I READ with sadness a story published in several online news organizations about a bird, the Yellow-breasted Bunting, that was once one of the most abundant in Europe and Asia, which is now being hunted down to extinction. Its population has plunged by 90 percent since 1980, all but disappearing from eastern Europe, Japan and large parts of Russia, said a study, published in the Conservation Biology journal.

The decline is attributed to the Chinese eating habits. China has already banned the hunting of the species, known in the country as the "rice bird", since 1997. However, millions of these birds, along with other songbirds, were still being killed for food and sold on the black market as late as 2013, said the study. The Yellow-breasted Bunting is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as an "endangered" species due to rapid population decline from trapping outside their breeding grounds.

If nothing is done, the Yellow-breasted Bunting may follow the fate of the Passenger Pigeon. According to Wikipedia, the Passenger Pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America, and possibly the world.

It accounted for more than a quarter of all birds in North America. The species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century to extinction early in the 20th century.

Reduction in numbers occurred from habitat loss when European settlement led to mass deforestation. Next, pigeon meat was commercialized as a cheap food for slaves and the poor in the 19th century, resulting in hunting on a massive and mechanized scale. The world's last Passenger Pigeon named Martha, died on September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Would the most abundant bird in the Philippines, the Maya (Eurasian Tree Sparrow), suffer the same fate? Maybe not because the relatively small bird is not eaten or hunted for food. Not yet anyway. Habitat destruction doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Maya either because they have adapted well in the urban setting. We see the bird inside our houses and churches. Probably when food becomes scarce, or when a local Chef invents a delicious recipe for Maya birds, that will spell their doom.

There are however local birds that may have become extinct or are in danger of becoming extinct, due to hunting for food. I don't see wild quails, Pugong Dalan, anymore. I'm not sure if they are still abundant in other provinces. How about the batu-bato (Zebra Dove)? I still see a few of them roaming in our yard in Mabalacat City but their small numbers might be a sign of decline. These birds usually travel in pairs.

In danger of extinction due to hunting is the Philippine wild duck (scientific name: Anas luzonica) locally known as Dumara. It is the country's only endemic duck. Hunting this bird is illegal because it is included in the government’s conservation list. Those who are caught hunting this duck faced up to four years in prison and a fine P 30,000 to P300,000 for each bird if found guilty.

When a bird or any other animal becomes extinct, we also lose other species that are dependent on them for survival. Let us therefore do our part in preserving our diverse environment. In the end, it is us humans who will be affected.