Animal

10 Weird & Endangered Birds

01. Kakapo (Critically Endangered)

Endangered Animal Species

The kakapo, also known as the night parrot, is a species of large, nocturnal, flightless, ground­-dwelling parrot that is endemic to New Zealand.

Kakapos have blotched, yellowish-green plumages, large, grey beaks, large feet, and short wings and tails. As it cannot fly, the kakapo uses its wings for balance and support when hopping around. The wings are also used to break the kakapo’s fall when it hops off from lower branches. A combination of these features makes the kakapo the world’s largest flightless parrot.

The kakapo was thought to have once thrived in New Zealand habitats due to the fact that there were no predators that would hunt the kakapo. Therefore, it has evolved into a flightless bird. In its own territory, the kakapo forages for seeds, nuts, flowers, berries, and fruits. The fruit of the rimu tree is known to be the kakapo’s favorite; and it will feed on it exclusively when the rimu fruit is in abundance.

Threats to the kakapo started at the very beginning of the 19th century. Before the early Polynesian settlers arrived in New Zealand, kakapos strived throughout the country. But, the Polynesian settlers hunted the kakapo for its plumage and meat. This is the kakapo’s first threat. However, the most devastating threat to the kakapo’s survival is the introduction of predators such as rats, stoats, and cats into its habitat. In ancient time, the kakapo’s only predator was a giant eagle, which is now extinct. This has caused it to nest, raise, and feed its young on the ground, having no need to fly. This living-on-ground-life has put the kakapo in great danger, especially when development and agriculture takes place.

The number of kakapos are still decreasing slowly. But, with the help of the NZAS (New Zealand Aluminum Smelters), these endangered animals are slowly regaining their population. Millions and billions of dollars have been spent on conservation alone! And let’s hope none of them go to waste.

Fun Fact: There are so little kakapos in the world that all of them have names! The most famous one is Sirocco, which assists BBC television series to help the kakapo conservation.

02. Kagu (Endangered)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The kagu, also known as the cagou, is a crested, bluish-grey, long-legged bird endemic to the dense mountain forests of New Caledonia.

The kagu is a flightless bird with grey plumage. Ifs uniquely grey, almost colorless plumage has led to the name of Ghost of the Forest by local people. The only feature of the kagu that isn’t grey is the black barrings underneath its wings that are only visible when the bird is in flight. On the back of the kagu’s head lies a prominent chest, which is shown in display. Its legs and bill are a lighter shade of orange.

The kagu lives in humid, dry forests at a low altitude. But it can also be found in scrub habitats. The kagu is strictly carnivorous and feeds on worms, snails, and small reptiles such as geckos. Sometimes, kagus will hunt smaller animals in shallow waters. Their hunting technique is to stand motionlessly and watch silently for prey. Having located prey, they will dash towards it.

Being a flightless bird, there are many threats faced by the kagu. Some of the main threats include: the introduction of predator species such as cats, deer, dogs, and rats; the destruction of habitat and mining activities, and diseases that could wipe out subpopulations of the kagu.

However, the number of kagus have increased over the years because of the reduction of rat, dog, and cat predation. The increase of public awareness on bird conservation also helped the recovery of the kagu in some areas.

Fun Fact: The kagu’s name comes from the ‘nasal corns’ that cover its nostrils. This is one unique feature that is not shared by any other birds.

03. New Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar (Critically Endangered)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The New Caledonian Owlet, also known as the enigmatic owlet-nightjar, is a large owlet-nightjar (a kind of bird related to swifts). It is endemic to New Caledonia’s Melaleuca savanna and humid forests.

The New Caledonia Owlet Nightjar has a large body covered in greyish-brown and black feathers; short, rounded wings; and long, stout legs. Not much is known about the vocal calls of the Owlet-nightjar. The only sounds known to be produced by the owlet-nightjar are whistling calls.

The New Caledonia Owlet-nightjar are highly territorial birds that nests in holes up in trees. These birds forage for food by sitting on branches and stalking small prey. Again, not much is known about this rare bird’s feeding habits. This species of owlet-nightjar has longer legs than its relatives, so it may be more terrestrial.

The New Caledonia Owlet-nightjar have not been spotted since 1998. There is no direct information on the threats of this species; but it is believed to suffer high predation rates from possible predators such as rats or cats. Other threats to the owlet-nightjar may include habitat loss through wild fires, mining sites, and logging.

Fun Fact: Many bird-watchers easily confuse the New Caledonian Owlet- nightjar with the White-throated Nightjar. The only differences between these two species of nightjars is that the White- throated nightjar has a paler plumage. Otherwise, the feeding and living habits of these two species are the same.

04. Maleo (Threatened)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The maleo is a type of megapode (incubator birds). It is endemic to the Indonesian island, Sulawesi. The maleo lives in tropical lowlands and hill forests. However, it nests in open sandy areas, volcanic soil, or heated beaches.

The maleo has a stout build with black and white plumage. Being a megapode, the maleo has large feet. This bird has a bony, dark casque (enlargement of beaks of some species of birds) on its crown, a yellowish face, and a pale bill. Its thights are black, with a white belly. The maleo is usually silent, but, especially during mating season, it can emit a loud, braying, duck-like call.

