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Fifth of bird species 'threatened'

Fewer than 300 Azores bullfinches survive.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- More than a fifth of the world's bird species are threatened with extinction, according to an annual survey published on Wednesday.

BirdLife, a global alliance of conservation groups, said that 1,212 of the planet's 9,775 species were in imminent danger of disappearing, while a further 788 were considered "near threatened."

Among the species currently at risk, 179 were categorized as "critically endangered," the highest level of threat.

These included the Azores bullfinch, one of Europe's rarest songbirds, which was upgraded from "endangered."

Fewer than 300 of the species survive as a consequence of deforestation and changes to the vegetation of its native islands.

Last year BirdLife launched a five-year project to save the species, with the Portuguese government creating a Special Protection Area to revive its surviving habitat.

Three other European species appear on the list for the first time. The Kruper's nuthatch has been threatened due to tourism development in its key Turkish habitats, while the European Roller, which has populations in Russia and Turkey has also declined markedly.

And, despite a successful reintroduction program in the UK, the red kite population has fallen across Europe.

In New Zealand, where at least five types of bird are known to have become extinct since 1900, an explosion of the introduced rat population in 1999 and 2000 continues to threaten several species, including the critically endangered orange-fronted parakeet, which now numbers fewer than 50 birds.

There is some good news for birdwatchers, however. There were eight sightings of the native North American ivory-billed woodpecker in the U.S. in 2004 and 2005, more than 60 years after it was believed to have become extinct.

The Seychelles magpie robin, which had dwindled to less than 15 birds in 1965, was downgraded to endangered as a consequence of a program that has seen the bird relocated to predator-free islands, reviving the population to more than 130.

Ornithologists also discovered a new species of rail on the island of Calayan in the Philippines.

But BirdLife said it had found no trace of the thick-billed ground-dove in the Solomon Islands and had classified the species as extinct.

"Despite the recent rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, overall more species are currently sliding towards oblivion," said BirdLife's Ed Parnell.

"One in five bird species on the planet now faces a risk in the short or medium-term of joining the Dodo, Great Auk and 129 other species that we know have become extinct since 1500."

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