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This is Only About Another Bluebird – or is it? Read and Find Out.
There is a group of islands in Spain named the Canary Islands – which are in the Atlantic Ocean. On two of these islands is a bird species – the Blue Chaffinch (Fringilla teydea). These islands are Tenerife and Gran Canaria. These two islands are neighbors but are separated by the ocean. You could say that these two islands are its native land. If you were to study the population of the bird then you would find that most of it is on Tenerife. I also found an estimated average of the remainder of this species lives in a small area on Gran Canaria.
There is a ‘natural symbol’ for each of these islands. First we have the chaffinch since it is native to them and the other symbol is the Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco). Another name which it is sometimes called is Canary Island Dragon Tree or drago. I do not know if anyone has heard of this but I will mention it anyhow, it is not to be confused with Dracaena cinnabari – the Dragon Blood Tree which is native to Socotra [near Yemen].
Blue Chaffinch photosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Below is the family of the Blue Chaffinch:
It is a comparatively large, healthy species with legs which are proportionately lengthy.
Even though the Blue Chaffinches look similar to the Common Chaffinches, the Blues are distinctly larger plus they have a thicker bill. The Blue ones have plumage which is more coordinated than the plumage of the other bird; they also are missing a black cap.
The male and the female both each have a thin whitish eye-ring which breaks in the front of the eye. They have slate-gray legs and feet which are tinged with pink in the male and the females are deep pinkish-brown.
The Blue Chaffinch’s average length is just above 6” to just over 6.5” (16 - 17 cm).
The approximate wing length:
- The male length is just below 4” to almost 4.3” (9.6 - 10.7 cm).
- The female length is a fraction over 3.5” to a fraction over 3.8” (8.9 - 9.7 cm).
Although most of the adult male’s body is an attractive slate-blue color, the chin, throat and wingbars are paler. The wings are black but the undertail-coverts are white. Its light blue bill - which is stout at the base – has a black pointy tip during the breeding season.
With the ‘nom de plume’ of largely blue plumage and a gray bill, breeding males are distinct.
The male and female may have the same pattern in their plumage but there is a considerable difference in their color. The female plumage has a brown, or a dull olive-brown, upperparts while her underparts are pale gray and the wing bars are a pale buff. The female has a gray-brown bill and the lower mandible has a pinkish tinge.
They are a dull gray-brown in color. You can distinguish them from other chaffinches because the chaffinches have weaker wing bars.
They appear to be the same as the female adult but the juveniles are basically more shady or opaque.
Canary Islands (Spain) - habitat
Main habitat area
A view of the Tenerife Island subspecies
Range and habitat: (see map above)
Besides being seen in large mass locations plentiful of underbrush it is also found on the ground where there is hardly much to hide under. Other places which the bird has been found are in tree-heaths and laurels inside of a pine forest.
The chaffinch has a wooded habitat in a belt around the whole island of Tenerife. This belt is within 3280.84 – 6561.68 ft., (1,000 – 2,000 m), above sea level. On Gran Canaria it only has a few woods: the Pinewoods of Ojeda, Inagua and Pajonales.
The highlands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria seem to be the only place which they have found this bird. Its areas, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, are where its two subspecies are from. The subspecies are F. t. teydea from Tenerife and F.t. polatzeki from Gran Canaria.
There is a habitat which is called Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) forest, which is its main habitat. It is usually found in coniferous forest ranges with heavy undergrowth but it can also be found in pine and laurel woodland, scrub and and evergreen plant on those Canary Islands. When it is not in its breeding season, the habitat which it is partial to is about 3608.924 – 6561.68 ft. (1100 – 2000 m) higher than sea level, in bad weather it can drop lower, usually in the pinewoods which have tagasaste (Chamaecytisus proliferus). It is a small spreading evergreen tree which grows 9.84252' – 13.1234’ (3 - 4 m) high beneath the forest canopy. It is primitive to the dry volcanic banks of the Canary Islands.
There are two different subspecies, one from Tenerife and one from Gran Canaria, and the one from Tenerife is larger by 10%. In addition, the one from Gran Canaria has duller plumage and a slightly smaller bill.
The food which the adults eat, on the whole, is Canary Island Pine seeds. From time to time they also take nourishment from fruit and flower seeds. They extract the seeds from pine which they break open with their thick and powerful bill.
The young are broadly fed insects which is similar to the Common Chaffinch but not to most other finches. The chicks are fed a rich source of protein through insects which are gathered from the cracks in the pine bark – specifically throughout breeding season. Caterpillars seem to be the main food for the chicks while the adults prefer butterflies, moths, and a few beetles for their own dining. These birds search and eat both on the ground besides up in the trees.
Nest and eggs:
All through April the Blue Chaffinch searches and pairs with a mate. Then in May up to the end of July or into early August is breeding season. It is during this time in which the female is the one that builds the nest. First it searches pine trees (sometimes heath, Erica arborea, or laurel, Laurus azorica) for the proper fork of a branch. Then it begins building its nest. Which is made by using pine needles and branches of broom (evergreen which is native to Western Europe). After which it is lined with feathers, moss, grasses and they even use rabbit hair. Do not ask me how they obtain it because I do not know.
For the most part, the female lays two eggs in the finished nest. Since I could not find explanations or photos, here is mine from a photo which was too large for HP. The eggs seem to be a dirty white with scattered maroon 'splotches or blots'. The clutch of eggs then becomes incubated for an average of 14 to 16 days. This is done before the chicks – which are blind and covered in downy – hatch from the eggs. When the chicks do hatch they are fed by both of the adults, the male and the female. This feeding in the nest occurs for 17 or 18 days.
The egg-laying does not take place at the same time on both islands. When the Blue Chaffinch lays its eggs on Tenerife Island, it will occur in the first two weeks of June. On the island of Gran Canaria, it happens within the last half of April and at the beginning of June.
Blue Chaffinch drinking
Being non-migratory, this bird sometimes gets together with chaffinches and other finches after they might have developed small flocks of their own after the breeding season.
After the breeding season is over, the family flocks together. Even though it is non-migratory it has been heard that it will travel to lower altitudes in the course of harsh winter conditions. It also searches for water, sometimes far distances – especially during the summer.
Song and Call:
Its song is composed of notes which it reproduces in the same song two to three times. I believe that it is said that the song of the Blue Chaffinch is comparable to the song of the Common Chaffinch. The difference being that the common finishes with a ‘twist’ and the blue closes its song with a few harsh notes which sound like ‘churr’ or ‘buzz’.
Its call comes in several sounds and one of them is a ‘chirp’ which can occasionally be duplicated. Others are a rather garbled ‘che-wir’ or ‘sdderrer’. It has been stated the subspecies on Gran Canaria has a softer and low ‘twee’ note. It also has another call which is during its flight and is rather croaky and sharp.
The Blue Chaffinch is located on the IUCN Red list because it is Near Threatened (NT)
Gran Canaria is undergoing fire prevention actions, primarily in the time of summer, and minimizing humans from entering the birds’ habitat. The island also has a continuous project which is aimed at recovering any pine forests having been damaged by fire. Inbreeding within the population is also being researched on the same island because it seems to be causing a promising hazard. Two other items, one on each island are: on Gran Canaria cats have been handled since 1966 and on Tenerife they have taken steps about alien species.
© 2014 The Examiner-1