Birds are some of the most plentiful and fascinating animals on the planet. There are billions of birds in the world living on every continent on Earth, but that doesn't mean there haven't been far more in the past than there are right now. Unfortunately, a large number of birds have gone extinct, leaving the world without some of the more interesting examples of what amounts to a flying dinosaur.
A list of extinct birds wouldn't be complete without some of the more well-known species of extinct bird like the dodo or the moa, but there are far more birds that have succumbed to predation, collection, and habitat loss over the years than those familiar examples. Whatever the causes for their extinction, many birds have... well, gone the way of the Dodo, as they say. These birds may be lost to time, but there are many more in need of conservation efforts to ensure lists like this one don't get longer over time. For now, check out the extinct birds list below, then check out the even larger number of penguins that have gone extinct.
History - The Mariana mallard was a species of duck believed to have been distinct, but this has been a source of contention among ornithologists for years. It may have been a distinct species or subspecies of the mallard, Pacific black duck, or Indian Spot-billed duck. The Mariana mallard was declared extinct in 1981 due to hunting from traps and loss of habitat.
Physical Description - They looked very much like the mallard species previously mentioned, but featured a predominantly brown plumage across most of their bodies.
Size - The Mariana mallard typically reached 22" in length and 1.1 lbs. in weight.
Location - The Mariana Islands.
Modern relatives - Due to the uncertainty of its status, it may be related to the mallard, Pacific black duck, or Indian Spot-billed duck.
History - The Hawaiʻi ʻōʻō was a genus of birds found in an extinct family (Mohoidae) first described in 1786. It was common at the time Europeans came to the Big Island of Hawaii, but that was when their downfall began. Previously, the natives would capture them and carefully remove 2-3 feathers before releasing them back into the wild. When the Europeans came with their muskets, both groups of people began hunting them by the thousands. Their numbers began to decline rapidly after 1898, and by 1934, they were declared extinct.
Physical Description - They primarily featured a black plumage with yellow accents. It had long black and white tail feathers, which were prized by collectors.
Size - They reached a length of up to 13".
Location - Hawaii.
Modern relatives - There are no modern relatives as the entire family was wiped out.
History - Believe it or not, there was once a parrot species that flew across much of the eastern, midwest, and plain lands of the United States. They were spread across the nation living in swamplands and along rivers in forests, but the last of them died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. They were officially declared extinct in 1939.
Physical Description - They shared many similar traits with extant neotropical parrots. Their plumage was primarily green across the body with a fade into a dark orange towards the top of the head.
Size - They were relatively small with a wingspan of approximately 21" to 23" and could weigh as much as 3.5 oz. Their body was approximately 13" long from tail feathers to the top of the head.
Location - Neotropical regions of the United States.
Modern relatives - The Nanday parakeet is a close relative as is the Sun and Golden-Capped parakeets, all of which likely evolved from the Carolina parakeet.
History - The heath hen was a distinct subspecies of chicken that went extinct in 1932. They were incredibly common during Colonial times, which has led many historians to believe they were featured at the first Thanksgiving instead of wild turkeys. Their numbers declined due to hunting, which led to their extinction alongside other threats such as feral cats and blackhead disease.
Physical Description - Heath hens featured stripes along their feathers and across their bodies. Their most distinctive feature was their large, pointed pinnae (horns) and a grayish brown tail.
Size - Their length was approximately 17" with a weight of as much as 2 lbs.
Location - Coastal areas of North America from Florida to New Hampshire.
Modern relatives - The Greater Prairie chicken is the closest extant relative.