Nicobar Pigeon

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Photo:  Dean Foy (courtesy of the Sedgwick County zoo)
Name: Nicobar Pigeon
Scientific name:  Caloenas nicobarica
Range: South Asia, Indo-Australian region,    Nicobar Island
Habitat: small wooden islands
Status: Threatened
Diet in the wild: hard seeds, fruit and some invertebrates, is fond of corn
Diet in the zoo: galliform diet (a mixture that includes grains, chopped egg, lay chow and carrot)
Location in the zoo:   not currently on exhibit
Physical description: 

  • (unknown: written in Chinese)
  • The Nicobar Pigeon also known as the "hackled pigeon," "white-tailed pigeon" or vulturine pigeon"  is one of the most beautiful of the pigeon/dove species.  They are rather thick set with a relatively small head, but long legs and wings.  They are heavier than most pigeons there size, they can be up to 32-35cm (16 in), the male being 460-525g and the female 490-600g.  The pigeon is stocky and dark, it is metallic green with coppery reflections with unique long fowl like hackles on the neck.  The head, upper neck flight feathers and breast are dark slate blackish gray with a silvery purplish bloom.  The tail of this pigeon is very short with a pure white undercoat.  On the base of the bill near the forehead, there is a black knob that is larger in the males.  They have a strong, hooked bill and large purplish red feet with buffy yellow claws.  The females are similar, but they are smaller with shorter hackles and browner underparts.
    General information:

    (Photographer unknown:  Photo courtesy of the Honolulu Zoo)

    The Nicobar is nomadic, they commute from island to island in flocks up to 85 birds at a height of 60m or more during the day to find food (hard seeds, fruits, insects, and corn).  Tthey feed off of the ground, toss leaves aside and dig with their bill.  These pigeons roost together at night on islands that are not inhabited.  The Nicobar does not sip when drinking, instead they are like other pigeons and doves, they immerse their bill sucking up the water.  The Nicobar is usually silent, but their vocalization is a deep cooing sound.  The breeding season for these pigeons seemed to be prolonged, but these birds are monogamous and tend to mate for a life time.  It seems as if the male bows to the female and coos loudly, this action can go on for days.  This is followed by the building of the nest.  The male provides the nesting site which is normally in thick brushy areas, also they gather 3-4 twigs, roots and other material needed to build the nest.  The female arranges the twigs so that the egg would be stable and not roll.  Their nest can be as low as 2m above the ground in undisturbed colonies, or just below the canopy top to 12m in disturbed sites.  In each clutch, there is 1 egg (there can usually be 2 eggs) elliptical in shape and white, with a faint bluish tinge.  Both the male and the female share the incubating duties which last 30 days (two and a half weeks for each parent).  The birds are hatched nearly naked, with shiny black skin.  When born, the birds are helpless, and require attentive parental care and feeding.  They are first fed "crop milk" which is a rich fluid regurgitated by the female parent.  Gradually the birds switch to a solid diet of fruit and seed.  The parents try to keep their young as warm as possible, until their feathers begin to grow (about 10 days).  Within less than a month the young pigeons can fend for themselves even though they remain in their nest.
    Special anatomical, physiological 
    or behavioral adaptations:

    Some special behavioral adaptations of the Nicobar pigeon is its very thick walled muscular gizzard, which is lined with plates.  This muscular gizzard enables them to grind large hard nuts that a human could only open with a hammer.  They commute to safe localities in large flocks between their foraging and breeding islands(only breed on islands that are not inhabited).  They make a sound like pigs grunting when threatening others.  They fly close to ground level.  They also immerse their bill to suck up the water instead of sipping.

    Side profile of the Nicobar Pigeon
    Photographer unknown: 
    Photo courtesy of the Sedgwick County Zoo
    Comments about the Nicobar Pigeon of the Fort Worth Zoo:

    Nicobar pigeon at the Fort Worth Zoo

    I received  information from two zoo keepers about the Nicobar Pigeon at the Fort Worth Zoo.   The zoo keepers by the name of Chris Munch and Chris Davis were able to tell me where the pigeons are found, some unique characteristics about the pigeon, and that the pigeon  is threatened, but not endangered.   In addition to this, I was unable to have a one-on-one glance of the Nicobar pigeon and provide comments because it is no longer on exhibit at the zoo, and  its return is uncertain.

    Personal Observations: 

             David Maneth 

    I enjoyed creating this web page on the Nicobar pigeon.  I found it to be a bird of beauty, and one of unique character (elongated feathers, and a plump figure).  Even though they may appear to be like other pigeons and doves, they like to be isolated, and are vulnerable to disturbance; hence making them more are at one with nature.  In addition, they appear to have a "pretty" healthy diet which in turn enhances their thick, plump figure.  Moreover, they are threatened because they live on very small islands, but they are not extinct.

    Source Materials and Related Links:

    Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4, Lynx Edicions, Birdlife International, editor, Del 
    Hoyo, Elliott and Saragatal,1997.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore, editors, Jeyara Jasingham and Person, Oxford University Press, 1999.

    Page author: {short description of image}Jiamara Campbell

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