Bird O'clock

10 Fascinating Facts about the Bonin Pigeon and Rosss Goose

The Bonin Pigeon, also known as the Columba versicolor, is a bird species that is native to the Bonin Islands and is classified under the Columbidae family. It is a unique and fascinating bird, and this article aims to provide information about its identification, plumages, molts, and how to distinguish it from other similar species.


The Bonin Pigeon has a distinctive appearance. It is a medium-sized pigeon with a length of around 33 cm and a weight of approximately 320 grams.

It has a grey head, neck, and breast with bluish-purple iridescence on the top of the head and on the wings. The back, wings, and tail are a dark purple-brown with slivery-grey edges.

On the underbelly, the color changes to pinkish-grey. The irides are a bright yellow color with a black pupil, and the feet are a deep red.



To identify a Bonin Pigeon in the field, observe its unique appearance described above. Also, note its typical behavior, which is commonly seen in the Columbidae family.

The pigeon tends to walk or run rather than hop, and it flies with a distinctive burst of wing-beats followed by a glide.

Similar Species

One of the most commonly confused species with the Bonin Pigeon is the Oriental Turtle-Dove. While they have many similarities, the Oriental Turtle-Dove has a white underbody, and the irides and feet are not as brightly colored.

The Ryukyu Pigeon is also similar in appearance to the Bonin Pigeon, but it has a shorter tail and lacks the blue iridescence on the head and neck.


The Bonin Pigeon has several distinct plumages that change during different stages of its life.

Juvenile Plumage

When born, the chicks are covered in white down, and their eyes closed. After a few days, the down disappears to reveal a short covering of grey feathers.

The juveniles are similar in appearance to the adult birds, with the exception of the irides and feet, which are a duller color.

Adult Plumage

At the age of nine months, a Bonin Pigeon will have reached its adult plumage, and the blue and purple colors of the neck and head become more prominent.


A molt is a process of replacing old feathers with new ones. The Bonin Pigeon molts once a year from April to August.

During this period, the pigeon sheds its entire set of feathers, and some features may become less visible.

Bonin Pigeon Conservation

Currently, the Bonin Pigeon is classified as Near-Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population has declined over the years as a result of habitat destruction, hunting, and the presence of invasive species.

There is currently conservation work being undertaken to ensure that this unique and fascinating bird is protected and preserved for future generations. In conclusion, the Bonin Pigeon is an exceptional bird species that is native to the Bonin Islands.

Through observing the unique features described above, it is possible to distinguish it from other similar species. The different plumages the bird undergoes and the molt process it experiences also make it fascinating.

The current conservation efforts should also be noted as it is up to all of us to ensure that this unique bird species is preserved for future generations.

Systematics History

The Rosss Goose (Chen rossii) is a North American goose species that was first described by the naturalist Bernard Ross in 1860. Initially, the Rosss Goose was thought to be a small race of the closely-related Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens).

However, further studies into the birds morphology and genetic makeup have since established it as a distinct species.

Geographic Variation

Rosss Geese exhibit geographic variation in their appearance, with the size of the bird being the most notable difference. Northern populations of the Rosss Goose tend to be larger, while southern populations tend to be smaller.

There have also been reports of interbreeding with Snow Geese in some regions, and hybrids can often be difficult to distinguish from pure Rosss Geese.


The Rosss Goose is currently recognized as a monotypic species, meaning it has no subspecies. However, there has been some debate over whether the northern and southern populations warrant taxonomic recognition as distinct subspecies.

Related Species

The Rosss Goose is part of the Chen genus, which also includes the Snow Goose, the Emperor Goose (Chen canagica), and the Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens caerulescens). These species are all part of the tribe Anserini, which includes all the geese native to North America.

The Rosss Goose is closely related to the Snow Goose and is often considered part of the “white geese” group along with several subspecies of the Snow Goose.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Rosss Goose was once a rare bird that was only found in parts of Canada and Alaska. However, the birds distribution and population have undergone significant changes over the last century.

The Rosss Goose is now considered a common bird across large parts of North America, with populations spread widely across the continent. The expansion of the Rosss Gooses range is thought to be the result of several factors.

One of the primary drivers of this expansion has been the conversion of agricultural land from grain production to cropland. This change has provided new habitats for the bird to exploit, and the Rosss Goose has taken advantage of these opportunities to expand its range.

