Blue chaffinch

Fringilla teydea

SUBFAMILY

Fringillinae

TAXONOMY

Fringilla teydea Webb Berthelot & Moquin-Tandon, 1841. Two subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Canary Islands chaffinch, Teydefinch; French: Pinson bleu; German: Teydefink; Spanish: Pinzón Azul.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The body length is about 5.9 in (15 cm). The male is uniformly slate-blue, darker on the back than on the belly, and whitish beneath the rump. It has faint wing-bars and a whitish eye-ring. The female is more drably gray-blue.

DISTRIBUTION

The blue chaffinch is endemic to the Canary Islands off northwestern Africa. It is restricted to the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

HABITAT

The blue chaffinch inhabits pine forest almost exclusively, at altitudes ranging from 2,300 to 6,600 ft (700 and 2,000 m). It inhabits both natural pine forest and older planted stands. It prefers areas with an undergrowth of broom (Chamaecytisus proliferus).

BEHAVIOR

The blue chaffinch is a non-migratory species. It is a melodic singer and is rather unafraid of humans.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The blue chaffinch feeds on seeds, particularly those of pine. It also eats insects and other arthropods, and feeds its young almost exclusively with this food.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The female blue chaffinch builds a nest of pine needles and branches of broom lined with moss, feathers, grasses, and rabbit hair. It is usually located in a pine tree, but occasionally may be found in heath (Erica arborea) or laurel (Laurus azorica). The female incubates a clutch of (usually) two eggs for 14-16 days. The chicks are blind and down-covered when hatched and are fed by both the male and female. Fledging takes place in 17-18 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The IUCN lists the blue chaffinch as Conservation Dependent. This songbird has declined greatly in abundance. This decline began in the early decades of the nineteenth century because of the destruction and disturbance of their restricted habitat of mountain pine forests, and also because of excessive shooting by naturalists and commercial specimen collectors. In 2001, only about 1,500 breeding pairs were left, and their remaining forest habitat is becoming increasingly lost and fragmented, largely because of inappropriate forestry management. Without effective conservation of this rare species and its habitat, it could soon become endangered.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The blue chaffinch is a rare species, and its sightings are much appreciated by birders and other naturalists that visit its island habitat. This can lead to some local economic benefits through ecotourism. In the past their melodic songs made them a prized possession among sailors, but commercial trade in these rare birds has ceased. ♦

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