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Within its Caribbean range, this pigeon was once abundant but its populations are now reduced and its range fragmented. On Puerto Rico, numbers have increased in response to an active conservation program.
This large, brownish pigeon is paler than other arboreal pigeons within its range. It is also identified by the reddish-brown on wings and breast, and white fringes to the wing coverts. The Plain Pigeon is a surprisingly tame bird.
This species was once abundant and widespread throughout the Greater Antilles, but has since suffered severe declines. It continues in Cuba (six populations), Jamaica (rare), the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. On Puerto Rico, its numbers had dropped to 100 in the 1970s but had rebounded to 700 or so by 1996.
This arboreal species is found mainly on savannas, open woodlands, coastal scrub, dry limestone forests, and lowland forest edges. Breeding takes place year-round on Puerto Rico. Its fragile stick nest is placed in clusters of vegetation such as vines, bamboo clumps, or palm fronds. The female lays just one egg, but there may be three clutches in a season.
Hunting, logging, loss of habitat to agricultural plantations have all contributed to the bird's decline. Hurricanes also continue to threaten populations. On Puerto Rico, it is estimated that by 1912 more than 90% of forested habitat had already been lost or altered.
The Puerto Rico population was federally listed as Endangered in 1970. A captive breeding program in Puerto Rico started in 1983 had successfully raised over 100 birds by 1990 and a few birds were released in 1993. Numbers should be closely monitored. The area where most birds occur is still subject to habitat loss and human disturbance of nesting birds.
What Can You Do?
The Endangered Species Act has helped protect the Puerto Rican population of the Plain Pigeon and made it possible to learn critical information about its biology. Audubon continues to work to ensure that this vital legislation is being used to protect our publicly-owned wildlife resources. Check out http://www.audubon.org/campaign/ to learn of the latest news about the Endangered Species Act and how you can help. To learn more about other species protected under this legislation, visit: http://endangered.fws.gov/
Support protection or acquisition of habitat on Puerto Rico by conservation agencies and organizations.
Become a member of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. See http://www.nmnh.si.edu/BIRDNET/SCO/.
Audubon is the U.S. representative of the global BirdLife International alliance. Our BirdLife partners in the Caribbean are developing Important Bird Areas programs to identify and conserve critical habitats that support birds and other wildlife. For more information on BirdLife IBA efforts throughout the Americas visit: http://www.birdlife.net/sites/index.cfm
For information about birds of Puerto Rico, including the Plain Pigeon, you can visit the website of the Sociedad Ornitologica Puertorrique?a: http://www.avesdepuertorico.org/main.htm
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened Birds of the World. BirdLife International and Lynx Edicions, United Kingdom.
Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in Jeopardy. Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Garrido, O. H., and A. Kirkconnell. 2000. Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
Raffaele, H., J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, and J. Raffaele. 1998. A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Puerto Rican Plain Pigeon Species Account. http://endangered.fws.gov/i/b/sab40.html