Pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri)

Synonyms: Columba mayeri
  
French: Pigeon rose
Spanish: Paloma de Mauricio
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderColumbiformes
FamilyColumbidae
GenusColumba (1)
SizeLength: 36 - 38 cm (2)
Weight0.35 kg (3)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix III of CITES (4).

This medium-sized pigeon has undergone a miraculous recovery thanks to a sustained and intensive management plan. In this attractive bird, the head, neck and underparts are pink whilst the forehead is a more whitish colour (5). The back is brown, fading to a rusty coloured tail (2). The female is a duller shade than the male with a browner rump (5). The bill-tip and eyes of both sexes are yellow, whist the legs are red (5).

Endemic to Mauritius and presently restricted to the Black River Gorges in the southwest of the country and the Ile aux Aigrettes just offshore of the eastern coast (2). Under intensive management the population has increased from a low of 12 wild individuals in 1986, to over 300 today (6); the species has been downgraded from Critically Endangered to Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) (2).

Originally inhabited native evergreen trees and scrub (3). Today the pink pigeon is found amongst non-native trees such as the Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria japonica); a small six hectare (3) grove of this tree housed the entire wild population in the 1980s and became known as 'Pigeon Wood' (6).

The breeding season extends almost throughout the year, from December to September, although activity tends to peak in April and June (7). Both parents take part in building the nest and raising the clutch of around two chicks (6). The eggs are white and the chicks take around 14 days to hatch (7).

These pigeons feed on buds, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds of both introduced and native plants (7).

Severe deforestation on the island of Mauritius has caused catastrophic declines in a number of species, the pink pigeon included (2). Predation by introduced species such as the macaque (Macaca fasicularis), mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), rats and feral cats have further decimated the population (6). Cyclones also batter the island, destroying nest sites (2).

The pink pigeon has been rescued from the very brink of extinction by an intensive management programme in partnership between the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (8), Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Wildlife Preservation Trust, Canada (7). A captive breeding programme began in the early 1980s (6) and Gerald Durrell released the first individuals into the wild in 1984 (9). As of 2002, there are around 350 birds in the wild (9) and the project is fast approaching its target of 500 individuals (6). To supplement the captive breeding and release programme, conservation efforts such as the establishment of Conservation Management Areas, habitat restoration, control of predators and supplementary feeding has enabled this species to increase in abundance (2). Although intensive management of the species is still required, the rescue of the pink pigeon is a fantastic success story and a great example of what concerted conservation efforts can achieve.

For more information on the Pink Pigeon and its conservation see:

Authenticated by BirdLife International Secretariat.
http://www.birdlife.org

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  3. WCMC Species Sheets (March, 2008)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/species/data/species_sheets/pinkpige.htm
  4. CITES (October, 2002)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  6. Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (August, 2002)
    http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org
  7. Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada (March, 2008)
    http://www.wptc.org/wildlife/pinkpigeon.php
  8. Durrell Wildlife Trust (August, 2002)
    http://www.durrell.org
  9. Birds of Mauritius (March, 2008)
    http://www.birds.mu/Endemic/PinkPigeon.htm