Pink pigeon

Pink pigeon
Nesoenas mayeri

Photo by Charlie Moores (New Scientist)

Common name:
pink pigeon (en); pombo-rosado (pt); pigeon rose (fr); paloma de Mauricio (es); rosentaube (de)

Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae

This species is endemic to Mauritius, at present being restricted to the Black River Gorges, in the south-western part of the island, and to Ile aux Aigrettes, just off the eastern coast.

These birds are 36-40 cm long and weigh 290-350 g.

Pink pigeons are mostly found in native evergreen tropical forests and scrublands, but also use grove of exotic trees such as the Japanese red cedar Cryptomeria japonica. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 800 m.

They feed mainly on the flowers, buds, fruits, leaves and seeds of native flora, but also consume exotic plants.

The pink pigeon can breed in all year round, but especially in August-March. They are monogamous and both sexes help build the nest, a flimsy platform placed in the upper canopy of a tree. The female lays 2 white eggs which are incubated by both parents for 14 days. The chicks are fed crop milk and seeds by both parents and fledge about 4 weeks after hatching. They only become fully independent several weeks after fledging. Each pair can raise up to 5 broods per year.

IUCN status – EN (Endangered)
This species has a very small breeding range and a global population estimated at just 240-260 individuals. Through habitat destruction and predation by exotic mammals this species declined to just 10 individuals by 1990, but it has since recovered thanks to conservation efforts and the current trend seems to fluctuate with some sub-populations in decline, while others are stable or increasing. The main threats affecting this species are still habitat loss and predation by introduced crab-eating macaques Macaca fascicularis, mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus, rats and feral cats. other threats include the disease Trichomonosis brought to Mauritius by alien pigeons, and inbreeding depression due to the small population size. Conservation efforts underway include a captive breeding and reintroduction programme, habitat restoration, control of exotic predators, supplementary feeding, nest guarding, rescue of eggs and young from failing nests, control of disease and monitoring of survival and productivity. The population is managed to maximise genetic diversity and counter the effects of inbreeding depression, with birds moved beetween subpopulations, and there are plans to release three additional populations.

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