Pinzón azul - Conservation of the blue chaffinch of Gran Canaria

LIFE98 NAT/E/005354

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Juan Carlos MORENO MORENO
Tel: +34922473930
Fax: +34922473947
Email: juancarlos.morenomoreno@gobiernodecanarias.org

Project description:


The Canary Islands' blue chaffinch is endemic to this archipelago and is one of the 23 globally threatened bird species in Europe. Two sub-species have been identified, which inhabit some of the endemic pinewood habitats of the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. On the latter there is a danger of extinction, and only one population remains, with about 150 individuals. This concentration in one single forest patch is the biggest threat to the sub-species, as any unforeseen accidents such as a fire or an epidemic, could result in its extinction. The species also has a very low rate of reproduction, probably due to intense predation of the nests and breeding birds. Work started on a conservation plan for the species in 1991. The elaboration of this plan was co-financed by LIFE from 1995 to 1997.


The project's objective was to reduce the risk of extinction of the Gran Canarian sub-species of the blue chaffinch. To achieve this, the project aimed to draw up and adopt a species recovery plan. The project intended to improve the conservation status of the only existing wild population by bringing the factors contributing to mortality under control and by boosting the birds' survival rate. The most important actions planned were the control of predators and the development of a supplementary feeding programme. The project also intended to establish some new population nuclei to reduce the risk of extinction of the species. This complex procedure was planned in several phases, starting from studies on the genetic variability and viability of the population. The next step was to develop a captive breeding programme allowing the breeding of about 20 birds each year. These birds would be released in the Tamadaba pinewood, an optimum habitat for the species, to restore the population in the area. Finally, leaflets, posters and television were to be used to warn against starting fires in the pinewoods, considered a major threat for the target species.


This project, a continuation of an earlier project that was carried out between 1994 and 1997 (B4-3200/94/776), made a very important contribution to the conservation of the blue chaffinch and the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated for it. The species is considered as priority for funding under LIFE-Nature. The main project achievements were as follows:

  • The monitoring of the only wild population of this singular species provided information that was very useful in trying to improve its status. A flexible decision-making approach to habitat management was implemented, so that the SPA where the only population lives was managed according to technical criteria based on a broad knowledge of the species' requirements and the threats to it identified.
  • As a result of habitat and species management, a significant improvement of the species’ conservation status was recorded, from a net yearly population loss of about 15 percent to stabilisation and even population growth, both in absolute numbers and in breeding success figures. The final population figures stabilised at around 185 birds, with the population spread through a 3,000 hectare forest patch (enlarged since the beginning of the project).
  • In addition, the data collected during the project period were used to develop population viability models, giving projections of the extinction risk under different scenarios in which several conditions of the population and the habitat were simulated. These models constitute a very good basis for future management.
  • The species recovery plan was drafted, including consultation with the main relevant stakeholders. It contains all the relevant measures necessary to guarantee the conservation of the blue chaffinch. The management of the species is being undertaken according to the provisions of the plan.
  • A high quality facility for captive keeping and breeding, funded by LIFE, was created and maintained. Many difficulties arose in creating a reliable captive breeding methodology, and ultimately the project did not succeed in its aim of producing a pool of birds to allow for reintroduction. However, a large proportion of the required work was completed, a series of protocols and methodologies were tried and refined, and a large pool of information about captive breeding and its problems, which could be valuable for other passerine conservation programmes in the EU, was made available.
  • A pilot experimental release of birds was also carried out, involving the release and permanent monitoring of six birds in an area selected as optimum to host a new blue chaffinch population nucleus. The beneficiary drew a series of interesting conclusions about this pilot work, which will be of great value when the definitive reintroduction is carried out. With this experience of research and testing, the island of Gran Canaria should become a focal point regarding the conservation management of birds.
  • Several people were trained in different issues regarding the species, from caring for birds in captivity and breeding, to field techniques. They should be the guarantee for future transmission of knowledge amongst the competent bodies in charge of the species, and the application of the knowledge generated to other similar species, both in the Canary Islands and more generally. The projects value in 'pump-priming' has already been demonstrated by the fact that some of the protocols developed have been used by the same team to breed chicks of the endangered species Calandrella rufescens, with optimum results.
  • Different stakeholders, such as the forestry sector, the army and the administration managers, became more aware of the issues, thus helping prevent certain activities and careful surveying of the potential external threats to the species’ habitat (such as accidental forest fires). Two permanent posts for the breeding centre, which were intended to continue after the project’s end, and one for a coordinator biologist, were created thanks to the project. The project was one of the first conservation passerine programmes involving captive breeding, with important demonstration value.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds
Information - Governance - Awareness raising - Information


monitoring system‚  environmental training‚  nature conservation‚  emergency plan‚  management plan‚  endangered species‚  population dynamics‚  protected area‚  conservation of genetic resources‚  introduction of animal species‚  decision making support‚  environmental awareness

Target EU Legislation

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

Target species

 Fringilla teydea     

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación Territorial
Type of organisation Regional authority
Description The Land Planning and Environment Ministry of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands is responsible for management planning for endangered species and national areas, and for the designation of Natura 2000 sites.
Partners None


Project reference LIFE98 NAT/E/005354
Duration 01-JAN-1999 to 31-DEC -2002
Total budget 329,396.37 €
EU contribution 197,637.82 €
Project location Canarias(España)


Read more:

Publication: Article-Paper Title: MtDNA control region diversity in the blue chaffinch, Fringilla teydea. Molecular Ecology, 9(9): 1421-1427. Author: J. Pestano, R. P. Brown., F. Rodríguez Year: 2000 No of pages: 7
Publication: Book Title: El pinar canario: fauna y conservación Author: G. Delgado & Naranjo, J.J. Year: 2000 Editor: Gob. de Canarias. Cons.P.Territorial y M.Ambiente No of pages: 114


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version