It’s extremely harrowing and sad when we think about the animal species that are on the decline due to climate change, global warming, and deforestation.
However, there is one story of a particular European bird species that made a tremendous comeback after efforts were put in place to restore their natural habitat.
The Azores bullfinch, known to locals as the Priolo, is a native bird endemic to São Miguel Island in Portugal.
Hundreds of years ago, when humans first settled on the island of São Miguel, the adorable, small grey songbirds with black crowns were abundant. However, by the time 1900 rolled around, that was no longer the case.
Azores bullfinches are considered endemic as they are only found in São Miguel. Therefore, they had always been very dependent on the native plants that exclusively grew on the island for food and habitat. So, as human life on the island progressed, and deforestation and the introduction of non-native, invasive plants occurred, the population of Azores bullfinches began steadily declining.
In 1991, biologist Jamie Ramos began researching the bird for his doctoral studies, which ended up being crucial to their comeback, as little was known about the bird at the time.
Jamie also tried keeping a few birds in captivity to feed them different kinds of food and see if that would help them breed and raise their population numbers. But he discovered that the Azores bullfinch was very picky and would only eat foods selected from the forests of São Miguel.
By 2000, the Azores bullfinch was officially considered endangered and then critically endangered by 2005.
The Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds started Azores bullfinch conservation projects in 2005 and introduced bird feeders to São Miguel in hopes they would feed and help Azores bullfinches thrive. However, they faced the same issues and came to the same conclusions as Jamie. That’s when they knew restoring São Miguel’s natural, native habitat was the only way to keep these birds alive.