Avian Expert Articles

The Resplendent Nicobar Pigeon

Nicobar PigeonOur vast world is quite a splash of natural design and color. From the uniqueness of a raindrop splatter, the individual characteristics of an iris, the shape and form of a flower or plant, and the genetic coding of anything that lives, nature has created awe-inspiring blueprints for everything that we can see and hold. With birds, the design and coloring of any species can be delighted in.

Exotic birds often contain amazing displays of colors and patterns that send our hearts fluttering. Given their size and the opportunity to be more detailed over larger areas of their bodies, exotic birds are nature’s expression of beautiful artwork. One such work of art is the Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica).

The Nicobar Pigeon is a resplendent bird with a distinct and vibrant collection of hackles, which are long and narrow black/purple feathers extending from their neck. These long feathers adorn a green and blue iridescent back, and complement their wings of green, rust red, blue, and copper colors.

These unique birds are the only bird alive of a subfamily that once included the extinct Dodo bird. They can be found primarily in the tropical island areas of Southeast Asia including Vietnam, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from where the bird acquired its name. The pigeon is about one and a half feet in size, with the female slightly smaller. The Nicobar pigeon is a monogamous bird, mating for life with a single female.

Near Threatened

Unfortunately, the Nicobar Pigeon is listed as Near Threatened. They are rapidly disappearing at a rate that could soon have them on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) scale for a Threatened species. The bird’s natural diet consists of seed, fruit, and buds. In order to grind hard to digest foods, this pigeon has a gizzard stone (or stomach stone). These birds are often hunted and killed for their stones, which are used in jewelry and sold. This pigeon is also sought after as a food source, which contributes to their advancing decimation.

The Nicobar pigeon is also sought after as an exotic pet. Currently, being threatened, they are not available in the United State or other locations as an easily acquired bird as a pet. Being on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) list makes it illegal for them to be traded at all. Legal captive-breeding is allowed primarily for zoos.

Saving The Nicobar

Many zoos around the world have formed a coalition known as the Nicobar Pigeon Species Survival Plan. A population of  approximately 450 to 500 birds are housed in 55 institutions and are kept as “insurance” against possible extinction. The plan is also a formal breeding and transfer activity to train these birds to adapt and proliferate in protected areas. While the Nicobar pigeon population can be trusted to grow, it is the declining availability of suitable habitats for nesting that is a formidable problem. It is one that is being taken into account as training for the plan birds.

The Nicobar pigeon is quite a beautiful bird. With its unique appearance, its gentle demeanor, and typical fearlessness among humans, they can be enjoyed for what they are in protected areas and zoos. Nature has gifted us with a wide variety of colorful creations. It’s our established responsibility to protect their livelihood, their existence, and their habitats from destruction and extinction.


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