[order] Passeriformes | [family] Fringillidae | [latin] Fringilla teydea | [UK] Blue Chaffinch | [FR] Pinson bleu | [DE] Teydefink | [ES] Pinzón Azul | [IT] Fringuello delle Canarie | [NL] Blauwe vink

Blauwe vink determination

copyright: J. Roig

Small bird (L 15 cm), uniformly blue coloured, more dark upperparts than belly. The Blue Chaffinch inhabits Canarian pine woods almost exclusively, at altitude which range from 700 and 2,000 m, and include both natural and old replanted forest. The species seems to prefer areas with and undergrowth of the shrub (Chamaecytisus proliferus). The diet is mainly seeds and insects. Resident.

The area of pinewoods on Gran Canaria has decreased due to various factors especially past felling of trees and forest fires. They currently cover approximately 10,875 ha. leafforestation has been going on since the 1940s and Blue Chaffinches have colonised areas planted with Canary pine where these fall within the area of the tree's natural distribution. Chaffinches will occasionally feed outside the pinewoods during severe weather conditions, and during the breeding season they are found in high pinewood areas with a high proportion of broom in the undergrowth where they search for insects and seeds.

Fringilla teydea is endemic to Europe, where it has a very small range (<500 km2) on the Canary Islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Its European breeding population is small (as few as 1,000 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. The species remained stable overall during 1990-2000, with the decline of the small Gran Canaria population outweighed by the stable trend of the larger Tenerife population. Nevertheless, its population size renders it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations, and consequently this globally Near Threatened species is evaluated as Rare.
This endemic finch of the Canary islands is strictly dependent on the native pine (Pinus canariensis) forests of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Its total population is estimated at 1000-1500 breeding pairs, but the species is nearly extinct on Gran Canaria following destruction of its habitat.The Blue Chaffinch comprises two subspecies one found on Tenerife (nominate teydea) and the other on Gran Canaria (subspecies polatzeki). The Gran Canaria birds are up to 10% smaller and with duller plumage.

Canary pine seeds constitute the main food source. The birds feed both in the trees and on the ground, extracting the seeds from the half-open cones by breaking them open with their thick, powerful bills. They occasionally feed on other types of fruit and also eat a large amount of insects (mainly nocturnal butterflies and some beetles) taken from cracks in pine bark. In the breeding season the birds eat more insects and larvae than at other times, probably due to the rich source of protein that this provides for the chicks.

Fringilla teydea is found on Tenerife and the subspecies polatzeki occurs on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain. The total population is estimated to be 1,800-2,740 individuals, with the majority on Tenerife, and 185-260 individuals on Gran Canaria. The latter race occupies a tiny range which is declining: it is restricted to patches of woodland at Ojeda, Inagua and Pajonales with a few pairs thought to occur at Tamadaba. However, as the Gran Canaria race is such a small proportion of the total population, the species's range and population are effectively stable. It is largely dependent on Canary pine Pinus canariensis and will inhabit reforested areas where these fall within the natural distribution of this tree. Although Canary pine seeds constitute its main food source, birds occasionally feed outside pinewoods during severe weather. During the breeding season, it is found in pinewoods at 1,000-2,000 m with a high proportion of broom Chamaecytisus proliferus in the understorey. The breeding season lasts from April to early August. Two eggs are generally laid. It suffers from illegal trade, primarily to Italy, Germany and Belgium, which may have an effect on population levels. Its pinewood habitat has been subject to intense commercial exploitation which has resulted in habitat fragmentation and population isolation, particularly on Gran Canaria. Forest fires have historically been important in the destruction of pinewoods on Gran Canaria. Protected areas are heavily used for recreation and leisure on Gran Canaria and this may cause disturbance. It has been legally protected from hunting, capture, trade, egg or chick collection since 1980. Key areas on Gran Canaria have been protected since 1982 and El Teide forest on Tenerife and six important areas on Gran Canaria were designated as National Parks or Natural Areas in 1987. A conservation programme was initiated in 1991 and a captive breeding programme began in 1992. An action plan was published in 1996. Monitoring and research should be continued and expanded. An official, governmental action plan should be produced to detail conservation requirements such as habitat restoration, prevention of forest fires and eradication of illegal trade. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Birds on Tenerife pair up in April and breeding lasts until the end of July or the beginning of August. The nest is built by the female, usually located in pine trees or sometimes heath Erica arborea or laurel Laurus azorica. Nests are formed from pine needles and branches of broom Chamaecytisus proliferus and lined with moss, feathers, grasses and rabbit hair. The clutch generally consists of two eggs; in the case of the Tenerife subspecies they are laid during the first fortnight in June although in the south they may be laid as early as April; in Gran Canaria eggs are laid in the last half of April and the first half of June. The female incubates for 14-16 days. The chicks are blind and covered in down on hatching and are fed by both the male and the female. The chicks remain in the nest 17-18 days.

Sedentary, making only very local movements in forests of pine. Occurs at high altitude even at times of deep snow cover, though probably makes limited altitudinal movements then. Recorded occasionally above treeline, and exceptionally at some distance from usual range.