Nicobar Pigeon Fact File
The Nicobar pigeon is one of the world’s most spectacular birds with bright, iridescent features. Across the back they are typically dark green though this will take on the iridescent sheen. The tail is short and white in color.
Their body is rather large in contrast to the small head. This small head is colored grey. The eyes are also large and help them when foraging for food in the dimly lit forest.
They have a black bill with an enlarged cere which forms a small blackish knob, red legs and an iris which is white in females and brown in males or sub-adults.
These birds tend to be heavier than pigeons of another size. An average weight for the species is 0.5kg (1lbs). Their body will measure an average of 40cm (16in) long. Females tend to be slightly larger than males.
These birds are herbivores. They will feed on seeds, fruit, insects and corn. Their muscular gizzard allows them to eat nuts which have a hard shell. Some small stones may also be consumed to help grind their food.
Most of their feeding takes place on the forest floor.
Unlike most birds they do not sip water. Instead they will submerge their entire bill in water and suck it up.
40cm (16in) long
Wild 8-12 years
Captive 15 years
— AD —
Asia is the native home of the Nicobar pigeon. Here they can be found in Cambodia; India; Indonesia; Malaysia; Myanmar; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Solomon Islands; Thailand and Viet Nam.
A rogue individual was found on the mainland of Australia in 2017 though its source is unknown.
These birds make their home in forest and shrubland. They forage in areas of lowland rainforest.
Prior to mating a pair of Nicobar pigeons will make a deep cooing sound. The male initiates this display by cooing and displaying for the female. As the season advances they will begin a bowing motion. He then gathers material for the female to form her nest from.
Often a pair of Nicobar pigeons will remain together for life.
Nesting occurs in a tree or shrub. The nest is a cup formed from sticks. Nicobar pigeons will nest in large flocks.
In to this nest the female will deposit a single egg. These are colored white with a faint blue tint and elliptical in shape.
The male and female will work together over the next 30 days to incubate the egg.
At hatching the chicks are almost entirely helpless and have no feathers covering their body. Both parents will keep them warm. Chicks are feed by their mother with a special substance known as ‘crop milk.’
Within a month the chicks can fend for themselves.
The white tail feathers can be used a signal when communicating with other birds. If threatening another bird they communicate through a vocalization which sounds like a grunting pig.
Nicobar pigeons will form large flocks with up to 85 members.
Predators and Threats
Introduced species such as rats and cats will prey on these birds and can take out large numbers at a time due to their colonial nesting behavior.
Humans affect the population of the Nicobar pigeon through trapping for the food and pet trades. It is also thought that their gizzard stones are sought after.
Habitat clearing is another major threat.
Nicobar pigeons are one of the closest relative of the dodo.
They are the only living members of their genus, Caloenus.
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JavAlvarezS, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
cuatrok77, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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BirdLife International. 2016. Caloenas nicobarica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22690974A93297507. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22690974A93297507.en. Downloaded on 14 April 2021.
Tulsazoo.org. 2021. Nicobar Pigeon. [online] Available at: <https://tulsazoo.org/animal/nicobar-pigeon/> [Accessed 15 April 2021].
Louisville Zoo. 2021. Pigeon, Nicobar. [online] Available at: <https://louisvillezoo.org/animalsandplants/pigeon-nicobar/> [Accessed 15 April 2021].
2021. Nicobar Pigeon. [ebook] Idaho Falls, p.1. Available at: <https://www.idahofallsidaho.gov/DocumentCenter/View/5001/Nicobar-Pigeon> [Accessed 15 April 2021].
Thai National Parks. 2021. Caloenas nicobarica, Nicobar pigeon. [online] Available at: <https://www.thainationalparks.com/species/nicobar-pigeon> [Accessed 15 April 2021].
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