Unqualified, the statement that ≈1.3% of the ≈10,000 presently known bird species have become extinct since A.D. 1500 yields an estimate of ≈26 extinctions per million species per year (or 26 E/MSY). This is higher than the benchmark rate of ≈1 E/MSY before human impacts, but is a serious underestimate. First, Polynesian expansion across the Pacific also exterminated many species well before European explorations. Second, three factors increase the rate: (i) The number of known extinctions before 1800 is increasing as taxonomists describe new species from skeletal remains. (ii) One should calculate extinction rates over the years since taxonomists described the species. Most bird species were described only after 1850. (iii) Some species are probably extinct; there is reluctance to declare them so prematurely. Thus corrected, recent extinction rates are ≈100 E/MSY. In the last decades, the rate is <50 E/MSY, but would be 150 E/MSY were it not for conservation efforts. Increasing numbers of extinctions are on continents, whereas previously most were on islands. We predict a 21st century rate of ≈1,000 E/MSY. Extinction threatens 12% of bird species; another 12% have small geographical ranges and live where human actions rapidly destroy their habitats. If present forest losses continue, extinction rates will reach 1,500 E/MSY by the century's end. Invasive species, expanding human technologies, and global change will harm additional species. Birds are poor models for predicting extinction rates for other taxa. Human actions threaten higher fractions of other well known taxa than they do birds. Moreover, people take special efforts to protect birds.