Ten Critically Endangered Eagles and Vultures
Eagles are some of the fiercest birds in nature. They belong to the family of birds called Accipitridae which also includes the hawks, kites, harriers, and even some vultures, particularly the Old World types. Though varying in size, these birds have one common feature – their strong hooked bills. With these bills, eagles and their relatives feed on a range of prey, from insects to medium-sized mammals. Hence, they are known as birds of prey.
However, they may not be that vicious since many of their kinds are already on the brink of extinction. These breeds are simply not endangered; they are critically endangered (as described by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN) that they face a high risk of being gone forever. Here are ten critically endangered eagles, vultures, and other birds belonging to the Accipitridae family.
Considered as subspecies of the Hook-billed Kite, the Cuban Kite is classified as critically endangered by BirdLife International. Its current population is estimated at 50-250 mature birds. After a last confirmed sighting in 2001 and an unconfirmed sighting in 2004, Cuban ornithologist Nils Navarro Pacheco took a photograph of one bird in 2009.
Ridgway’s Hawk is a buzzard and is named after ornithologist Robert Ridgway. It measures 36-41 cm long and has brown-grey upperpants, grayish underpants, and a black-and-white barred tail. It feeds on birds, lizards, snakes and small mammals. As of 2006, its only known population, estimated at 80-120 pairs, resides within Los Haitises National Park in the northeastern Dominican Republic. The decline of the bird’s number is due to clearance of forests and persecution by local fathers who mistake the bird to prey on domestic fowl, even though reptiles comprise up to 90% of its diet.
Belonging to the Old World Vulture, the White-rumped Vulture is a typical vulture, with an unfeathered head and neck. It has whitish back, rump, and underwing coverts that contrast its otherwise dark plumage. It weighs 3.5-7.5 kg, measures 89-93 cm in length, and has a wingspan of about 260 cm. It is scavenger and feeds mostly from carcasses of dead animals. This bird was present in large numbers in Southern and Southeastern Asia until the 1990s. In fact, it was considered as “possibly the most abundant large bird of prey in the world” in 1985. It was then treated as nuisance and eventually haunted. Since the mid-1190s, it has suffered a catastrophic decline of over 99%. As of 2008, there are 171 individuals counted at vulture restaurants.
Madagascar Fish Eagle
Also called as Madagascar Sea-eagle, the Madagascar Fish Eagle lives within the Madagascar dry deciduous forests and coast where it is endemic. It has a length of 70-80 cm, a wingspan of 200 cm, and a weight of 2.2-3.5 kg. Its body and wings are dark brown, with a pale brown head and a white tails. The main threats to these birds are deforestation, soil erosion, development of wetland areas for rice paddies, and direct competition with humans for fish. Presently, there are around 40 breeding pairs, larger than its count of 20-25 in the 1980s.
Otherwise known as Long-billed Vulture, the Indian Vulture breeds mainly on crags in the hills of Pakistan and India. It is a scavenger, feeding on dead animals which it finds by soaring in flocks over savannah and around human habitation. It has bald head, very broad wings and short tail feathers. It weighs 5.5-6.3 kg, measures 80-100 cm long, and has a wingspan of 205-229 cm. The bird has suffered 97%-99% population decline in Pakistan and India. Accordingly, it was caused by poisoning from the veterinary drug diclofenac. This drug helps reduce joint pains in animal, but when induce by vultures from the carcasses they feed on, it causes kidney failure in them. There are around 45,000 individuals in 2007, with an average decline of over 16% during 2006-2007.
Formerly known as Monkey-eating Eagle, the Philippine Eagle is endemic to the forests in the Philippines. It is one of the rarest, largest, and most powerful birds in the world. It has a length of 86-102 cm and a weight of 4.7-8.0 kg. It has brown and white plumage, and a shaggy crest. The eagle feeds on monkeys, birds, flying foxes, giant cloud-rats, snakes, and lizards. The decline in its population is mainly due to massive loss of habitat caused by deforestation. Presently, there are around 180 and 500 living Philippines eagles.
The White-collared Kite breed in northeastern Brazil. Measuring 50 cm long, it has a grey head with white hindneck, black upperparts, white underpants, and a grey tail. Nothing is known of its feeding or breeding ecology. The coastal areas in which it has been sighted has been subject to massive deforestation. Its current population is estimated at some 50 pairs.
The Slender-billed Vulture is found along the Sub-Himalayan regions and into Southeast Asia, and nests in trees. It is mostly grey with a pale rump and grey undertail coverts. The thighs have whitish down. Over the years, the bird’s population had a marked decline. Presently, the only breeding colony in Southeast Asia is in Cambodia. The approximate number of these birds beyond confines is about 1,000 in 2009 and prediction estimate total extinction within the next decade.
The Flores Hawk-Eagle is endemic in Indonesia, found in the forests of Flores, Lombok, and Sumbawa in the Lesser Sundas. Measuring 79 cm. long, it has dark brown upperparts, a brown tail with six bars, a white patch in the wings, white underpants, and a white head. It diet is mainly birds, lizards, snakes and mammals. The bird’s population is estimated to be less than 100 pairs.
The Red-headed Vulture is also known as Asian King Vulture, Indian Black Vulture, or Pondicherry Vulture. It measures up to 85 cm long, weighs 3.7-5.4 kg, and a wingspan of about 2.45-2.60 m. It has deep red to orange naked head, and a black body with pale grey band at the base of flight feathers. Historically, it was abundant over south-central and southeastern Asia extending from Pakistan to Singapore, but is localized primarily to Nepal and northern India. The current wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 individuals throughout Asia, with just a few hundred in Southeast Asia and the rest mostly in India.