Some sources claim it might have survived for a few decades longer, but all agree it was extinct before 1690.

It’s one of the most well-known examples of human-caused extinctions — it disappeared due to being hunted, losing its habitat, and not being able to compete for food with animals that humans introduced. 

FAQ

Which bird has the highest population?

This probably won’t come as a surprise — the most populous bird species is the Common Chicken. In 2000, there were 14.38 billion Chickens in the world, and that number grew to 23.7 billion in 2018.

Considering Chickens’ versatility and the growing population of people, it’s safe to say the number will keep increasing.

(Bird Spot, 2021)

How many species have cats made extinct?

Since 1600, cats are estimated to have taken part in the disappearance of at least 40 bird, 21 mammal, and two reptile species. This equals 26% of the total extinctions of those species.

At the time of writing, cats are endangering at least 360 bird, mammal, and reptile species all around the world.

(PestSmart, 2022)

What is the main cause of the reduction in bird populations?

The main cause is the lack of human responsibility. More precisely, this includes:

  • Loss of habitat
  • The use of toxic pesticides
  • Allowing cats to spend time outside unattended, as well as abandoning them
  • Collisions with buildings, airplanes, windmills, cell phone towers, and powerlines
  • Global warming

What’s also interesting is that some wetland species, like ducks and geese, have actually increased in population. The only reason for that is the concern for their decline that started about 100 years ago and led to the creation of organizations that protect them.

(CBS News, 2019)

What is the effect of the reduction in bird populations?

The decline in bird population will eventually lead to the decline in plant species that depend on birds for pollination and seed dispersal. 

Moreover, it may also lead to a higher risk of contagious diseases, as the population of scavengers that feed on decomposing animal bodies is declining too.

(PNAS, 2004)

Can birds fly in the dark?

Yes, birds can fly in the dark. However, aside from nocturnal bird species, most birds only fly at night when disturbed and looking for another sleeping spot. They sleep with half of their brain active, which allows them to rest and stay alert at the same time.

Another possible context includes nighttime migration — Sparrows and Thrushes, for example, prefer to migrate at night, as it’s much safer.

(Audubon California, 2012, Birding Outdoors, 2022)

Conclusion

If you love being woken up by chirps of birds under your window, or if you simply enjoy seeing birds in the sky, the stats we listed must sound concerning. And they are — if the trend of decline continues at this pace, our lives will inevitably change.

There isn’t much an average person can do, but you can appreciate the feathery friends around your home, not let your cat harm any (if you have one), and spread awareness of this issue.

Sources

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