The world’s most abundant wild bird is the house sparrow, with a population of 1.6 billion. Image Credit: Unsplash/Mathew Schwartz

There are between 50 and 430 billion birds on Earth, according to new research.

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That population range may seem really broad, but the estimate takes into consideration the fact that there are lots of uncertainties involved when counting birds. The numbers were published in the US-based journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a May 2021 paper by researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. From counting the billions of small animals that can fly, to understanding that they roam over wide and even uncharted regions around the world, the researchers noted that there is a lack of comprehensive scientific data surrounding every region's bird population.

But they did find a few things that stood out. For one, the world’s most abundant wild bird is the house sparrow, with a population of 1.6 billion. In second place is the European starling, of which there are 1.3 billion, followed by ring-billed gulls (1.2 billion).

They also found the rarest birds. An estimated 1,180 bird species, or 12 per cent of all the birds in the world, each have a total population below 5,000.

These birds are well on their way to becoming listed as endangered – the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) labels a species as endangered if its total population is below 2,500. Some examples of rare birds today include the great spotted kiwi (with an estimated 377 individuals still alive), the Javan hawk eagle (630 individuals) and the Seychelles kestrel (under 100).

No one really knows how many birds the world has already lost over the past few decades, but some estimates suggest that in North America alone, the total number of breeding adult birds has declined by 3 billion since 1970.

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