Ex­tinct!

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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.

Fied­fare

Greak auks

Hen Harier male

Mon­tagu's Har­rier male

Golden Ori­ole

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