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Caloenas nicobarica

Caloenas nicobarica, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Columbimorphae
Ordo: Columbiformes

Familia: Columbidae
Subfamilia: Columbinae
Genus: Caloenas
Species: Caloenas nicobarica
Subspecies: C. n. nicobarica - C. n. pelewensis

Caloenas nicobarica (Linnaeus, 1758)
Original combination: Columba nicobarica


Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiæ: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii. i–ii, 1–824 pp DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.542: 164. Reference page.

Vernacular names
brezhoneg: Koulm nikobar
català: Colom de Nicobar
čeština: Holub nikobarský
Deutsch: Kragentaube
English: Nicobar Pigeon
Esperanto: Nikobara kolombo
español: Paloma de Nicobar
français: Nicobar à camail
hrvatski: Nikobarski golub
magyar: Sörényes galamb
Bahasa Indonesia: Junai Mas
日本語: ミノバト
한국어: 니코바르비둘기
lietuvių: Nikobarinis karvelis
Bahasa Melayu: Burung Punai Emas
Nederlands: Manenduif
norsk: Mankedue
polski: Nikobarczyk
پنجابی: نکوبار کبوتر
português: Pombo-de-nicobar
русский: Гривистый голубь
српски / srpski: Никобарски голуб
svenska: Nikobarduva
ไทย: นกชาปีไหน, นกกะดง

The Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica, Car: ma-kūö-kö[3]) is a bird found on small islands and in coastal regions from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, east through the Malay Archipelago, to the Solomons and Palau. It is the only living member of the genus Caloenas alongside the extinct spotted green pigeon, and is the closest living relative of the extinct dodo and Rodrigues solitaire.


In 1738, the English naturalist Eleazar Albin included a description and two illustrations of the Nicobar pigeon in his A Natural History of Birds. When in 1758 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the tenth edition, he placed the Nicobar pigeon with all the other pigeons in the genus Columba. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Columba nicobarica and cited Albin's work.[4] The species is now placed in the genus Caloenas that was introduced by the English zoologist George Robert Gray in 1840 with the Nicobar pigeon as the type species.[5][6]

Two subspecies are recognised:[6]

C. n. nicobarica (Linnaeus, 1758) – Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Malay Archipelago to New Guinea, Philippines and Solomon Islands
C. n. pelewensis Finsch, 1875 – Palau Island

Based on cladistic analysis of mtDNA cytochrome b and 12S rRNA sequences, the Nicobar pigeon is sometimes called the closest living relative of the extinct didines (Raphinae), which include the famous dodo (Raphus cucullatus).[7] However, the study's results showed this as one weak possibility from a limited sample of taxa. In any case, nDNA β-fibrinogen intron 7 sequence data agrees with the idea of the Raphinae as a subfamily of pigeons (and not an independent family, as was previously believed due to their bizarre apomorphies) that was part of a diverse Indopacific radiation, to which the Nicobar pigeon also belongs.[8]

The following cladogram, from Shapiro and colleagues (2002), shows the Nicobar pigeon's closest relationships within Columbidae, a clade consisting of generally ground-dwelling island endemics.[7]

Goura victoria (Victoria crowned pigeon)

Caloenas nicobarica (Nicobar pigeon)

Pezophaps solitaria (Rodrigues solitaire)

Raphus cucullatus (dodo)

Didunculus strigirostris (tooth-billed pigeon)

Painting by Henrik Grönvold

A similar cladogram was published in 2007, differing only in the inverted placement of Goura and Didunculus, as well as in the inclusion of the pheasant pigeon and the thick-billed ground pigeon at the base of the clade.[9]

C. nicobarica is a quite singular columbiform (though less autapomorphic than the flightless Raphinae), as are for example the tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris) and the crowned pigeons (Goura), which are typically considered distinct subfamilies. Hence, the Nicobar pigeon may well constitute another now-monotypic subfamily. And while any of the semi-terrestrial pigeons of Southeast Asia and the Wallacea cannot be excluded as possible closest living relative of the Raphinae, the Nicobar pigeon makes a more plausible candidate than for example the group of imperial-pigeons and fruit-doves, which seems to be part of the same radiation.[8]

Whether it is possible to clarify such deep-time phylogenies without a comprehensive study of all major lineages of living Columbidae remains to be seen. The primitive molecular clock used to infer the date the ancestors of the Nicobar pigeon and the didines diverged has since turned out to be both unreliable and miscalibrated. But what little evidence is available still suggests that the Nicobar pigeon is distinct from all other living lifeforms since the Paleogene – most likely some time between 56-34 million years ago during the Eocene, which makes up the bulk of the Paleogene period.[10]

