What Extinct Birds Were Small and Brown?


Quick Answer

Some small, brown extinct birds are the Eskimo curlew, the heath hen and the Santa Barbara song sparrow. All three are North American species that became extinct between the late-19th and mid-20th centuries.

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Full Answer

Eskimo curlew once migrated from northern Canada to South America, but the population declined between 1870 and 1890. The extinction of the passenger pigeon contributed to the extinction of the curlew population. When the pigeons disappeared, commercial hunters targeted the Eskimo curlew instead.

The heath hen was a subspecies of the greater prairie chicken. The birds were exterminated on mainland North America by about 1870. A small population remained on Martha's Vineyard that also declined, falling to only 70 birds by the late 19th century. A hunting ban protected the remaining birds and the population recovered, reaching 2,000 by 1915. Unfortunately, a combination of fire, weather, predators and disease caused the birds' final decline, with the final heath hen dying in 1932.

The Santa Barbara song sparrow was a song sparrow species confined to Santa Barbara Island in Los Angeles County, California, a habitat of only 639 acres. The sparrows' numbers declined with the introduction of farming and non-native predators to the island. A large fire destroyed the last of the birds' habitat in 1959 and the last sparrows likely died in the 1960s.

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