Plain pigeon (Patagioenas inornata)

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Plain pigeon fact file

Plain pigeon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderColumbiformes
FamilyColumbidae
GenusPatagioenas (1)

This large pigeon is about the size and shape of a domestic pigeon, and appears pale blue-grey at a distance (3). When closer up, it can be identified by a subtle wine-colouring on its wings and breast, and a white margin on the leading-edge of the wing (4). It has a dark grey to black tail and bill, dark red legs and interestingly coloured eyes; the iris is a ring of pale blue, surrounded by a ring of dark blue and then a ring of pale orange. Females are slightly paler than male plain pigeons, and juveniles can be distinguished by their more brown colouring (2).

Synonyms
Columba inornata.
Size
Male length: 41 cm (2)
Female length: 39 cm (2)
Weight
250 g (2)
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Plain pigeon biology

Just as the habitat preferences of this pigeon differ between the islands, its breeding season seems to also vary. In Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, breeding occurs between April and July, whilst in Puerto Rico breeding appears to occur all year round. The Puerto Rican population also differs by normally laying a single egg, compared to an average of two eggs on the other islands. It builds fragile stick nests in trees, (including mangroves, pines and hardwoods), or on epiphytic plants, where the eggs are incubated for 13 – 15 days. Fledging occurs after 21 - 23 days (2).

The plain pigeon has a varied diet, consisting of fruits, berries, seeds, buds, leaves and flowers. It sometimes feeds on the ground, but spends the majority of its time feeding in the trees (2).

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Plain pigeon range

The plain pigeon is found only in the Greater Antilles. Three subspecies of the plain pigeon are recognised; Patagioenas inornata inornata is found on Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti, Patagioenas inornata exigua exists only on Jamaica, and Patagioenas inornata wetmorei is restricted to Puerto Rico (5).

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Plain pigeon habitat

Found in a variety of habitats, which differ between islands. It is found mainly in lowland forest, mangrove and swampy areas in Cuba, highland pine and broadleaf forest, and occasionally coastal desert and mangroves in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, montane rainforests in Jamaica, and in secondary forest, pasture and farmland in Puerto Rico (1).

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Plain pigeon status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1), and listed as Endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species Act 1967 (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Plain pigeon threats

The plain pigeon was once abundant and widespread throughout the Greater Antilles, but has since suffered a severe decline in numbers, and populations have become fragmented (4). This has been attributed to logging and the clearance of land for agricultural plantations, which has reduced the amount of suitable habitat available for the plain pigeon (1). Hunting has also been blamed for the decline of the plain pigeon (1). It has a surprisingly unwary nature, and therefore is an easy target for hunters (6). Furthermore, the devastating effects of hurricanes have contributed to the decline of this Caribbean bird (1).

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Plain pigeon conservation

In 2005, the plain pigeon was down-listed from Vulnerable to Near Threatened, according to the IUCN Red List (1). This is primarily due to a recovery programme implemented in Puerto Rico, after being listed as Endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species Act 1967 (3). A captive breeding programme which started in 1983 resulted in the release of a few birds into the wild in 1993. However, the area of Puerto Rico where most birds occur is still threatened by habitat loss and human disturbance (4), and therefore further conservation measures are still required.

Elsewhere, little conservation action is occurring. The plain pigeon is protected against hunting throughout its range, but this is generally not enforced, and therefore illegal hunting still occurs (6). Surveys to assess the numbers of this species and its distribution are required, (1), as is protection from further habitat destruction and hunting (6).

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Authentication

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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Epiphytic
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Secondary forest
Regenerating forest that has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (April, 2007)
    http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/SpeciesReport.do?spcode=B049
  4. National Audubon Society (April, 2007)
    http://audubon2.org/webapp/watchlist/viewSpecies.jsp?id=162
  5. International Dove Society (April, 2007)
    http://www.internationaldovesociety.com/SeedSpecies/PlainPigeon.htm
  6. Island Resources Foundation (April, 2007)
    http://www.irf.org/binornat.htm
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Image credit

Plain pigeon in tree  
Plain pigeon in tree

© Jon Hornbuckle

Jon Hornbuckle
jonhornbuckle@yahoo.com

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