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February 2020
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SPEA is an Environmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support research and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Home  > Lands of Priolo > The Azores Bullfinch

The Azores Bullfinch

Scientific name: Pyrrhula murina
Common name: Azores bullfinch, or Priolo locally
Family: Fringillidae
Order: Passeriforme

Description: Priolos measure between 15 and 17cm and weigh about 30g. It is a medium-sized, plump, short-winged, long-tailed, dull coloured finch. Black cap and facial area, tail and wings. Grey lesser covert, greater covert wing-bar and uropigyum. Brown back. Grey nape and uppertail-coverts. Pinkish-brown underparts. Both sexes are identical, but juveniles have brownish head up to the first moult.

Voice: The contact call is a short, flute-like and melancholic whistle phew which is very distinctive.

Listen here to the Azores bullfinch

Behaviour: The Azores bullfinch depends on the azorean laurel forest for its survival. It feeds of flower sprouts, seeds and fern spores of a variety od species, many of which are endemic to the azores. In summer, it feeds in open areas and in winter it remains in the altitudinal native forest. Azores bullfinch breeds in the laurel forest from June to the end of August.

Distribution: This bird is endemic to São Miguel Island in the Azores, more specifically to the mountain complex of Serra da Tronqueira situated to the east of this island,  and including the municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação. During the 20th century and due to hunting and, later, habitat deterioration the population of the Azores bullfinch was drastically reduced to a minimum of 100 couples distributed in a restricted area of about 500 hectares. Nowadays, its population is estimated at around 1182 birds*, limited to a few fragments of remaining native vegetation. However it is still one the most threatened passerine birds in all Europe.

Conservation Status: The Azores bullfinch is a protected species according to the European Directive on Birds and it is included in various lists of threatened animals, both at national level (Red Book of Vertebrates in Portugal) and at international level (IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals). The Special Protected Area (SPA) of Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme, which includes all of the distribution area of this species, was created with the main purpose of its protection and conservation. At the present date, this bird is listed as "Vulnerable" since 2016. However it was considered "Critically endangered" until 2010. Between 2010 and 2016 it was listed as "Endangered".

* 2017 data (Coelho, R., 2017)

More information about the Azores bullfinch:

  • Species Action Plan (2009-2019)
  • Anual monitoring reports: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Scientific papers
  • Ceia, R. S., Ramos, J. A., Heleno, R. H., Hilton, G. M. and Marques, T. A. 2011. Status assessment of the Critically Endangered Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina. Bird Conservation International 21: 477-489.
  • Ceia, R.; Heleno, R.; Ramos, J. A. 2009. Summer abundance and ecological distribution of passerines in native and exotic forests in São Miguel, Azores. Ardeola 56(1): 25-39.
  • Ceia, R.S., Sampaio, H.L., Parejo, S.H., Heleno, R.H., Arosa, M.L., Ramos, J.A. and Hilton, G.M. 2011. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater: does laurel forest restoration remove a critical winter food supply for the critically endangered Azores bullfinch? Biological Invasions 13: 93-104.
  • Gil, A., Ceia, R., Coelho, R., Teodósio, J., Sampaio, H., Veríssimo, C., ... & Timóteo, S. (2016). The Priolo Atlas: A citizen science-based census initiative for supporting Pyrrhula murina habitat conservation and restoration policies in São Miguel Island (Azores, Portugal). Ecological Engineering, 86, 45-52.
  • Monticelli, D.; Ceia, R.; Heleno, R.; Laborda, H.; Timóteo, S.; Jareo, D.; Hilton, G. M.; Ramos, J. A. 2010. High survival rate of a critically endangered species, the Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina, as a contribution to population recovery. Journal of Ornithology 151(3): 627-636.
  • Ramos, J. 1995. The diet of the Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina and floristic variation within its range. Biological Conservation 71: 237-249.


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