Pigeons & Doves

Pigeons and doves (Columbidae)

Extinct PigeonsMascarene pigeons and doves were mentioned in most early accounts, but unfortunately, very few descriptive details were given. During the 17th and 18th centuries, indeterminate pigeons and doves were found and slaughtered in vast numbers. By the 1820s all but one Mascarene species had become extinct.


Only the Mauritian pink pigeon Nesoenas mayeri, which was reduced to 10-15 birds by the late 1970s, survives. It has now recovered to approximately 350 individuals thanks to intensive conservation efforts but the numbers fluctuate greatly. A second Mauritian species, the pigeon Hollandais or Dutch pigeon Alectroenas nitidissima, so named because the red, white and blue plumage represents the colours of the Dutch flag, is only known from 3 specimens, the youngest taken in 1826. Some early accounts mention ‘turtledoves’ on Mauritius and a good candidate for this species is Nesoenas picturata, a turtle dove widely distributed in the Indian Ocean. The Madagascar turtle dove S. picturata occurs on Mauritius today but it appears to be introduction.


Reunion Blue & Pink PigeonsOn Réunion at least 3 pigeon and doves are mentioned. One species is based on the account of Dubois in 1674 and now confirmed by fossil remains is Nesoenas duboisi. It is closely related to the Mauritian pink pigeon. A second, probably akin to Alectroenas, was also described by Dubois in 1674 and Bontekoe in 1612. Based on these descriptions, this pigeon lacked the blue body colouration of A. nitidissima, being instead slate-coloured. Similar to the Madagascar species A. madagascarienesis, the Réunion bird may have also lacked the white head, neck and shoulders of A. nitidissima. A turtle dove, now confirmed by fossil remains, also occurred on Réunion. It was reported to still inhabit the woods in 1732, but was never reported again so must have died out shortly after this date.


Rodrigues had at least 2 endemic pigeons, both confirmed by skeletal material and a few descriptions. The pigeons were already avoiding mainland Rodrigues and nesting on the islets in 1691-2, due to persecution by rats. Tafforet in 1726 mentions them briefly stating that they were rare on the mainland and were only common on the islets. Pingre declared them totally extinct by 1761.

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