The blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea) is found only on the two central Canary Islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, where it is restricted to pine forest habitat. It is reasonably abundant on the latter island but endangered on the former. Here, sequence variation was studied in a fragment spanning domains I and II of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region. Phylogenetic analysis of all haplotypes with a F. coelebs outgroup indicated the two island populations were reciprocally monophyletic, supporting their individual conservation. Unlike in other species, most within-island haplotype diversity was due to mutations in the domain II region. Surprisingly, genetic diversity was greater in the smaller Gran Canarian population. We suggest that this is unlikely to be maintained under current population sizes although it may be mitigated by incorporating genetic information into the captive breeding programme.