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- Once critically endangered, the Azores bullfinch is showing signs of recovery.
- Two decades of habitat restoration has brought back the bird's numbers.
- Local community pride strengthens as global attention turns to the bird's conservation success.
In the early 1990s, when conservation biologist Jaime Ramos conducted his studies on São Miguel Island in the Azores, a unique sound indicated the presence of the elusive Azores bullfinch. This sound was falling fruit husks, signaling that the bird was de-husking the fruit nearby, writes Smithsonian Magazine.
But that sound almost disappeared.
In the early 90s, only around 100 breeding pairs were left. Ramos's dedicated research unveiled the bird's significant role in natural regeneration, emphasizing the importance of its preservation.
The decline and the rise
The Azores bullfinch faced various threats. From being hunted in the 19th century to habitat destruction due to human activities, the bird was on the brink. In 2005, it was declared “critically endangered.”
But efforts soon followed.
Nearly two decades of habitat restoration and conservation efforts turned the tide. Today, the bird's recovery is a testament to the commitment of researchers, conservationists, and the local community.
Restoring natural homes
Understanding the bird's reliance on native vegetation, habitat restoration was prioritized. Since 2003, efforts led by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) resulted in the planting of over 500,000 native trees, restoring 1,000 acres of laurel forest.
The bird's numbers rose. By 2016, its status improved from "endangered" to "vulnerable." However, challenges like invasive mammals and human disturbances remain. Funding for long-term conservation is another concern, but the Azores's focus on nature tourism offers hope.
A sound that signals hope
Public outreach efforts have bridged the gap between the community and the bird. Educational programs have reached over 30,000 students, spreading awareness and instilling pride.
The Azores bullfinch's story attracts researchers and tourists globally, turning the once overlooked bird into a symbol of hope and resilience.
And the sound of falling fruit husks is back.q