The island of São Miguel, part of the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, has successfully restored the Azores bullfinch, a bird species once critically endangered, through successive conservation projects.
“It’s not just the number of individuals but also the trend,” says Azucena de la Cruz from the SPEA, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds. “The population trend has been stable for the last eight years.”
The population of the bird species endemic to São Miguel was below 100 breeding pairs in 1994 when the first LIFE project was launched. The Azores bullfinch – known as Priolo by the locals and Pyrrhula murina by the scientists – now has a population of more than 1,300 individuals. It went from “critically endangered” on the IUCN red list in 2003 to “vulnerable” in 2016. The six-year LIFE Terras do Priolo project – from 2013 to 2019 – aimed at ensuring the birds flourished in the long term by restoring the unique laurel forests where they live, improving access to food, and reducing the impact of alien predators. The LIFE, LAURISSILVA SUSTENTAVEL initiative restored 52 hectares of native laurel forest and planted 86,000 new trees. Four hundred fifty hectares have been restored with 500,000 trees planted, improving the conservation status of 24 species and 13 habitat types protected under the EU Birds Directive and Habitats Directive.