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Dark Extinction: Bird dataset


Cronk, Quentin (2021), Dark Extinction: Bird dataset, Dryad, Dataset,


The extinction of species before they are discovered and named (dark extinction) is widely inferred as a significant part of species loss in the early modern period (1500-1800). The discovery of oceanic islands and other pristine habitats by European navigators and the consequent introduction of rodents and herbivores started a process of anthropogenic extinction. Much ecosystem change happened before systematic scientific recording, so has led to dark extinction. Methods are available to robustly estimate dark extinction in recent history, i.e. in the “taxonomic period” (~1800-present). Extrapolating the recent extinction rate of birds suggests that during the “pre-taxonomic period”, 1500-1800, there may have been ~180 unrecorded bird extinctions. Dark extinction is still likely to be occurring in taxonomically incompletely known groups such as many groups of arthropods. Targeting collection activities in extinction hotspots, to make sure organisms are represented in collections before their extinction, is one way of reducing the number of extinct species without a physical record (providing that collection efforts do not themselves contribute to species extinction).


List of all birds (csv format) known to exist after 1500 CE with: whether extant, extinction date (if extinct), date of first taxonomic description. The dataset is compiled from various publically available sources mainly:

Szabo, J.K., Khwaja, N., Garnett, S.T. & Butchart, S.H.M. 2012 Global Patterns and Drivers of Avian Extinctions at the Species and Subspecies Level. Plos One 7. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047080).

BirdLife. 2019 Handbook of the Birds of the World and BirdLife International digital checklist of the birds of the world. Version 4.

Usage Notes

This list is compiled as of 2019. Birds extant in 2019 are given a placeholder date of last record ("extinction date") of 2019.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Award: RGPIN-2014-05820

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Award: GC-2017-Q4-00199