By Reya Mehrotra
The world has seen many species of birds go extinct, but now we are seeing an interesting trend of de-extinction—also called resurrection biology or species revivalism—of a few birds. This process of evolution is known as iterative evolution. Here are some bird species that have risen from the dead.
Native to eastern Australia, the parrot species went extinct in 1915. The small parrot is yellow and green in colour with a bright turquoise blue face. Its wings are bluish red. The population had crashed in the early 20th century and is recovering only now. Habitat loss due to cattle farming was one major reason for it. After extinction in 1915, they were seen again in South Wales in the 1930s. After protection efforts were undertaken, it is now listed as ‘Least Concern’. It mainly feeds on fruits, flowers, grasses, seeds and insects, and nests in hollows in gum trees.
These are very popular and found in Canada and parts of the US. They are adaptable to many habitats and thrive in grasses, near grains or berries. Their numbers began to dwindle at the beginning of the 20th century. Effective protection programmes, laws and their reintroduction in places where the numbers were low led to a rise in their numbers. The large wild goose species can be identified from its white cheeks and chin, brown body and black head and neck. They are herbivorous and skilled at living in human altered areas. It has now been introduced into the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Chile, etc. These birds can commonly be found in parking lots, golf courses and urban parks, and enjoy a close relationship with humans.
Northern bald ibis
This migratory bird is known for its unfeathered pinkish red face. It feeds on small insects, lizards and other small animals. It was once spread over Middle East and parts of Africa and Europe, but disappeared from Europe around 300 years ago. In recent years, reintroduction programmes have been set up for increasing its numbers. The programme first started in 1977 with two adults and nine young birds. It is usually found in barren, semi-desert or rocky habitats close to running water. It is long-legged with long curved bills.
Aldabra white-throated rail bird
The Aldabra white-throated rails have reappeared through iterative evolution. It is known to be the last flightless bird in the Indian Ocean. The chicken-sized birds, indigenous to Madagascar, have migrated to Aldabra and lost their ability to fly. They, according to studies, have reappeared twice after thousands of years and, in both occasions, become flightless. It was said to have disappeared in the sea as the water levels rose around 1,36,000 years ago and recolonised the Aldabra island around 1,00,000 years ago. They are identified by the white patch on their throats, a reddish hue on their chests, a long colourful tail and olive green backs. The Aldabra rails’ ancestors white-throated rails inhabiting Madagascar can still fly.
This bird of prey is found in North America. The adult bald eagle is actually white-headed with a brown body. The female bald eagles are nearly 25% larger than the males. The bald eagle is the national bird of the US and appears on its seal. However, it nearly became extinct in the late 20th century. Efforts helped in increasing its numbers and, in 1995, it was removed from the list of endangered species. By 2007, it was also removed from the list of threatened species. It is a powerful flier and seldom dives vertically to hunt fish. A carnivore, fish comprise the majority of its diet. The birds mature sexually at four-five years of age and are known to mate for life.
Asian crested ibis
Also known as Japanese crested ibis, the bird that is native to eastern Russia, China and Japan, It had disappeared by 1963 with only one left. Conservation efforts led to the increase in numbers of. Today, there are 330 in the world and the numbers are growing. They inhabit areas with tall trees, wetlands and agricultural lands, feeding on crabs, frogs, insects and small fish.
The species, endemic to Mauritius, became nearly extinct in the 1990s. Even today, only 400 pink pigeons remain. But it’s an improvement from 1991 when only 10 remained. The numbers could increase because of conservation efforts. The birds, classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, are herbivorous and feed on exotic and native plants. They can be identified by the pale pinkish grey plumage on their head, shoulders and underside, along with pink feet. The beak is a dark pink colour and has a white tip. With dark brown wings and a broad, rust-coloured tail, their eyes are dark brown surrounded by an eye-ring of red skin.