From subfossil bones found on New Caledonia and Tonga, an extinct species of Caloenas, the Kanaka pigeon (C. canacorum) was described. It was about one-quarter larger[11] than the Nicobar pigeon. Considering that it must have been a good source of food, it was most likely hunted to extinction by the first human settlers of its home islands. It probably was extinct by 500 BC. The Spotted green pigeon (C. maculata) is a more recently extinct species from an unknown Pacific locality; it probably disappeared in the 19th century and most likely succumbed to introduced European rats. It is placed in Caloenas as the least awkward possibility; its true affinities are presently indeterminate and it is perhaps more likely to represent a distinct genus of the Indopacific radiation of Columbidae.[12]
An adult at the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens with iridescent scapulars

It is a large pigeon, measuring 40 cm (16 in) in length. The head is grey, like the upper neck plumage, which turns into green and copper hackles. The tail is very short and pure white. The rest of its plumage is metallic green. The cere of the dark bill forms a small blackish knob; the strong legs and feet are dull red. The irises are dark.[13]

Females are slightly smaller than males; they have a smaller bill knob, shorter hackles and browner underparts. Immature birds have a black tail and lack almost all iridescence. There is hardly any variation across the birds' wide range. Even the Palau subspecies C. n. pelewensis has merely shorter neck hackles, but is otherwise almost identical.[13]

It is a very vocal species, giving a low-pitched repetitive call.[13]
Distribution and habitat
Close up of the head

On the Nicobar Islands (which are referred to in its common and scientific names), the most significant colony of Nicobar pigeons in modern times was found on Batti Malv, a remote wildlife sanctuary between Car Nicobar and Teressa. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused massive damage on the Nicobar Islands, and to what extent Batti Malv was affected is still not clear. But while everything on some islets in the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve was destroyed, Batti Malv lighthouse – a skeletal tower a dozen metres high, standing a few metres ASL at the highest point of the low-lying island – was little-damaged and put back in operation by the survey ship INS Sandhayak less than one month after the disaster. An April 2007 survey by the Indian Coast Guard vessel ICGS Vikram found the lighthouse tower "totally covered" in vines, indicating rampant regeneration of vegetation – but perhaps also that damage to the island's forest was severe, as a cover of creeping plants is typical of early succession stages, while a photo of the lighthouse taken before the tsunami shows rather mature forest.[14]
Found in Australia

A Nicobar pigeon was found by the Bardi Jawi Indigenous rangers on the Dampier Peninsula in the western Kimberley, Australia in May 2017. As part of biosecurity measures, it was reported to quarantine services and was removed by Australian Department of Agriculture officials.[15][16][17]
Behaviour and ecology

The Nicobar pigeon's breeding range encompasses the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, the Mergui Archipelago of Myanmar, offshore islands of south-western Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, southern Cambodia and Vietnam, and many of the small islands between Sumatra, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands. On Palau, the only distinct subspecies C. n. pelewensis is found.[13]
The white tail is the most conspicuous feature of adult Nicobar pigeons, particularly when seen at a distance in the twilight.

The Nicobar pigeon roams in flocks from island to island, usually sleeping on offshore islets where no predators occur and spends the day in areas with better food availability, not shying away from areas inhabited by humans. Its food consists of seeds, fruit and buds, and it is attracted to areas where grain is available. A gizzard stone helps to grind up hard food items. Its flight is quick, with regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings, as is characteristic of pigeons in general. Unlike other pigeons, groups tend to fly in columns or single file, not in a loose flock. The white tail is prominent in flight when seen from behind and may serve as a sort of "taillight", keeping flocks together when crossing the sea at dawn or dusk. The young birds' lack of a white tail is a signal of their immaturity clearly visible to conspecifics – to an adult Nicobar pigeon, it is obvious at a glance which flockmembers are neither potential mates, nor potential competitors for mates, nor old enough to safely guide a flock from one island to another.[13]

This species nests in dense forest on offshore islets, often in large colonies. It builds a loose stick nest in a tree. It lays one elliptical faintly blue-tinged white egg.[13]

In 2017, several individual Caloenas nicobarica were sighted in the Kimberley region of Western Australia with a juvenile captured at Ardyaloon (One Arm Point), near Broome - the first time the bird has been sighted on the Australian mainland.[18]
Nicobar pigeon in a U.S. zoo
Nicobar pigeon at Munich Zoo Hellabrunn

