The Azores bullfinch is protected under Portuguese law, and the area in which it is found in Pico da Vara has been designated a Natural Forest Reserve by the Regional Government of the Azores (2) (4). It was also designated a Special Protection Area by the Azorean Government under the EU Wild Birds Directive (4).
Although it is thought to be virtually impossible now to eradicate the exotic plants that threaten the species, efforts are being made to control them, whilst at the same time remaining patches of native vegetation are being restored and enlarged (3) via the planting of native species raised in nurseries, which began in early 1995 (4). An Action Plan for the species was published in 1996 and a current project aims to restore 300 hectares of laurel forest to increase suitable habitat and food availability for the species (2). However, native plants are often slow-growing and the positive effects of such efforts may only be seen in the long term (3).
An important five year project, headed by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), is also underway to save this rare bird from extinction (5). The project aims to enlarge the current Special Protected Area (SPA), produce a site management plan, and implement a number of governmental policy measures that will benefit the Azores bullfinch habitat and help deal with the general problem of introduced plants (5). Most of the proposed management initiatives involve the further clearance of exotic invasive plant species and the planting of native species in the core area and buffer zones (6). In addition, the project aims to plant fruit tree orchards at lower altitudes to improve food availability in the end of the winter (one of the limiting factors presently affecting the Azores bullfinch population), and also to raise public awareness on the plight of this rare bird (6). This follows a short booklet on the species, its habitat, diet, feeding behaviour and conservation that has already been distributed to schools in São Miguel (2) (3). This is helping to raise awareness of the fragile position the bird is in, and hopefully encourage local support for the ongoing conservation measures needed to save this rare, endemic species.