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3 birds added to most threatened list

An Ethiopian lark, a Galapagos finch and a spectacularly colored hummingbird only recently discovered in Colombia have been added to the list of the world's most threatened species, an environmental group said yesterday.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature - the producer each year of a Red List of endangered species - said the Sidamo lark could soon become Africa's first known bird extinction as the Ethiopian savanna becomes overgrown by bush, farmland and overgrazing.

"This is a species that is absolutely on the edge," said Martin Fowlie, spokesman for Britain-based BirdLife International, whose monitoring determines which birds make the list.

The Sidamo lark is joined as a "critically endangered" species by the medium tree-finch in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands and the gorgeted puffleg - a Colombian mountain bird with an appearance as flamboyant as its name.

The black bird with a puffy white underbelly and a blue-and-green throat was only discovered in 2005, but is surviving on just 1,200 hectares of habitat left in the cloud forests of the Pinche mountain range, which are being lost to coca growing.

"Cocaine production is the main threat," Fowlie said, adding only about 25 of the pufflegs have been seen. The total population "is likely to be incredibly small."

The situation for some species has improved, however.

New Zealand's Chatham petrel, whose dark gray stripes give its wings an "M'' appearance, has been moved to endangered from critically endangered, thanks to conservation work from authorities, the conservation body said.

"In global terms, things continue to get worse," said Leon Bennun, science and policy chief at BirdLife. "But there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward."


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