Another significant factor in the expansion of the Rosss Gooses range has been the control of hunting pressure. The bird was once heavily hunted for its feathers and meat, and this hunting pressure had a significant impact on the birds population.

However, with the introduction of new hunting regulations and increasing public awareness of the birds plight, hunting pressure has been reduced, and the species has been able to recover. Changes in climate have also played a role in the Rosss Gooses range expansion.

As the climate has warmed, the bird has been able to expand its range further north, where previously it was too cold to survive. Additionally, warmer temperatures have enabled the bird to remain in areas for longer periods, reducing its need for long migrations.

Despite its successful expansion into new areas, the Rosss Goose continues to face significant threats.

Habitat loss, hunting, and climate change remain major challenges, and efforts must be made to protect this important bird species.

Conservation organizations are working to protect key habitats, reduce hunting pressure, and raise public awareness of the importance of this remarkable species. With continued effort and dedication, it is hoped that the Rosss Goose will continue to thrive and play a vital role in North Americas ecosystems.


The Rosss Goose is a highly adaptable species that occupies a diverse range of habitats across North America. The bird can be found in both natural and human-made environments, including wetlands, marshes, lakes, and cropland.

The Rosss Goose prefers to nest in areas that are inaccessible to predators and human disturbance, such as islands, peninsulas, or tundra. The bird is known to nest in small colonies, and nests are constructed on the ground, typically in open areas with sparse vegetation.

During the winter months, the Rosss Goose can be found in coastal areas, marshes, and farmland across the southern United States and northern Mexico. Here, the bird feeds on a variety of plant material, including grasses, sedges, and agricultural crops such as wheat and corn.

Movements and Migration

The Rosss Goose is a migratory species that makes an annual journey between its breeding grounds in the north and its wintering areas in the south. The birds migration patterns can vary greatly depending on factors such as food availability, weather conditions, and breeding success.

Adult Rosss Geese typically begin their migration south in late September or early October, depending on the location of their breeding grounds. The birds form large flocks during this time, often joining forces with flocks of Snow Geese along the way.

The Rosss Goose is known for its long migrations, with some birds traveling up to 3,000 miles from their breeding grounds to their wintering areas. During the migration, the Rosss Goose relies heavily on stopover sites to refuel and rest.

These sites may include agricultural fields, wetlands, and other areas with abundant food resources. The length of each stopover depends on the availability of resources and the distance yet to be traveled.

Upon reaching their wintering areas, the Rosss Goose typically forms large flocks with other waterfowl species, including Snow Geese. These flocks can number in the tens of thousands and are often found in wetlands and agricultural fields.

The Rosss Goose will remain in its wintering areas until March or April, at which point it will begin its journey back to its breeding grounds. In addition to its annual migration, the Rosss Goose is known to make movements within its breeding and wintering areas in response to changes in food availability or environmental conditions.

These movements can be important for the birds survival and may help it find new habitats if its preferred areas become unsuitable for breeding or feeding.

Conservation Considerations

The Rosss Goose is currently classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, the bird faces several threats to its survival, including habitat loss, hunting, and pollution.

The destruction of wetlands and other critical habitats has had a significant impact on the Rosss Gooses population, as well as on many other bird species. The loss of breeding and wintering grounds has reduced the birds reproductive success and led to declines in its population.

The Rosss Goose is also vulnerable to hunting, particularly during its migration when large flocks can be targeted by hunters. There have been efforts to regulate hunting pressure on the species, including seasonal hunting bans in some areas.

Pollution is another threat to the Rosss Goose and other waterfowl species. Pesticides and other pollutants can accumulate in the birds tissues, leading to health problems and reduced reproductive success.

Efforts are underway to protect critical habitats, regulate hunting pressure, and reduce pollution in areas where the Rosss Goose breeds and winters. Additionally, public awareness campaigns about the birds plight can help to ensure that its conservation needs are taken into consideration in land-use planning and development.

Diet and Foraging


The Rosss Goose is a selective feeder and feeds primarily on the vegetative parts of plants. During feeding, the bird uses its bill to cut off individual stems and leaves, which it then swallows whole.

The bird is known to forage in a variety of settings, including agricultural fields, wetlands, and grasslands. In agricultural areas, the bird feeds on crops such as wheat, rice, and corn.

