The Nicobar Pigeon has a bright plumage and a noticeable white tail.
Photo: Tomfriedel/Wikimedia Commons.
One look at this bird, and you are immediately reminded of the far more common Rock Pigeon that we see in our towns and cities. It does belong to the same family Columbidae. However, this is the Nicobar Pigeon, which is interestingly, the closest living relative of the extinct flightless bird, the Dodo.
The Nicobar Pigeon’s shiny, bluish-green and coppery feathers are extremely striking. But what is more eye-catching is its ‘mane’ of long feathers around its neck! It is slightly larger than the Rock Pigeon and grows to a length of around 40 cm. and weighs about 600 to 620 gm. The female Nicobar Pigeon is slightly smaller than the male, and can be differentiated by its white iris* while the male and juvenile sport brown irises. Its short white tail is in stark contrast to the rest of its colourful, dark body! This pigeon mates for life with a single partner, which means the species is monogamous.
It is mostly a ground dweller, but can fly (unlike the Dodo) swiftly across long distances if the need arises. It feeds on fallen seeds, berries, nuts, fruits and even insects it finds on the ground. But when it builds a nest, it is usually high up on tall evergreen trees to keep the eggs safe from predators.
The Nicobar Pigeon is the only member of the genus* Caloenus still alive. It is found on the Nicobar islands of India (hence the name) and in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI, NO. 11, November 2016.