Tuesday 18 June
Blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea)
Blue chaffinch fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Blue chaffinch description
The blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea) is a rather large, robust species with relatively long legs (3). The adult male is a pretty slate-blue colour over most of its body (2) (3), although its chin, throat and wingbars are paler (2) (3). Its wings are black (2), and it has white undertail-coverts (3). The light blue bill is stout at the base (3), and the pointy tip is black during the breeding season (2) (3).
Both the male and the female blue chaffinch have a thin whitish eye-ring which breaks in front of the eye (3). The legs and feet are slate-grey tinged with pink in the male, and a deep pinkish-brown in the female (3).
The female blue chaffinch has the same plumage pattern as the male (2), but is quite different in colour, with brown or dull olive-brown upperparts, pale grey underparts and pale buff wingbars (3). The bill of the female is grey-brown with a pale pinkish tinge to the base of the lower mandible (3). Juveniles of this species look very similar to the female, although they are generally slightly darker (3).
The song of the blue chaffinch consists of a descending series of two or three repeated notes (2) (3) (5). It has been described as being similar to the chaffinch’s (3), although it is slower (3) (5), shorter and weaker (6). Whereas the chaffinch finishes its song with a flourish, the blue chaffinch ends with several harsh notes (3) (5), described as a ‘churr’ or ‘buzz’ (7).
The call of the blue chaffinch is a ‘chirp’, which is sometimes repeated as a double note. It can also be a quite slurred ‘che-wir’ or ‘sdderrer’. The Gran Canaria subspecies has been reported to have a softer, low ‘twee’ note (3). In flight, the blue chaffinch gives a fairly croaky (6), sharp ‘sipp’ call (3).Top
Blue chaffinch biology
The blue chaffinch pairs with a mate in April, with breeding lasting until the end of July or early August (2) (4). The female is in charge of building the nest, which is usually located in pine trees and occasionally within heath (Erica arborea) or laurel (Laurus azorica). The nest is made of pine needles and branches of broom, and is lined with feathers, moss, grasses and even rabbit hair (4).
The female blue chaffinch generally lays two eggs (2) (4), although the timing of egg-laying is different on each of the two islands. On Tenerife, the eggs are laid during the first two weeks in June, whereas on Gran Canaria the eggs are laid in the second half of April and the first half of June (4). The female incubates the clutch for between 14 and 16 days, before the blind, downy chicks hatch (4). Both the male and the female blue chaffinch feed the chicks, which remain in the nest for 17 or 18 days (4).
The blue chaffinch feeds primarily on Canary pine seeds (3) (4) (6), but it will occasionally feed on fruit (4) and flower seeds (3). The thick, powerful bill is used to break open cones in order to extract the seeds (4). Insects are often plucked from cracks in the pine bark and eaten (3) (4), particularly during the breeding season as this provides a rich source of protein for the chicks (4) (6). Chicks are mainly fed on caterpillars (3), while butterflies, moths and some beetles appear to be the preferred choice for the adults (3) (4). The blue chaffinch feeds both on the ground (3) (4) and in trees (4).
This species gathers together in family groups at the end of the breeding season to form small foraging flocks (3). Seasonal movements have not been reported for the blue chaffinch, although it has been known to move to lower elevations in the winter during harsh conditions. The blue chaffinch travels great distances in search of water, particularly in the summer (3).Top
Blue chaffinch range
The blue chaffinch is endemic to the western Canary Islands, Spain (2) (3). Two subspecies of blue chaffinch occur: Fringilla teydea teydea on Tenerife and Fringilla teydea polatzeki on Gran Canaria (2) (4). The majority of birds of this species are found on Tenerife, with only approximately 250 individuals occupying a tiny range on Gran Canaria (2).Top
Blue chaffinch habitat
The blue chaffinch is mainly found in Canary pine (Pinus canariensis) woodland (2) (3) (4). During the breeding season the blue chaffinch occurs at elevations of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres above sea level, in pinewoods with a high proportion of broom (Chamaecytisus proliferus) in the understorey (2) (4). Outside of the breeding season, the blue chaffinch has been known to occur from 300 to 2,300 metres above sea level (2).
