Archived 2016 topics: Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina): downlist from Endangered to Vulnerable?

Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina is confined to the east of the island of São Miguel in the Azores (Portugal). It is currently listed as Endangered under Criteria B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii), as it occurs at only one locality (Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme Special Protection Area) and has a very small range, within which the quality of its habitat was thought to be decreasing due to the spread of invasive plant species, when it was last assessed in 2011.

Since then, a considerable amount of ongoing habitat conservation work has been undertaken, much of it in the framework of successive EU-funded LIFE projects, to control invasive plants and restore native vegetation ( It is therefore timely to review the species’ status and assess whether these actions have been sufficiently successful to warrant downlisting.

Population censuses in 2008 and 2012 confirmed that the species’ population trend is at least stable and probably increasing, mirroring the results of annual monitoring between 2008 and 2014 (Gil et al. 2016). In 2012, the total breeding population size was estimated as 227-761 pairs or roughly 454-1522 mature individuals (Veríssimo 2013), the Extent of Occurrence (EOO) as 137 km2 and the Area of Occupancy (AOO) as 90 km2 (Gil et al. 2016).

Although its population and range size remain very small, the species is not declining or fluctuating, so it does not trigger Criteria A, B or C. In 2012, the lower (454) and mean (988) estimates of its population size met the threshold (<1,000 mature individuals) for Vulnerable under Criterion D1. At 90 km2, its area of occupancy is too large (>20 km2) to trigger Criterion D2 on the basis of range size. However, it remains restricted to a single location on one island, such that it is prone to the effects of human activities or stochastic events within a very short time period in an uncertain future, and is thus capable of rapidly becoming Critically Endangered or even Extinct, which does trigger Criterion D2 (<6 locations).

Consequently, it is proposed to downlist the status of this species to Vulnerable (D1+2) in the 2016 IUCN Red List. Comments on this proposal would be welcome, as would any information about whether the growing population now exceeds 1,000 mature individuals (500 pairs). The objective of the EU Species Action Plan is to achieve and maintain a population of >1,000 pairs by 2019 (Teodósio et al. 2009).


Gil, A., Ceia, R., Coelho, R., Teodósio, J., Sampaio, H., Veríssimo, C., Heleno, R., Ramos, J. and Timóteo, S. (2016) The Priolo Atlas: A citizen science-based census initiative for supporting Pyrrhula murina habitat conservation and restoration policies in São Miguel Island (Azores, Portugal). Ecological Engineering 86: 45-52.

Teodósio, J., Ceia, R. and Costa, L. (2009) Species Action Plan for the Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina in the European Union.

Veríssimo,C. (2013) Monitorização de Priolo Pyrrhula murina 2012. Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), Lisbon (unpublished report).

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2 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina): downlist from Endangered to Vulnerable?

  1. Ian Burfield (BirdLife Global Science Team) says:

    The following information has been provided by Joaquim Teodósio of SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), Coordinator of the LIFE+ Terras do Priolo Project:

    This is our most recent data from the global ‘Priolo Atlas’ census (2008, 2012 and 2016, with 300 points) and from the annual monitoring (2008–2016, with 158 points selected from the results of the 2008 census). Population numbers estimated by the two methods are different for 2012 and 2016, because for the Atlas census birds are also counted outside the selected 158 annual monitoring points.

    Atlas census results:
    2008 – 1064 (760-1368) mature individuals
    2012 – 1025 (545-1771) mature individuals
    2016 – 1167 (627-1996) mature individuals

    Annual monitoring results:
    In 2015, the numbers recorded were very similar to those from 2013 and 2014. From 2015 to 2016, there was a dip in the annual census, back to the levels recorded in 2010 and 2012. This downward fluctuation was because of an impressive storm in the first week of September 2015, which caused huge problems in important areas of the SPA and certainly caused a high mortality of juveniles.

    The habitat outside the areas of the LIFE projects continues to degrade rapidly due to invasive plants. Also, part of the areas restored in past years/projects are also presenting locals with re-invasion. But the bird data don’t show a significant decline, just fluctuations. It’s still a very small population and very limited in space, and although it’s a great achievement to have a species being downgraded again, there’s still a lot to be done and we hope that a downgrading (if it happens) doesn’t give a false sense of security.

  2. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to list this species as Vulnerable under criteria D1+2.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN

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