Threatened birds occur in all habitats, but the majority are found in forest

Tumbesian dry forest, Ecuador-Peru, © David Thomas/BirdLife

Threatened birds occur in all major habitat types but the majority (77.9%) are found in forests. Threatened species show a lower tolerance of human modified habitats (30.8% compared with 48.5% of all birds) and a large proportion occur in just one or two habitats (50.3%). Those that live in forest show a high dependency on the habitat and do not tolerate perturbation.

Fig. 1 The relative importance of each major habitat type for threatened birds
Analysis of data held in IUCN 2016 Red List

Birds are found across the world in all major habitat types. Most threatened birds show a clear preference for certain types of habitat, with 24.8% occurring in just one major type (e.g. forest, grassland) and 50.3% in one or two. Forests are one of the most important habitats for birds as shown in Fig. 1, supporting an impressive 77.9% of threatened bird species, with 27.4% partially or exclusively supported by shrubland, 16.0% by inland wetlands, and 16.1% by grasslands. Marine habitats support a higher than expected proportion of threatened birds (12.6%), while savannas are of lower importance than expected (8.2%). Only 30.8% of threatened species use an artificial habitat (compared with 48.5% of all birds), which as would be expected suggests that threatened species may be less tolerant of habitat modification. These species depend on adjacent natural or semi-natural habitats for breeding or feeding, but are able to use human-modified habitats to some extent.

Fig 2. The importance of each major forest type for threatened birds
Analysis of data held in IUCN 2016 Red List

Threatened birds are found in all forest types; tropical/subtropical moist lowland and montane moist forest are the most important habitats supporting 48.8% and 38.8% of species respectively, with tropical/subtropical dry forest supporting 14.5%., as depicted in Fig. 2. These forest types are also the most important for threatened mammal species, highlighting their extreme importance to wider conservation efforts (Hilton-Taylor 2000). Threatened forest birds are highly dependent on intact habitat for their survival; 19.2% of all bird species can be found in degraded forest but only 8.2% of threatened birds use such habitat, and for the majority of these it is only of marginal importance. The vast majority of threatened species for which forest represents a major or suitable habitat type (92.7%) show a strong dependency on the habitat; 70% of all threatened birds have high or medium dependence on forest, as outlined in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3 Dependence of threatened birds on intact forest.
Analysis of data held in IUCN 2016 Red List

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Hilton-Taylor, C. (2000) 2000 IUCN Red List of threatened species. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN.

Compiled: 2004    Last updated: 2017   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2017) Threatened birds occur in all habitats, but the majority are found in forest. Downloaded from on 22/02/2024