This species is found in high densities in areas of rich undergrowth, but also where little ground cover is present. It has also been recorded in tree-heaths and in laurels within pine forest (3).
On Tenerife, the wooded habitat of the blue chaffinch occurs in a belt around the whole island between 1,000 and 2,000 metres above sea level, whereas on Gran Canaria, this species is restricted to just a few woods, mainly the pinewoods of Ojeda, Inagua and Pajonales (4).Top
Blue chaffinch status
The blue chaffinch is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Blue chaffinch threats
One of the principal threats to the blue chaffinch is habitat loss and fragmentation as a result of intense commercial exploitation of pinewood forests in the past (2) (4). This has led to the isolation of populations, particularly on Gran Canaria (2). Forest fires have also been the cause of pinewood destruction (2) (4), and a major fire in 2007 destroyed significant areas of important blue chaffinch habitat on Gran Canaria (2).
Predation, either by native species or feral cats, is not thought to be a major threat to the blue chaffinch, although some species including the long-eared owl (Asio otus), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and raven (Corvus corax) have been known to feed on it (4).
A further threat to the blue chaffinch is thought to be the natural lack of water available in the summer (4).Top
Blue chaffinch conservation
The blue chaffinch is listed in Annex I of the EU Wild Birds Directive (8) and it is also listed in Appendix II of the Bern Convention, which means that the blue chaffinch and its habitat should be strictly protected (9).
Since 1982, key areas for the blue chaffinch on Gran Canaria have been protected. In 1987, El Teide forest on Tenerife and six important areas on Gran Canaria were designated as Natural Parks or Natural Areas (2) (4).
In 1991, a conservation programme was initiated for the blue chaffinch which involved a variety of research studies and the implementation of both in-situ and ex-situ conservation and management measures (2) (4). This was followed by a captive breeding programme in 1992, an effort which was renewed in 2005 (2).
Current conservation actions include the implementation of fire prevention measures, especially during the summer, and the limitation of human access to suitable blue chaffinch habitat on Gran Canaria (2). An ongoing project on Gran Canaria is focusing on the restoration of fire-damaged pine forest, and research into the potential threat posed by inbreeding in the population is also being conducted on the island. Cats have been controlled on Gran Canaria since 1996, and now measures are being taken against alien species on Tenerife (2).
The Canary pine woodland habitat of the blue chaffinch is listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive, which means that it has been identified as an area of conservation concern (10).
Although the global population of the blue chaffinch appears to be showing a positive trend, the Gran Canaria subspecies is still in decline (3) and continues to require intensive conservation efforts (2).
Further proposed conservation actions for the blue chaffinch include expanding the monitoring and research efforts, producing an official governmental action plan, including this species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), protecting drinking sites for the birds and managing forests (2).Top
Find out more
More information on the blue chaffinch:
BirdLife International - Blue chaffinch:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Measures to conserve a species that occur outside of the natural range or habitat of the species. For example, in zoos or botanical gardens.
- Previously domesticated animals that have returned to a wild state.
- The breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Measures to conserve a species inside its natural range or habitat.
- In birds, the lower jaw and beak, but the term is also used to denote the two parts of the beak.
- Nominate subspecies
- When a species is divided into subspecies, the originally described population is classified as the nominate subspecies. Indicated by the repetition of the species name; for example, Cyclura nubila nubila is the nominate subspecies of the Cayman Islands ground iguana, Cyclura nubila.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
BirdLife International (October, 2011)
- Clement, P. (2011) Finches and Sparrows. A&C Black, London.
González, C. (1995) Action Plan for the Blue Chaffinch (Fringilla teydea). SEO/BirdLife and BirdLife International for the European Commission, Tenerife, Spain. Available at:
- MacKay, B.K. (2001) Bird Sounds: How and Why Birds Sing, Call, Chatter, and Screech. Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania.
- MobileReference (2008) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of European Birds: An Essential Guide To Birds Of Europe. MobileReference, Boston.
- Bell, P.R. (1959) Darwin’s Biological Work: Some Aspects Reconsidered. CUP Archive, Cambridge.
EU Birds Directive (October, 2011)
Council of Europe: Bern Convention (October, 2011)
EU Habitats Directive (October, 2011)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.