ENCYCLOPÆDIA
Mauritiana
Pink Pigeon
Pigeon des mares - Pizon rose
Columba mayeri

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Pink Pigeon - Columba mayeri
Photograph © Peter M.C. Werner
 
 

 Description

Scientific Name

Columba mayeri

Alias name

Nesoenas mayeri

English Name

Pink Pigeon

Local English Name

 

French Name

Pigeon des mares

Local French Name

 

Creole Name

Pizon rose

Habitat

 

Geographic Range

Mauritius

Status

CITES I - PROTECTED

First Description

Prevost, 1843

 

 Classification

Kingdom
Phylum
Sub phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
Species

Animalia
Chordata
Vertebrata
Aves
Columbiformes
Columbidae
Columba
Columba mayeri

 

 Details

Food

Feeds on buds, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds of a variety of native and introduced plants, e.g. vieille fille (Lantana). It will take fallen seeds or fruits on the ground.

Reproduction

One or two white eggs laid on a rough platform made by the female from twigs brought by the male. He also marks out a territory around the chosen tree and chases out intruders. Both sexes sit on the eggs, the female being on night duty from late afternoon to early morning, the male incubating during day time. Incubation lasts about 2 weeks, and as in other pigeons, the young are fed with regurgitated food called crop milk. Vegetable matter, such as leaves and seeds, is added after the first four days and gradually increased. The young leave the nest when about 3 weeks old. Breeding success is low, only some 10 per cent.

Remarks

Male and female plumage identical. The birds have been reported to be sometimes drowsy after eating berries of Stillingia.
The pink pigeon very likely lived all over the island. Early Dutch settlers killed pigeons near the coast and record that they were very tame. Decline was not long to follow and in the 19th century the bird was restricted to forest areas in the uplands and considered rare by the turn of the century. In the 1950's the population was reduced to some 50 birds falling to about twenty in 1986 in a small area some 25 square kilometers in the south west.

Illustrated on a 50 cent stamp and a calendar published by the State Commercial Bank.

Pink Pigeon Stamp - Mauritius SG 711 (1985) - Columba mayeri

Bird Stamps

 
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The pink pigeon, the largest of all the pigeons and doves found on Mauritius is another highly endangered species. Impediments to progress include poor nesting results due to predation from monkeys and rats.

 Top

Without help from the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust (JWPT) it would soon have been totally extinct. The JWPT was established in 1963 by the eminent zoologist and author Gerald Durrell.

It is devoted to the concept of captive breeding of endangered species as an aid to their survival in the wild. In 1984 Gerald Durrell released the first 11 of 150 captive bred Pink Pigeons into the Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens in Mauritius as the first step of a major re-introduction programme to save the species.

The success to date of the recovery project for the Mauritius pink pigeon is a good example of how intensive management techniques can bring a species back from the brink of extinction.

here were about 15 Pink Pigeons in the wild in the early 1990s, at present (2002) there are just under 350, and about a year ago there were over 400.

We had several theories about the decline. It is very localised to only one of the five populations of Pink Pigeons at "Pigeon Wood", also known as "Plaine Pol". This is the only truly wild population, where no releases have been done, and yet the population has risen from nine birds in the early nineties to just under 100 in roughly June 2000. There are still measures such as supplementary feeding that are implemented.

Since then, the population has plumeted to about 20 birds. This is probably due to one or more wild cats, a single one of which has been documented to kill off up to 45~50 Pigeons within a couple of months. There is also growing evidence that there is some kind of a disease problem in the population. The disease has not been identified yet, but could be Leucozytozoon, a blood parasite. There is one other possibility, for which there was very sketchy evidence. It is possible that there was some kind of human intervention, where shady characters who used the forest for shady reasons, may have poached Pigeons. (1)

(1) Information given by John Tayleur who coordinated the Pink Pigeon project

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.

Endemic Birds

Echo Parakeet

 

The Captive Breeding Program

Kestrel
Pink Pigeon
Mauritius Fody
Paradise Flycatcher
Cuckoo Shrike
Grey White-Eye
Olive White-eye
Black Bulbul

Rodrigues Warbler
Yellow Fody

   
. . .
 

Sites

Macchabee Forest Road
Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary
Casela Bird Park

Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens

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. .
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References

 

Fuller, E.
Extinct Birds of the World
QL676.8.F85 1987 ISBN 0-8160-1833-2 p.126

Greenway, J. C.
Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World
QL676.7.G7 1967 p.124

King, W.
Endangered Birds of the World;
The ICBP Bird Red Data Book
QL676.7.K56 1981 ISBN 0-87474-584-5 Preamble 8

Nilsson, G.
The Endangered Species Handbook
QL82.N55 1983 ISBN 0-938-424-09-7 p.12



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.

Links

The Mauritius Wildlife Foundation
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada
The Wild Ones Animal Index
Sedgwick County Zoo


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Acknowledgements

My thanks go to Mr. Vikash Tatayah of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation for letting me have access to the Conservation Area where I was able to take photographs of the endemic birds held at the Black River aviaries.

I thank particularly Mrs. Frédérique Koenig, Aviararies Manager, who was a helpful, friendly and competent guide.

Peter M.C. Werner
February 2004


 

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