Of the approximately 300 species in the Falconiformes order, thirteen are listed as Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction, or Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction. Another fifty-five are listed as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction, or Near Threatened, close to becoming threatened with extinction. One reason so many are in trouble is that a lot of habitats have changed from forests and grasslands to farms and cities. When that happens, the prey animals that live in the habitats often disappear—the raptors that lived there cannot find the food they need, so they often move away or die off.
When raptors can no longer live in an area, this indicates that an environment may no longer be healthy for the all of the wildlife and humans living there. For example, if some poisonous chemicals get into a lake, they get passed along from little fish to bigger fish, as the fish eat one another. When an eagle eats a large fish from the lake, it takes in all of the poison passed along to the fish. In the 1950s and 1960s, bald eagles in the United States were laying eggs with such thin shells that they broke before hatching. It took some detective work by scientists to discover that the birds were being harmed by an insect poison called DDT. The poison was being passed along to the birds from the animals they ate, and these poisons were making the eggshells thin. DDT is now banned in the U.S. and the eagles are making a comeback. But it is still being used in many other countries, and conservationists are working hard to change that.
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