Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch Fringilla polatzeki


Justification of Red List Category

This species has a small population, and a small, fragmented range, and is currently restricted to two locations. However, it is not declining, and although its core population halved in 2008 following a forest fire in 2007, it had recovered to pre-fire levels by 2011, and has continued to increase since then. For these reasons, it is classified as Endangered.

Population justification
The total population is estimated to be 237-387 individuals, with 207-337 at Inagua (35 km2) and 30-50 at Cumbre (18 km2) (Carrascal 2016, Delgado et al. 2016). As some of the birds recorded by the annual monitoring scheme at Inagua are probably not breeding individuals, it is prudent to use the lower estimate when assessing its extinction risk. This implies a minimum total population of 237 birds in 2016 (207 at Inagua and 30 at Cumbre). These form part of the same subpopulation, as colour-marked birds from Inagua were first found breeding at Cumbre, before captive-reared birds were released there to reinforce the wild population.

Trend justification
The results of the annual monitoring scheme show clearly that the species population is currently increasing, and can best be described as having fluctuated within a fairly narrow range over most of the last twenty years (Carrascal et al. 2016). Although the devastating fire in 2007 caused the population to halve in 2008, it subsequently recovered rapidly, with numbers back up to pre-fire levels by 2011, and around 50% higher again by 2016.

Distribution and population

Fringilla polatzeki is found only on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, Spain, where it is presently known from only two locations: Reserva Natural Integral de Inagua-Ojeda-Pajonales (39 km2) and La Cumbre (18 km2) (Carrascal et al. 2016, Delgado et al. 2016). It was formerly more widespread, but is now restricted to patches of woodland at these two sites. A forest fire in 2007 caused the population at Inagua to halve by 2008, but it recovered rapidly to its pre-fire levels by 2011, and has since increased further (Carrascal et al. 2016).


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. It is found in pinewoods at 700-1,800 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. The main cause of breeding failure is predation, mostly by the Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major (Rodríguez and Moreno 2008).


Forest fires have been important in the destruction of pinewoods on Gran Canaria, most recently in the summer of 2007, when significant areas were destroyed, including at the most important site at Inagua. Protected areas are heavily used for recreation and leisure on Gran Canaria, and this may cause disturbance. Inbreeding may also be a significant threat (Barov and Derhé 2011). It suffers from being captured and kept in cages, and possibly also still 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. The main cause of breeding failure is predation, mostly by the Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major (Rodríguez and Moreno 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It has been legally protected from hunting, capture, trade, egg or chick collection since 1980. Key areas have been protected since 1982, and six important areas 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 (González 1996). Captive breeding started anew in 2005, and the first chicks were released in 2010 (Delgado et al. 2016). Fire prevention measures are implemented, particularly during the summer, and access to suitable habitat is limited. There is also an ongoing project that focuses on the restoration of fire-damaged pine forest. Cats have been controlled since 1996. Research is being conducted into the potential threat of inbreeding (Barov and Derhé 2011). A new recovery plan has been ongoing since 2013 (F. Rodríguez in litt. 2016), and from 2015 a LIFE+ PINZON Project has been underway and is due to run to 2020, aiming to increase the population and create sustainable population centres through various means, such as captive breeding and the enhancement of ecological corridors (see http://lifepinzon.org/).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitoring and research should be continued and expanded. In addition, the species should be included under CITES and adequate protection should be ensured under the Countryside Law and Wildlife Protection Law. Forest management should focus on thinning areas of dense pine trees (as in García-del-Rey et al. 2010) where no undergrowth persists and reafforesting areas within the former range of pine forests on the islands (García-del-Rey and Cresswell 2005). Carry out further work to divert recreational activities from important sites. Conduct public awareness campaigns. Protect drinking sites. Potentially start a new captive breeding programme (E. Garcia-del-Ray in litt. 2016).



Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J., Derhé, M., Capper, D., Burfield, I., Peet, N., Westrip, J., Bird, J.

Iñigo, A., Lifjeld, J., Garcia-del-Rey, E., Carrascal, L., Lorenzo, J., Moreno, Á., Suárez, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Fringilla polatzeki. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/10/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/10/2017.