The maleo’s diet consists of mostly fruits, seeds, ants, termites, beetles, mollusks, and other small invertebrates. The maleo forages for these in forest away from the nesting sites.

Due to habitat loss, overhunting, and a limited range. Since 1972, the maleo has been protected by the Indonesian government. The harvesting of the maleo eggs are also considered illegal. In Indonesia, maleo eggs are considered a popular delicacy, but is not a staple food.

Fun Fact: The maleo is a very unique bird. It has the ability to fly at the very same day it hatches! The first thing these chicks do is to get cover in the forest from predators. They must protect themselves from predators as well as find food.

05. Shoebill (Vulnerable)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The shoebill is also commonly known as the whalehead or shoe-billed stock. The shoebill is a very large-stock-like bird. Its name comes from its huge, shoe-shaped bill. It lives in east Africa in large, tropical swamps from Sudan to Zambia.

The shoebill possesses a bluish-grey plumage, broad wings, black legs, and a muscular neck. Its most obvious feature is its bill, which is greenish-brown in color and ends in a sharp, nail-like hook. The shoebill has pale eyes and a small hood of feathers behind its head.

The swamp is the perfect home for a shoebill as its diet consists of fish, frogs, smaller mammals, and even baby crocodiles! The shoebill has to put its wings behind its back; otherwise, it might lose its balance and fall! The shoebill barely moves during hunting, which is almost 3 quarters of their night (They are nocturnal)!

The shoebill, despite living in the swamps, face a number of threats. Some of them include: development of rural areas, agriculture, slash-and-burn farming, and illegal hunting. However, conservation is now underway, and the population of the shoebill have increased to between 5,000 to 8,000 individuals.

Fun Fact: One more threat to the shoebill’s extinction is its sinister sibling rivalry. On several occasions, the older chick would attack the younger chicks, drawing blood. It would drive the younger chicks to the side of the nest. And, when the adults return, they will favor the older chick, shading it from the sun and feeding it water from their bills. The younger chick is forced out into the heat and slowly left to die.

06. Little Dodo (Tooth-billed pigeon) (Critically Endangered)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The disappearance of the dodo bird from the world almost 400 years ago is one of the most well-known extinctions of all time. However, the Manumea bird, a smaller version of the dodo, still remains in existence on two islands of Samoa. The name Manumea means little dodo; and, like its larger sized, extinct cousin, this bird is also a member of the pigeon family. The little dodo will soon join its cousin in extinction if no action is taken to save them!

The little dodo is a medium-sized pigeon with a dark plumage. It has reddish feet and red, bare skin around its eyes. Its head and neck are greyish in color, with a slight turquoise color that can be seen under light. The juvenile is duller with a browner head, black bill, and a pale, orange base.

The little dodo is confined to the undisturbed parts of the forests of Samoa in the Pacific. Little is known about the feeding and living habits of the little dodo; but it is believed that this bird feeds on the fruits of Dysoxylum, a flowering tree. Other information about the little dodo’s nesting habits are still unconfirmed.

Because of ongoing habitat loss, limited range, and a declining population, the little dodo is considered a critically endangered bird. The introduction of predators such as pigs, dogs, rats, and cats are also contributing to the endangering of this bird.

Fun Fact: The little dodo has a large, hooked bill with two teeth’ on the lower jaw. This feature is unique among pigeons.

07. Spix’s Macaw (Critically Endangered)

Weird & Endangered Birds

Spix’s Macaw, also known as the little blue macaw, is a blue parrot native to Brazil. This species of lively birds live in the woodlands of the Rio Sao Francisco of interior northeastern Brazil.

Spix’s Macaw us easy to identify, as it is the only blue macaw. The blue macaw has a greyish-blue plumage on its head, pale blue on its underbelly, vivid blue wings, and a long tail. The legs and feet are brown with a hint of black. Juveniles are similar to adult Spinx’s Macaws but have paler facial skin and a white stripe along the center of their beaks.

Spix’s Macaw inhabits mainly woodland along seasonal creeks. In the wild, they are known to consume the most common seeds and nuts found in the bird’s habitat. Not much is known about the feeding of the Spix’s Macaw because there is insufficient data for research.

The Spix’s Macaw is categorized as Critically Endangered. This species is thought to be extinct in the wild, but areas of potential habitat have to be surveyed before coming to any conclusions. The destruction of the Caraiba forests as well as other human’s activities also contributes to the Spix’s Macaw’s endangerment. Also, Spix’s Macaws are considered pets and are sold to private owners in Switzerland. These reasons have caused the macaw’s population to decline rapidly.

Today, Spix’s Macaws are almost extinct in the wild, only surviving in breeding and staging centers in Brazil.

Fun Facts: The Spix’s Macaw was popularized in the animated movie “Rio”. This unique, blue macaw inspired the director and many casts of the movie “Rio”. As a result of the movie, the show has raised awareness of saving this endangered species before it extinct.

08. North Island Brown Kiwi (Endangered)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The North Island Brown Kiwi is a species of kiwi bird that is found in the northern parts of New Zealand. Its population lies between 25,000 and 35,000.

The kiwi is easily identified as it is the only brown kiwi in Northland, New Zealand. Being a flightless bird, the brown kiwi has tiny wings and no tail. As to avoid predators, the kiwi is nocturnal; though it can be heard in the daytime. The kiwi has a dark brown, spiky plumage with reddish brown and black specks on it. The kiwi has a long, pale beak, dark legs, and dark claws.

The Brown Kiwi is common in native and exotic forests in Northland and some of its offshore islands. The main diet of these exotic birds include: earthworms and insects as their primary food source, followed by seeds, fruits, snails, and crayfish. The kiwi only comes out from its burrow at night for feeding purposes.

The North Island Brown Kiwi has undergone a drastic decline in its population – as much as 90%! Studies show that kiwis in uninhabited areas have been only declining by 4% every year!

These birds have evolved on an island that lacked mammals. So now, with the introduction of dogs, cats, stoats, and other predators, the kiwi has no means of defence. Other reasons for the declining numbers of kiwis include: falls from cliffs, drowning, and encounters with traps and poisons set for possums.

Today, the North Island Brown Kiwi is the most concerned matter managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and the Bank of New Zealand Save the Kiwi. Many different strategies are being used such as protecting the chicks by trapping predators and artificial incubation until the chicks are old enough to survive on their own.

Fun Fact: The North Island Brown Kiwi holds the world record for laying the biggest egg of the kiwi family! The egg itself, when compared to the kiwi’s overall body size, is actually bigger!

09. Spoon-Billed Sandpiper (Critically Endangered)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The spoon-billed sandpiper is a small wader bird that spends its summers in North-eastern Russia and winters in Southeast Asia.

These sandpipers have a one-of-a-kind, black spatulated bill. They have two unique coats, each for one season. During the non-breeding season, spoon-billed sandpipers are mostly gray with a streaked neck. Its throat and forehead are white, while its legs are black.

Spoon-billed Sandpipers feed on two slightly different diets when on different grounds. On their breeding grounds, these sandpipers feed on mosquitos, flies, beetles, spiders and also berries. In the winter grounds, they feed on a variety of marine invertebrates, including polychaete worms and shrimp.

The reasons for the declination of the Spoon-billed sandpiper is the elimination of stopover habitats in the Yellow Sea during the migration of the sandpiper and overhunting on the winter grounds.

This sandpiper, with a population of below 2,500, is critically endangered. Protected areas are now being formed in the sandpiper’s staging and wintering grounds, including Yancheng in China, Hong Kong, and India. Breeding programs are also being considered. So far, artificial incubation and captive rearing has increased survival rates to 75%. Removing the eggs from the parents in the wild also encourages them to have a second clutch. Hopefully, with all the conservation efforts, the population of the spoon-billed sandpiper will rise to stable levels.

Fun Fact: As spoon-billed sandpipers only forage in waters, scientists still do not have even a hypothesis to the uses of the sandpiper’s spoon-shaped bill. Though other sandpipers use their bills mainly for feeding, the lifestyle of the spoon-billed sandpiper doesn’t prove that this is true for these sandpipers.

10. Eskimo Curlew (Critically Endangered, possibly extinct)

Weird & Endangered Birds

The Eskimo curlew, also known as the Northern Curlew, is one of the only eight species of curlew in Canada and Alaska. Curlews typically live in the tundra, where not many human activities are performed. Having not been seen for almost 30 years, some scientists considers the Eskimo Curlew to be already extinct.

Eskimo curlews are small curlews that are about 30 centimeters long. The adults have long, dark grey legs, a slightly curved bill, and a mottled brown plumage. In flight, the Eskimo curlew shows off its cinnamon colored wings.

Eskimo Curlews nests in arctic and sub-arctic tundra in Northwest Territories. Their habitats are usually large, treeless area with shrubs and grassy tundra vegetation. Some, who live near shorelines, enjoy grassy meadows instead. During the curlew’s fall migration, a wide variety of coastal and inland habitats are used as staging areas. These birds spend their winters in the pampas of Argentina, in treeless grasslands and wetlands. During their spring migration, the Eskimo curlews were found in taller grass in the East, mixed with prairies in areas which were recently burned.

Eskimo curlews are not picky eaters. They usually pick up food by sight. They eat mostly berries during their fall migration in Canada. During the rest of their migration, as well as on their breeding grounds, the curlews eat mainly insects, snails, and other invertebrates.

The three main factors believed to have contributed to the endangerment of the Eskimo Curlew include: uncontrolled commercial hunting in the wild, habitat loss due to overgrazing, and a decline in food supplies at spring migration stopover sites.

Since these birds breed in such remote areas, recovery strategies are hard to devise. Immediate protection and management of known stopover sites of the Eskimo Curlew have been recommended by the American Ornithologists’ Union. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also in the process of forming a recovery team to this rare species.

Fun Fact: The Eskimo Curlew is also known as the “Dough bird” because of the thick layer of fat that they develop for migration periods.

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