Actions for the conservation of the blue chaffinch in Gran Canaria

LIFE94 NAT/E/001159

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Asunción DELGADO
Tel: 34.22.241000
Fax: 34.22.287115

Project description:


This project concerns the conservation of three bird species which are endemic to the Canary Islands. In Gran Canaria, the blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea polatzeki) is restricted to the woods of Canarian pine along the western side of the island. Its population was estimated at between 180 and 260 specimens and was consequently seriously threatened with extinction. As for the other two endemics, the dark-tailed laurel pigeon (Columba bollii) and the white tailed laurel pigeon (Columba junoniae), they inhabit almost exclusively the Macaronesian laurel forests of the Canaries, which is in itself a priority habitat type under the Habitats Directive. In 1985, the population of each species was estimated to be no more than 600 pairs. The principal causes of the decline in these species are the destruction and fragmentation of their habitats. This is caused by, amongst other things, commercial harvesting of the forests, inadequate sylvicultural techniques and frequent forest fires, as well as poaching and predation (from rats, feral cats and crows) within the nesting sites.


For all three species, the main objective of this project is to consolidate their populations both in terms of their number and their distribution area. This will be done by greater protection and improvement of their habitats, predator control and restrictions on other damaging activities. These measures will be concentrated in areas where the species are most threatened and the aim is to involve the local population in their implementation. For the blue chaffinch, a captive breeding programme will also be set up to re-enforce the core of the most threatened population. This project is divided into two sub-projects. Subproject A is aimed at re-establishing and improving the habitat in order to increase population numbers and the distribution range of the Blue Chaffinch in Gran Canaria. Subproject B is aimed at consolidating an important third population of laurel pigeons on Tenerife (in the central part of the island) that connects the two main populations currently found at both ends of the island (Anaga and Monte del Agua).


Subproject A provided the tools to stop the decline of the blue chaffinch in Gran Canaria: 11 drinking stations were secured; four wardens reduced disturbance. Results showed that the main predators of the species are the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), the common raven (Corvus corax) on the nests and feral cats and the Eurasian spprowhawk (Accipiter nisus) on adults. Nine cats were caught and trial captures of sparrowhawks began. However, analysis indicated that as predators had alternative sources of food, their numbers were likely to be maintained. An existing captive breeding station was enlarged - works were completed but breeding trials were incomplete.
Subproject B provided the necessary scientific, socio-economic, and technical basis to conserve laurel forest pigeons in Tenerife and has increased the size and quality of the habitat. Project workers co-operated with other habitat restoration work activities; seven drinking stations were installed; and surveillance work led to the arrest of two poachers. The use of poles cut from laurel forests was reduced by confirming that metal structures (to support vines and tomato plants) increased farming profitability – initial investment was supported by the derpartment of Agriculture. The project identified the need to reduce pole cutting by support and compensation measures. The technical information was used in another LIFE project across the islands (LIFE96 NAT/E/003095 “Columba bollii/junoniae - Increase in the size population of Columba bollii y Columba junoniae”). The project has developed a very wide and successful awareness raising campaign: talks were given to all schools, teacher centres and cultural centres on four islands; a 36 hour university course was delivered to a key audience of stakeholders; and 115 TV spots were broadcast, covering 98% of the target audience.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  endemic species‚  protected area‚  public awareness campaign‚  island‚  restoration measure

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Target species

 Columba bollii   Columba junoniae   Fringilla teydea 

Natura 2000 sites

SPA ES0000109 Anaga
SCI ES7020095 Anaga



Coordinator Gobierno de Canarias - Consejería de Política Territorial - Viceconsejería de Medio Ambiente
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The Department of the Environment of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands (a Spanish autonomous region) is responsible for nature and environmental protection in the Canary Islands.


Project reference LIFE94 NAT/E/001159
Duration 01-NOV-1993 to 30-NOV -1996
Total budget 1,467,000.00 €
EU contribution 1,100,000.00 €
Project location Canarias(España)


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