The United States declares 23 species extinct, including 11 birds, 8 mussels and one bat


The ivory woodpecker (left) was last seen in 1944 in Louisiana.

The Birds of America / John James Audubon / Library of Congress

It is a bitter moment when the US Fish & Wildlife Service proposes to remove animals and plants from the law on endangered species because they can no longer be found. This means that officials are canceling the search and that the creatures are believed to be more than saving. On Wednesday, the agency cataloged 23 species it has determined are now extinct.

The agency is seeking comments from the public on the proposal to remove the species, which includes ivory woodpeckers, Bachman’s songbirds, eight freshwater mussels, eight birds from Hawaii, a flowering plant and Little Mariana fruit bats that once lived in Guam.

“With climate change and the loss of natural habitats pushing more and more species to the brink, it is now time to launch proactive, cooperative and innovative efforts to save US wildlife,” US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.

The ivory woodpecker was once the country’s largest bird of its kind. The last confirmed sighting in the United States was in 1944 in Louisiana. The Fish & Wildlife Service tracks the extinction of the woodpecker to the loss of forest habitat and to the collection of birds by humans. Bachman’s singer was a small songbird with a yellow belly, last seen in the United States in 1962.

Eleven of the 23 species are from Hawaii and Guam, “many of which had striking features, such as the long curved beaks of Kauai akialoa and nukupu’u, the ghost call of Kauai’o and the brilliant colors of Maui akepa and Molokai creeper,” said Fish & Wildlife Service. One of these birds, the Kauai nukupu’u, was last seen in Hawaii in 1899.

Although fish and mussels may not be as conspicuous as the birds, their disappearance suggests the loss of healthy streams and river systems.

The Endangered Species Act aims to protect endangered animals and plants and help their populations recover. Removal of these species is sad news, but the action has had a tangible impact.

“Although the protection was provided too late for these 23 species, ESA has been successful in preventing the extinction of more than 99% of the listed species,” said the Fish & Wildlife Service.

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