Pink Pigeon, Columba mayeri

The Pink Pigeon (Columba mayeri) is a species of bird of the Columbidae family, which includes doves and pigeons. It is endemic to Mauritius and is very rare. It is found only on the Mascarene Island of Mauritius. Once being found on the larger Reunion Island, it is now extinct there. It is found in patches of forest in the National Park area to the southwest, and in the nature reserve Ile aux Aigrettes off the southeast coast of Mauritius. There are plans to release some individuals in the east coast mountains. Its habitat is upland evergreen forests. It will also visit coastal forests if the vegetation is abundant, natural, and not smothered by other introduced species. Forest destruction is a major reason for the decline of this species.

It was near extinct in 1991 (only 10 individuals alive), but numbers have increased since due to the efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The species has been down listed from critically endangered to endangered by the IUCN in 2006. The population estimate in 2005 put this species at about 360 individuals. There are more males than females, due to a longer life expectancy of the male (5 yrs longer).

The adult Pink Pigeon is 12.6 inches long and weighs about 12.33 ounces. It is mostly pink on the head, shoulders, and underside. The feet and beak are also pink. The wings are dark brown and the broad tail is reddish. There is a reddish ring of skin around the brown eyes. The young have downy white feathers. The mating call of this species is a kind of coo-coo with a twittering ending.

The Pink Pigeon feeds mainly on native plants (buds, flowers, leaves, shoots, fruits, seeds). Some introduced plants, such as the Guava, are a considerable threat to the Pink Pigeon, as it prevents the growth of native trees that this bird relies on.

The breeding season begins in August or September, but most birds may breed throughout the year. The male uses a “step and bow” courtship display. Most mating pairs are monogamous and build a flimsy platform nest. They will defend the immediate area around the nest. The female lays 2 white eggs and incubates them for 2 weeks. The male will also help with incubation during the day. The male remains fertile until he is about 18 years of age. Females remain fertile only until around age 11. The chicks are born with closed eyes and are fed entirely on crop milk for 7 days. They change to solid food by 10 days old and fledge at 2 to 4 weeks old. Chicks will remain in the nest up to 7 weeks before leaving for good.

Image Caption: Pink Pigeon at the San Diego Zoo, California. Credit: Dick Daniels/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)