treasure of Tronqueira
It is, today, considered a vulnerable species but it was once one of the most endangered birds in Europe. Its population is stable, around 1000 individuals, as a result of many conservation efforts made over a decade to save the species.
The Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina) or Priolo, as it is known by the locals, is an endemic bird of the Azores whose distribution is reduced to the east of the island of São Miguel, in the councils of Povoação and Nordeste, in the few pockets of Laurel forest that are still remaining in this part of the island.
With a size of about 15 to 17 cm, it is easily identified by its black head, wings and tail and a grayish brown tone on the rest of the body. Its call is a melancholic whistle easily recognizable in the middle of the forest.
© Pedro Monteiro
Centuries of threats
This is a bird intimately linked to the history of Azores. The first settlers arrived on the islands in the 15th century, finding there a dense Laurel forest and this delicate and abundant bird.
Centuries later, with a scarce habitat destroyed by Man, this bird is regarded, by the locals, as a pest. And it is often captured and chased due to its preference for feeding of the orange blossoms, the main source of economy of São Miguel's Island at the time.
Nowadays, in Azores, exotic species are threatening the native vegetation and the Azores Bullfinch. Plant species such as the Ginger Lilly (Hedychium gardneranum), Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra arborea), Chilean Rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) or Cheesewood (Pittosporum undulatum) and invasive fauna such as rats and mice (Rattus sp.) can have a very negative impact on the species.
Conservation and sustainability
Preserving one of the rarest species in Europe is not an easy task and this was the challenge that SPEA accepted when it applied in 2003 for the first conservation project for the preservation of the Priolo.
Thus began the history of conservation of a species on the verge of extinction. To date, three projects have been developed focused on habitat recovery - Laurel Forest of Azores - but also, with the sustainability of this species in mind, through environmental education of the populations and awareness of those visiting the Lands of Priolo in search of this species: