CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Gone, but not forgotten.
This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared 21 species newly extinct. The list includes many mussels, one bat, and nearly a dozen birds. One of these birds is native to the Carolinas and was last spotted near Charleston 65 years ago.
The Bachman’s Warbler was discovered by Reverend John Bachman in 1832 near the Edisto River in South Carolina. But the last confirmable report of a sighting was in Charleston County in 1958.
These drawings are some of the only images we can use on TV because there aren’t many pictures of this bird. It hasn’t been seen since the 1960s! There’s not a ton known about the Bachman’s Warbler, but scientists do know it was a habitat specialist, meaning it didn’t adapt well to changes in its home.
When settlers came in and took out the bird’s swampy homes for agriculture, they were never able to recover or find a new place to live. Researchers think this is also true for its winter home in Cuba.
Dr. Brian O’Shea, Collections Manager for Ornithology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, says climate change and habitat loss top the list of threats for birds. “I think that the disappearance of the Bachman’s Warbler is sort of a symptom of broader ecological decay. As ecosystems become more homogenized and more disturbed they lose the resilience that could help protect us against climate change and also protect biodiversity. And I think that’s a big lesson to be taken from the extinction.”
Dr. O’Shea says any extinction is alarming, and while 21 newly extinct species is alarming, these organisms haven’t been seen in decades.
For birds in particular, climate change and loss of habitat are the biggest challenges faced. Most of the birds on the list are from Hawaii. While island birds often are most vulnerable to these threats, he calls Hawaii the “extinction capital of the world” for birds. Habitat loss and invasive diseased mosquitoes are to blame for many of those losses.
Climate change is also warming seasons and shifting migration patterns. Birds head farther north during winter now, often mistiming their meetups with food sources. If plants and insects emerge too soon in warmer springs, birds can miss their vital food resources.
Dr. O’Shea says conservation is key, “I think that we’re making progress. There’s certainly a lot of work to be done, there’s a lot more that we need to do as a society to address a lot of these impacts of climate change and to protect birds and their habitats. I’m glad that we’re working on it, but we do have a lot more to do.”
Dr. O’Shea adds that conservation can start at home, even in your own backyard. Planting native species and bird-friendly decals on your windows can help.
A full list of newly extinct species can be found here.