Nature Trail by Malcolm Palmer A dirty word, isn’t it? The last bird to become GLOBALLY extinct in the European region was the big, clumsy, flightless Great Auk, like a Razorbill on steroids, in the nineteenth century.
But the gunhappy Americans succeeded in hunting the once sky-darkening flocks of the Passenger Pigeon into the history books in the middle of the last century, and it seems that the highlyspecialized Ivory-billed Woodpecker has gone too, despite occasional reports of birds from remote swamps.
Of more local concern is the REGIONAL, or national extinction of many species. As breeding species, Britain has now lost, probably for good (though who knows?), Golden Oriole and Fieldfare, whilst Redbacked Shrike looks pretty certain to follow. Here in Spain, the fate of Capercaillie is that of several specialized species in many parts of the world, as it requires plenty of space, and needs to breed colonially, using the ‘lek’ system. (where males ‘dance’ and display to attract a circle of admiring females – a sort of ‘reverse discotheque!’) Also worrying is the future of some trans-Saharan migrants. Here in Alicante, we have all but lost the Rufous Bush Robin, a common breeding bird only twenty years ago, and some wildfowl, like Marbled and White-headed Duck, only hang on in our warm corner of Europe by a thread, depending upon the existence of lagoons, and conservation efforts. The same may be said for some species of raptor – Montagu’s and Hen Harrier in particular being hard-pressed, due to all manner of problems, from habitat destruction to poisoning and furtive hunting. Although some species, by contrast, are on the increase, it hardly compensates for the losses that can never be regained.
Hen Harier male
Montagu's Harrier male