Overview

Brief Summary

Description

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).
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Biology

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).
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Distribution

Range Description

Nesoenas mayeri survives in the Black River Gorges of south-west Mauritius and on Ile aux Aigrettes, just off the eastern coast. Although once common, it declined to just 10 wild individuals in 1990, and were it not for intervention, it would have rapidly gone extinct. Since then, intensive management has resulted in a spectacular increase, although the population is still dependant on ongoing intensive management. Since 2000 the population has been over 300 individuals in five subpopulations; numbers have fluctuated but in April 2007 there were 380 birds (C. Jones in litt. 2007), in April 2010 the population was estimated at 376-493 birds (V. Tatayah in litt. 2010) and in August 2011 the population was estimated at 446 birds in six subpopulations (five in the National Park and one on Ile aux Aigrettes). In 2007, of the five established subpopulations, two were in decline (Plaine Lievre c. 110 birds and Bel Ombre c. 48 birds), two were increasing (Pigeon Wood c. 65 birds and Combo c. 65 birds) and the subpopulation on Ile aux Aigrettes was believed to have reached carrying capacity and to be stable at 85 birds (K. Edmunds in litt. 2007). It is now thought that the Ile aux Aigrettes birds and probably other subpopulations are undergoing natural fluctuations (V. Tatayah in litt. 2010). There is some limited movement between the mainland populations (Jones and Swinnerton 1997), and in 2010 five birds out of 27 which had been translocated from the mainland to Ile aux Aigrettes flew back to the mainland (Raffa 2011).

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Range

Forests of sw Mauritius (on verge of extinction).
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

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).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It inhabits native forest and has a diverse diet, including both native and exotic plants (Jones 1987). In the early 1990s, the entire wild population nested in a single grove of introduced Japanese red cedar Cryptomeria japonica. However, ongoing studies suggest that rat predation in Cryptomeria is higher than in native vegetation, thus the value of Cryptomeria is unclear (Carter 1998, Swinnerton 2001). When there is available restored native vegetation for nesting, birds use this in preference to exotic species.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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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).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(iii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Bell, D., Bunberry, N., Edmunds, K., Hall, D., Jones, C., Swinnerton, K. & Tatayah, V.

Justification
The population of this species has increased as a result of intensive conservation action, and exceeded 50 mature individuals in 1993, and 300 in 2000. However, it has a very small range concentrated in just a few locations, and remains threatened by a continuing decline in the quality of suitable habitat. For these reasons, the species is still listed as Endangered, however it may become eligible for downlisting in the future. Numbers fluctuate owing to predation and disease and it seems doubtful that present populations could be maintained without the current intense management programme.


History
  • 2012
    Endangered
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Status

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

Population
C. Jones in litt. (2005) estimated the population to number 360-395 individuals in total, roughly equating to 240-260 mature individuals.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Severe loss of habitat has been compounded by continued predation of nests and adults by introduced crab-eating macaque Macaca fascicularis, mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus, rats and feral cats (Reese Lind 1994, Swinnerton 2001). Invasive plant species reduce the quality of breeding and foraging habitat. Cyclones destroy nests and accelerate habitat degradation (C. Jones in litt. 2000). Natural food shortages mean that birds must be provided with supplementary food. The disease Trichomonosis was brought to Mauritius by alien pigeons (which now act as a reservoir for the disease) and 359 (84.3%) of 429 individual birds screened between 2002-2004 tested positive for Trichomonas gallinae at least once, however pathogenicity was found to be low, with active sigens of the disease recorded in only 1.9% of birds which tested positive (Bunbury et al. 2008). Nevertheless, the disease causes significant levels of mortality, especially in juveniles, and it is likely to be limiting population growth (Swinnerton et al. 2005, Bunbury et al. 2008). Inbreeding depression is an ongoing concern (Swinnerton et al. 2004).

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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).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
A captive-breeding and reintroduction programme, combined with establishment of Conservation Management Areas, habitat restoration, control of exotic predators, supplementary feeding, nest guarding, clutch and brood (fostering) manipulations, rescue of eggs and young from failing nests, control of disease and monitoring of survival and productivity, has helped this species survive (C. Jones in litt. 2000). The Black River National Park covers much of its range (Swinnerton 2001). The population is managed to maximise genetic diversity and counter the effects of inbreeding depression, with birds moved beetween subpopulations (Swinnerton et al. 2004, Raffa 2011). There are plans to release three additional populations (K. Edmunds in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue research into population genetics and disease (C. Jones in litt. 2000). Continue rehabilitation of mainland native vegetation (Safford and Jones 1998). Continue intensive mangement of wild-living populations. Extend Conservation Management Areas and surrounding predator-proof fences (C. Jones in litt. 2000). Consider introduction to other Mauritian islets (and Réunion) if ecosystem rehabilitation and predator elimination are successful (Safford and Jones 1998).

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Conservation

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.
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Wikipedia

Pink pigeon

The pink pigeon, Columba mayeri, is a species of Columbidae (doves and pigeons) endemic to Mauritius, and is now very rare. It is the only Mascarene pigeon that has not gone extinct.[2] It was on the brink of extinction in 1991 when only 10 individuals remained, but its numbers have increased due to the efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust since 1977.[3] The book Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell refers to the conservation efforts. The IUCN downlisted the species from critically endangered to endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2006.[1] Mauritius published a series of postage stamps depicting the endemic pink pigeon.

