Nicobar Pigeon

The Nicobar Pigeon is found in Southeast Asia. They are considered a “Near Threatened” species because their numbers are declining due to humans hunting them for food, the pet trade, using their gizzard stone for jewelry and degradation of their environment.

Nicobar Pigeons have a rather small head, long legs, long wings and a short tail. Their heads are blue grey. The neck feathers are also a blue grey and look like a mane. Their body is a mixture of grey and metallic green, blue and hints of copper. Their undertail is white. On the base of the bill near the forehead, they have a black knob. Females are slightly smaller, have browner underparts, and the knob on their bill is smaller.

Nicobar Pigeons eat seeds, fruit, buds, and grain. They have a gizzard stone to grind up the hard food items. They feed off of the ground searching through the leaves and digging with their bill. Like other pigeons, Nicobar Pigeons immerse their bill in water and suck it up instead of sipping water and then holding up their head to swallow it like most other birds.

The courtship ritual consists of the male bowing and cooing to the female. This ritual can last a few days. They are believed to be monogamous and mate for life.

Nicobar Pigeons build their twig nests in dense forests on small wooden offshore islands. These islets are usually uninhabited. They usually form large colonies. The male finds the nesting site, provides the nesting material and the female makes the nest. The female lays 1-2 eggs and both parents incubate the eggs. The chicks are altricial (helpless at birth) and are initially fed crop milk that the female regurgitates.

The Nicobar Pigeon is found in Southeast Asia including India, New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They prefer mangroves and lowland forests.

Nicobar Pigeons don’t migrate but they do move from island to island in flocks and are considered nomadic. They usually roost on small predator free islands and fly to other places searching for food. Unlike other pigeons, Nicobar Pigeons usually fly in columns or single file, not in a loose flock.

The dark golden-green iridescent Nicobar pigeon is one of the largest pigeon species. The body-weight is around 600 g, the female is somewhat smaller. It has a sturdy body and a relatively small head. It is long-legged, has almost no tail, and features an iridescent purple mane of long hackles. The short tail is white, the iris brown, the bill black, and the feet are dark purplish red.

The Nicobar pigeon normally breeds, often in dense colonies, on extremely small, wooded offshore islands and forages in situ or on adjacent mainland (or larger island) areas. Like other poigeons, the Nicobar is monogamous. The clutch usually consists of one or two eggs, which are incubated for 30 days. Both parents share duties caring for the nest. The young fledges after 70-80 days.

Nicobar pigeons feed on a variety of seeds, fruit, and small invertebrates. They have a very muscular gizzard, which enables them to eat very hard-shelled nuts.

This is a large heavy-set pigeon. The male is stocky and dark coloured with unique long fowl-like hackles on the neck and a very short, all white tail. The head and hairy upper neck feathers are a dark blackish grey with a silvery purple bloom. The upper-parts are a shining dark green or a coppery green; the under-parts a dark, iridescent green or green blue. They have a heavy black bill with a pronounced cere. The feet are purplish red with yellow or buff claws. The female has a smaller cere, is similar in colour but has shorter hackles and has more coppery red on the mantle and browner under-parts. Juveniles lack the neck hackles and are entirely brownish black including the tail. The young look very similar. When maturing, the hackles appear first before the tail turns white.

The breeding season is quite prolonged, from January to November depending on the location. They nest in colonies usually on the smaller islands. Undisturbed colonies may number thousands of pairs. The nest is a loose platform of twigs, placed as low as two metres off the ground in undisturbed sites or just below the canopy at a height of 12 metres in disturbed sites. Several nests may be built in a single tree. One elliptical faintly blue-tinged white egg is laid. The nestling is devoid of even down very much like the domestic pigeon. Fledging takes up to one month.

Nicobar pigeons are highly nomadic. They frequently commute between islands; visiting larger islands to feed, even reaching mainland islands such as Papua New Guinea but retreating to smaller ones to breed. They often fly in flocks of up to 85 birds at a height of 60 m plus, with a distinctive flight profile; long neck, broad wings and a very short tail. When flushed from the ground, the bird flies up with a whirr of wings to land in the upper level of the forest. When threatened, the bird erects its neck and back feathers, throws its head forward opening the bill wide emitting a grunting noise. They feed on the ground, singly or in pairs and are particularly active at dawn and dusk and could therefore, be called crepuscular. The large eyes and white tail appear to be adaptations to this activity in semi-darkness.

They are hunted in considerable numbers for food, and also for their gizzard stone which is used in jewelry. This species is trapped for the pet market. Its available nesting habitat is decreasing. The offshore islets which it requires are often logged for plantations, destroyed by construction activity, or polluted by nearby industries.