International species

As the UK partner of BirdLife International, the RSPB shares their aim of slowing or halting the global extinction of bird species.
Wilson's storm petrel Oceanites oceanicus, sitting on nest in partial shadow, Bird Island, South Georgia, South Atlantic

Overview

Around 200 species around the world are listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered, the highest class of extinction risk. A further 400 are listed as Endangered.

RSPB researchers work directly on around 40 of these threatened species, from the northern rockhopper penguin of the southern oceans to Gurney’s pitta in the humid forests of south-east Asia. We support work on many more.

Less threatened, but perhaps better known, are Europe’s migrant birds, whose severe population declines are the subject of much RSPB research. Working together with local researchers and BirdLife Partners, we are helping to improve the status of these species so they are less likely to become extinct.

We do this through a combination of diagnostic research and the scientific application of appropriate conservation measures.

Sub-themes

Causes of decline
The first step in helping a species that is heading towards extinction is to diagnose what the problem is. Sometimes the threats are obvious. For example, Sao Tomé’s three critically endangered species are endemic to a small island whose forests are disappearing rapidly.

Often, however, assessing what the problem is can take years of research. Such was the case for the sociable lapwing, whose main threats were eventually found not to be changes in steppe management in central Asia, as initially thought, but rather hunting along its migratory flyways.

We are still far from understanding why so many of Europe’s migrants are declining, but have a team of scientists working to solve this mystery.

Testing solutions and action
The work of our scientists does not end once the problems faced by a threatened species have been diagnosed. The results of the research must then be turned into conservation actions, which may themselves require further research.

Carrying out conservation actions such as eradicating rats from an island, implementing intensive first aid to species like the spoon-billed sandpiper or monitoring the levels of contamination in cattle carcasses across India to guide the conservation of vultures, all require significant input from scientists.

All of our species conservation work is heavily underpinned by intensive research.

Who's involved

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Dr John Mallord

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

john.mallord@rspb.org.uk
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Dr Paul Donald

Principal Conservation Scientist, RSPB

paul.donald@rspb.org.uk
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Dr Toby Galligan

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

toby.galligan@rspb.org.uk
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Dr Steffen Oppel

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

steffen.oppel@rspb.org.uk

Related publications

Breeding ecology of the globally threatened sociable lapwing Vanellus gregarius and the demographic drivers of recent declines

We assessed demographic rates and numbers of the globally threatened sociable lapwing Vanellus gregarius in central Kazakhstan from 2005 to 2012 to identify drivers of recent declines...

Date
25 December 2012
RSPB Authors
Dr Rob Field, Dr Paul Donald
Authors
Sheldon, R.D., Kamp, J., Koshkin, M.A., Urazaliev, R.S., Iskakov, T.K., Field, R.H., Salemgareev, A.R., Khrokov, V.V., Zhuly, V.A., Sklyarenko, S.L. & Donald, P.
Published in
Journal of Ornithology
View publication Details
International Sociable Lapwing International species

Estimating population size of a nocturnal burrow-nesting seabird using acoustic monitoring and habitat mapping

Population size assessments for nocturnal burrow-nesting seabirds are logistically challenging because these species are active in colonies only during darkness and often nest on remote islands where ...

Date
01 January 2014
RSPB Authors
Dr Steffen Oppel
Authors
Oppel, S. and colleagues
Published in
Nature Conservation
View publication Details
International International species Marine

The decline of Afro-Palaearctic migrants and an assessment of potential causes

There is compelling evidence that Afro-Palaearctic (A-P) migrant bird populations have declined in Europe in recent decades, often to a greater degree than resident or short-distance migrants. There a....

Date
01 January 2014
RSPB Authors
Dr Juliet Vickery, Dr Steven Ewing, Prof Richard Gregory
Authors
Vickery, Juliet A. and colleagues
Published in
Ibis
View publication Details
International Identifying problems International species

Projects

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Ascension Island Ocean Sanctuary

Last Updated
03 July 2017
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Biodiversity indicators

Last Updated
31 March 2017
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Ecology of migrant birds in Africa

Last Updated
03 July 2017
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Multilateral environmental agreements

Last Updated
03 July 2017
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Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project

Last Updated
18 May 2018
Sub-themes
Causes of decline; Testing solutions and actions
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Strategic research for island restoration

Last Updated
03 July 2017
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Tracking migrants

Last Updated
03 July 2017
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Unravelling the mysteries of the sociable lapwing

Last Updated
08 June 2018
Sub-themes
Causes of decline; Testing solutions and actions