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  BIRDING AZORES

Untitled Document
  Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula murina (Priôlo)
 
 

Serra da Tronqueira 2007-06-13

Photos: Tommy Nordström

 
   The Azores bullfinch is one of Europe's most endangered birds. It is only found in the east of the island of São Miguel, in just a few square kilometres of wood in Serra da Tronqueira. The finch was a locally abundant pest of fruit orchards in the nineteenth century but became rare after 1920. Changes to the native vegetation of the Azores have destroyed the species' natural habitat and led to a decline in numbers to just 120 pairs. The population today is around 1000 individuals. Breeding occurs from mid-June to late August. Birds feed on seeds of herbaceous plants in summer, seeds of fleshy fruits in autumn, tree seeds and fern sporangia in winter and flower buds in spring. A mosaic of vegetation types is therefore necessary, and due to periodically shortage of food, there are today a number of feeding stations. There is also a management plan which aim to "manage the habitats of the Special Protection Area Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme in a manner that is compatible with a sustainable future, guaranteeing the conservation of Priolo". This means in practice to save and enlarge the areas with native vegetation. Read more about the Priolo project here.
   The most striking feature that distinguishes the Azores bullfinch from its mainland counterpart is that males and females look the same, most like the female and lacking the red of the male Common Bullfinch.
   The most visited area to see the Azores Bullfinch is along the first part of the small dirt road towards Nordeste which sets off from the main road about 7 km northeast of Povoação. If you want more areas to search for the birds, or see more of its habitats, you can use the following tips from Thijs Valkenburg who has been involved in the Priolo Project:
   "The Priolo´s distribution coincides roughly with the Pico da Vara/ Ribeira do Guilherme SPA (special protection area) perimeter. Any road inside this area crossing a suitable habitat can be a potential spot to find this critically endangered bird. Although, there are three easy-finding places where you can get a good approach to the native laurel forest and consequently to the Priolo:
   1. Tronqueira's viewpoint situated in the middle of the dirt road from Povoação to Nordeste. From this viewpoint you can take a good look at the biggest patch of native vegetation in the Azores. This is where the LIFE/Priolo Project fieldwork actions are going on. Waiting a while on this place you have good chances to listen the melancholic whistle of the Priolo, if you follow the sound you can have a change observe the bird in its most typical habitat. Best in May-September.
    2. Near the ending of the one way road towards Pico Bartolomeu (south-eastern part of Serra da Tronqueira), there is a probability to see the bird when feeding in the road edges. Best in July-August.
   3. Salto de Cavalo's viewpoint (northeast of Furnas) is one of the most western places where you can find this exclusive bird. The asphalt road from this viewpoint to Povoação goes around native vegetation. Any place where you can take a broad look at this forest is a potential place to see the bird. Best in July-August."

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