Nicobar pigeons are hunted in considerable numbers for food, and also for their gizzard stone which is used in jewellery. The species is also trapped for the local pet market, but as it is on CITES Appendix I, commercial international trade is prohibited. Internationally, captive breeding is able to supply the birds demanded by zoos, where this attractive and unusual bird is often seen. Direct exploitation of the species, even including the illegal trade, might be sustainable on its own; however, 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 industry or harbours. Also, increased travel introduces predators to more and more of the breeding sites, and colonies of the Nicobar pigeon may be driven to desert such locations or be destroyed outright. Though the bird is widely distributed and in some locations very common --even on small Palau it is still reasonably plentiful, with an estimated 1,000 adult birds remaining—its long-term future is increasingly jeopardized. For these reasons, the IUCN considers C. nicobarica a near threatened species.[19]

BirdLife International (2016). "Caloenas nicobarica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22690974A93297507. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22690974A93297507.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
"Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 2022-01-14.
Whitehead, Rev. G.; Dictionary of the Car (Nicobarese) language; published 1925 by American Baptist Mission Press; pp. xxvi-xxxii
Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae:Laurentii Salvii. p. 164.
Gray, George Robert (1840). A List of the Genera of Birds : with an Indication of the Typical Species of Each Genus. London: R. and J.E. Taylor. p. 59.
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (2020). "Pigeons". IOC World Bird List Version 10.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
Shapiro et al. 2002.
Johnson & Clayton 2000; Shapiro et al. 2002.
Pereira et al. 2007.
Johnson & Clayton 2000; Shapiro et al. 2002; Slack et al. 2006.
Tim H. Heupink, Hein van Grouw, David M. Lambert (July 2014). "The mysterious Spotted Green Pigeon and its relation to the Dodo and its kindred". BMC Evol Biol. 14: 136. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-136. PMC 4099497. PMID 25027719.
Fuller (2000): p. 174–175.
Grimmett et al. (2009).
Sankaran (1998), IHMDN (2005), ICG (2007), Rowlett (2008).
"Bardi Jawi rangers discover Nicobar pigeon". Kimberley Land Council. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
Collins, Ben; Mills, Vanessa (5 May 2017). "Dodo's relative, Nicobar pigeon, found in north-west Australia's Kimberley region". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
Wahlquist, Calla (5 May 2017). "Pigeon related to dodo found on Australian mainland for first time". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
Laurie, Victoria (5 May 2017). "The dodo's gorgeous island-hopping relative finds its way to our shores". The Australian. Sydney. Retrieved 5 May 2017.

BLI (2009).


Fuller, Errol (2000): Extinct Birds (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York. ISBN 978-0-19-850837-3.
Grimmett, Richard; Inskipp, Carol, Inskipp, Tim & Byers, Clive (1999): Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. ISBN 978-0-691-04910-6.
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) (2007): Andaman & Nicobar Region News, September 2007. Retrieved 2009-MAY-22.
Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Navy) (IHMDN) (2005): Relief Assistance Provided by Indian Navy – Update 19 January 05. Version of 2005-JAN-19. Retrieved 2009-MAY-22.
Johnson, Kevin P.; Clayton, Dale H. (2000). "Nuclear and Mitochondrial Genes Contain Similar Phylogenetic. Signal for Pigeons and Doves (Aves: Columbiformes)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 14 (1): 141–151. doi:10.1006/mpev.1999.0682. PMID 10631048. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-10-16.
Pereira, S. L.; Johnson, K. P.; Clayton, D. H.; Baker, A. J. (2007). "Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences support a Cretaceous origin of Columbiformes and a dispersal-driven radiation in the Paleogene". Systematic Biology. 56 (4): 656–672. doi:10.1080/10635150701549672. PMID 17661233. icon of an open green padlock
Rowlett, Russ (2008-10-01). "Lighthouses of India: Andaman and Nicobar Islands". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
Sankaran, R (1998). "An annotated list of the endemic avifauna of the Nicobar islands" (PDF). Forktail. 13: 17–22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10.
Shapiro, B.; Sibthorpe, D.; Rambaut, A.; Austin, J.; Wragg, G. M.; Bininda-Emonds, O. R. P.; Lee, P. L. M.; Cooper, A. (2002). "Flight of the Dodo" (PDF). Science. 295 (5560): 1683. doi:10.1126/science.295.5560.1683. PMID 11872833. Supplementary information
Slack, Kerryn E.; Jones, Craig M.; Ando, Tatsuro; Harrison, G.L. "Abby; Fordyce, R. Ewan; Arnason, Ulfur; Penny, David (2006). "Early Penguin Fossils, plus Mitochondrial Genomes, Calibrate Avian Evolution". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 23 (6): 1144–1155. doi:10.1093/molbev/msj124. PMID 16533822. Supplementary Material open access

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