Luzon bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba luzonica)

Also known as: bleeding heart dove, bleeding heart pigeon, bleeding-heart dove, bleeding-heart pigeon, blood-breasted pigeon, Luzon blood-breasted pigeon, Luzon puñalada
Synonyms: Columba luzonica
Spanish: Paloma Apuñalada de Luzón
GenusGallicolumba (1)
SizeMale length: 27.3 - 28.8 cm (2)
Female length: 25.2 - 26 cm (2)
Weightc. 133 g (2)
Top facts

The Luzon bleeding-heart is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The characteristic feature of the shy and secretive Luzon bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba luzonica) is the deep red spot on its breast, which resembles a bleeding wound (4) (5) (6). This dove species is largely grey in colouration, with a white chin, throat and underparts and three dark grey bars on the wings (2) (5). Its forehead and crown are a slightly paler grey than the back and wings, which have some purplish and green sheens. The Luzon bleeding-heart has a black beak, and its legs and feet are reddish (2).

Male and female Luzon bleeding-hearts are very similar in appearance. However, the female is duller overall, with a smaller and paler red breast patch. Three subspecies of Luzon bleeding-heart have been described, which vary slightly in their colouration and in their geographical ranges (2).

The Luzon bleeding-heart can often be heard repeating a soft ‘aa-oooot’ call every three or four seconds. The call lasts for about one second and rises in pitch towards the end (5). This species has also been reported to give a low-pitched, mournful ‘cooooo’ or ‘coo oo’ (2).

The genus name of the Luzon bleeding-heart, Gallicolumba, is derived from ‘Galli’, meaning chicken, referring to the bird’s similar ground-foraging habits, and ‘columba’, meaning dove (6). The species name, luzonica, is derived from Luzon, the island in the Philippines on which the Luzon bleeding-heart is most abundant (4).

The Luzon bleeding-heart is endemic to three islands in the northern Philippines, including Luzon, where there are many isolated populations, and Polillo, where a very small population has recently been rediscovered. It has also been recorded on Catanduanes, where it is known from just a single specimen (2) (7).

Of the three subspecies of Luzon bleeding-heart, Gallicolumba luzonica luzonica and Gallicolumba luzonica griseolateralis occur on Luzon, with G. l. luzonica also being found on Polillo, while Gallicolumba luzonica rubiventris is known only from Catanduanes (2).

The habitat of the ground-dwelling Luzon bleeding-heart is lowland forest below 1,400 metres. This species has also been found to inhabit selectively logged areas and plantations (2) (7).

The diet of the Luzon bleeding-heart consists of seeds, fallen fruits and invertebrates, including snails, ticks and insects, which it forages for in leaf litter on the ground (2) (4) (7). This species’ beak is not adapted to chew or de-husk food so instead the food is swallowed whole (4). The Luzon bleeding-heart is usually seen alone or in pairs, and it roosts in low trees and shrubs at night (2).

The Luzon bleeding-heart is monogamous and pairs bond for life (4) (8). Courtship begins with the male chasing after the female on the ground. When the female stops, the male begins his courtship display whereby he inflates his breast during bowing rituals, to emphasise the red spot, and emits a rapid, gruff ‘croo-cu-cu-cu-cu’ call and a soft ‘co-co-cooooo’ (2) (4).

The Luzon bleeding-heart builds a nest in a low bush or tree using twigs, roots and grasses (4). This species has a small clutch size of only two bluish-white eggs, which both the male and female incubate over a period of 17 to 18 days. Once hatched, the chicks fledge after 12 to 16 days (2).

As in other pigeons and doves, both the male and female Luzon bleeding-heart secrete high-energy nutritious ‘crop milk’ with a similar composition to the milk produced by mammals. The chicks feed solely on crop milk for the first few days of life, and from then on they are given an increasing proportion of solid food items regurgitated by the adults alongside the milk. Being fed on crop milk allows the nestlings to grow very quickly and at four weeks of age they begin to forage for themselves (4) (8).

The Luzon bleeding-heart population is undergoing a moderate decline as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, caused by deforestation for timber and the expansion of agriculture (7). Additionally, this species is vulnerable to hunting and to trapping for the pet trade, as it is a popular cage bird (2) (7).

Due to the threats facing the Luzon bleeding-heart, conservation strategies have been put in place for the management of captive populations in Europe and North America. For example, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums developed a Population Management Plan in 2009, which aims to increase the population of Luzon bleeding-hearts in North American zoos from 75 to 100 (7). In addition, European breeding programmes are being coordinated by Bristol Zoo Gardens in the United Kingdom (6).

The Luzon bleeding-heart is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade in this dove should be carefully controlled (3).

Further conservation actions that have been proposed for the Luzon bleeding-heart include the protection of intact forest habitat in Luzon, and regular population monitoring. To target the hunting problem, the extent of hunting by local residents needs to be researched and community awareness campaigns implemented. The population of Luzon bleeding-hearts on Catanduanes also needs to be located (7).

Find out more about the Luzon bleeding-heart and its conservation:

More information on conservation in the Philippines:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2012)
  2. Gibbs, D., Barnes, E. and Cox, J. (2010) Pigeons and Doves: A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. A&C Black Publishers, London.
  3. CITES (July, 2013)
  4. International Masters Publishing (2007) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Volume 1. Facts on File, Inc., New York.
  5. Kennedy, R.S., Gonzales, P.C., Dickinson, E.C., Miranda Jr, H.C. and Fisher, T.H. (2000) A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Bristol Zoo Gardens - Bleeding-heart dove (October, 2012)
  7. BirdLife International - Luzon bleeding-heart (October, 2012)
  8. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.