Taxonomy and evolution[edit]

Initially classified as a true pigeon, it was reclassified in a monotypic genus by Tommaso Salvadori. Recent DNA analyses suggests its nearest neighbour on the phylogenetic tree is the geographically close Madagascar turtle dove (Streptopelia picturata), and has thus been placed in the genus Streptopelia, which mostly contains turtle doves. However, the two species form a distinct group that cannot unequivocally be assigned to either Streptopelia or Columba, and indeed, placing the two species in Nesoenas may best reflect the fact that they seem to belong to a distinct evolutionary lineage (Johnson et al., 2001).

Description[edit]

Specimen at San Diego Zoo

An adult pigeon is about 32 centimetres (13 in) from beak to tail and 350 grams in weight. Pink pigeons have pale pink plumage on their head, shoulders and underside, along with pink feet and pink beak. They have dark brown wings, and a broad, reddish-brown tail. They have dark brown eyes surrounded by a ring of red skin.

Newly hatched pigeons have sparse, downy-white feathers and closed eyes.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

The breeding season starts in August–September, although birds may breed all year round. The male courts the female with a "step and bow" display. Mating is generally monogamous, with the pair making a flimsy platform nest and defending a small area around it (even though the pigeons initially had no natural predators). The female usually lays 2 white eggs, and incubation duration is 2 weeks. The male incubates during the day, and the female during night and early day. They breed very often. They lay 5 to 10 eggs in a season. Pausing in the wild only whilst in moult. They either go through a full moult or a head moult.

In captivity, males remain fertile till 17 – 18 years of age, females till 10 – 11 years of age.

1 – 7 days: Chicks eyes closed, fed entirely on crop milk.

7 – 10 days: Chicks undergo a dietary transformation to solid food.

2 – 4 weeks: Chicks fledge, but are parent-fed.

4 - 6/7 weeks: Chicks remain in the nest. After this the chicks leave the nest.

Close up of head

Due to habitat destruction, and nonnative predators, the population had dropped to 10 in 1991. The captive breeding and reintroduction program initiated and supported by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and largely carried out by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) has resulted in a stable population of about 360 in the wild in 2005 - of which about 75 are located on the small offshore island reserve of Ile aux Aigrettes (source: Vikash Tatayah, MWF Nov 2005) - as well as a healthy captive population as backup. In 2009, the population was just short of 500 birds. There are more males than females in a population due to greater life expectancy of the male (about 5 years more) and in the wild a higher chance of the female being predated. The average life expectancy upper bound is estimated at 17 – 18 years.

Diet[edit]

It feeds on native plants - by consuming buds, flowers, leaves, shoots, fruits and seeds as well as insects. Non-native species like the Chinese Guava pose a threat to it by preventing growth of native trees. It does supplement its diet at feeding stations manned by conservation officials.

Range and habitat[edit]

Pair on Mauritius

It is only found in the Mascarene island of Mauritius, a related form having become extinct in the neighbouring larger Reunion Island.

There are five free-range places where the pink pigeon can be found, all in which are carefully watch by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MSW). Four of these belong to Black River Gorges National Park and the other one belongs to Isle Aux Aigrettes.

On Mauritius, it is found in patches of forest in the national park region of the southwest, as well on Ile aux Aigrettes, a nature reserve off the southeast coast of Mauritius. Further plans for released populations in the east coast mountains are under way.

It prefers upland evergreen forests, but is equally at home in coastal forest as long as the vegetation is natural and not smothered by introduced species, such as Chinese Guava or privet. Destruction of these forests have been a major reason for its decline.

Threats[edit]

Habitat degradation, introduced mammalian predators and wildlife disease are ongoing threats to the pink pigeon's survival. Only 2% of native forest remains in Mauritius, the majority on upland slopes around the Black River Gorge National Park. Active management of these threats, supplementary feeding and habitat restoration are key factors in the recovery of this species.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2013). "Nesoenas mayeri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Hume, J.P. 2011: Systematics, morphology, and ecology of pigeons and doves (Aves: Columbidae) of the Mascarene Islands, with three new species. Zootaxa, 3124: 1-62. Preview ISBN 978-1-86977-825-5 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-86977-826-2 (online edition)
  3. ^ http://www.durrell.org/Animals/Birds/Mauritius-pink-pigeon/
  • Johnson, Kevin P.; de Kort, Selvino; Dinwoodey, Karen, Mateman, A. C.; ten Cate, Carel; Lessells, C. M. & Clayton, Dale H. (2001): A molecular phylogeny of the dove genera Streptopelia and Columba. Auk 118(4): 874-887. PDF fulltext
  • The Mauritius Pink Pigeon Report. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, 2001.
  • Gerald Durrell. Golden Bats And Pink Pigeons: A Journey to the Flora and Fauna of a Unique Island (Collins, 1977)
  • Mauritius Wildlife Foundation [1]
  • Bunbury, Nancy; Stidworthy, Mark F.; Greenwood, Andrew G.; Jones, Carl G.; Sawmy, Shiva; Cole, Ruth; Edmunds, Kelly; Bell, Diana J. (2008): Causes of mortality in free-living Mauritian pink pigeons Columba mayeri, 2002–2006. Endangered Species Research. [2]
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