In wetland environments, the Rosss Goose consumes a range of aquatic plants such as smartweed, widgeon grass, and pondweed. The bird also feeds on small seeds, insects, and small mollusks during migration and on its wintering grounds.


The Rosss Goose has a diverse diet, with a preference for specific plant species. Vegetation, particularly grasses and sedges, forms the bulk of its diet.

The bird prefers to feed on the young, tender shoots of these plants because they are more easily digestible. The Rosss Gooses diet changes throughout the year, depending on the availability of food.

During the breeding season, the bird feeds primarily on fresh vegetation, while during the fall and winter, it consumes large amounts of grain and other crops. During migration, the bird feeds opportunistically on available food sources along its route.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Rosss Goose has a high metabolic rate, which allows it to digest food quickly and efficiently. The bird has a unique digestive system, which enables it to extract nutrients from tough, fibrous plant material.

The birds high metabolic rate is also essential for maintaining its body temperature in colder environments. Like many bird species, the Rosss Goose maintains a high body temperature, even in cold environments.

The bird has several adaptations that allow it to regulate its temperature efficiently, including a large body size, high metabolic rate, and insulation from its feathers.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Rosss Goose is a relatively quiet bird and produces a limited range of vocalizations. The birds main call is a soft, nasal honking sound that is similar to the call of the Snow Goose.

The call is used by the bird to communicate with other members of its flock and as a form of warning or alarm. The Rosss Goose also produces a snarling sound, which is usually made when the bird is agitated or threatened.

The sound is produced by rapidly expelling air from the birds mouth, creating a rattling sound that is intended to intimidate its adversaries. During mating season, the Rosss Goose produces a low-pitched honking sound that is used to attract potential mates.

The call is typically heard on the birds breeding grounds and during courtship. Overall, the Rosss Goose makes relatively few vocalizations throughout the year.

However, the birds honking call is an important part of its communication and can be used to distinguish it from other goose species.

Conservation Considerations

The Rosss Goose is currently considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, as with all wildlife species, there are ongoing conservation concerns.

Wetland and grassland habitats that are critical to the Rosss Gooses feeding and breeding success continue to be destroyed and degraded, posing a threat to the species survival. In some areas, the Rosss Goose continues to be hunted.

Hunting can have a significant impact on the birds population, particularly during migration. Additionally, the bird is vulnerable to pollution, which can negatively impact its health and reproductive success.

Efforts are underway to reduce the impact of these threats on the Rosss Gooses population. Conservation organizations are working to protect critical habitats, regulate hunting pressure, and reduce pollution in areas where the bird breeds and winters.

Public awareness campaigns about the birds plight can also help to ensure that its needs are taken into consideration in land-use planning and development.



The Rosss Goose is a primarily terrestrial bird, and its primary mode of locomotion is walking or running. The bird uses its wings to help it maintain balance while it walks or runs, and it can also use its wings to help it take off into flight.

When in flight, the Rosss Goose is a powerful flier, capable of soaring and gliding for long periods. The bird typically flies in a V-formation with other members of its flock, which helps it reduce the energy required for flight.


The Rosss Goose is a clean bird and spends a significant amount of time grooming itself to ensure its feathers remain in good condition. The bird spreads its feathers out and uses its beak to preen and clean them.

During molting, the bird will also pluck out old feathers to make way for new ones.

Agonistic Behavior

The Rosss Goose is typically docile and non-aggressive. However, during breeding season, the bird can become territorial and engage in agonistic behavior with other members of its species.

This behavior can include aggressive displays such as hissing, charging, and biting.

Sexual Behavior

The Rosss Goose is monogamous, and pairs form before the onset of the breeding season. The birds will then use a variety of courtship displays to strengthen their bond and establish their pair-bond.

Courtship displays typically involve the male bird presenting food to the female or performing a series of elaborate dances and vocalizations.


The Rosss Goose breeds during the summer months and typically breeds in small to medium-sized colonies in the Arctic tundra and other northern areas. The bird forms monogamous pair bonds, and the male and female will work together to build a nest on the ground.

Once the nest is constructed, the female will lay a clutch of 3-5 eggs, which both the male and female will incubate. Incubation lasts around 23-25 days, and during this time, the pair will take turns incubating the eggs and foraging for food.

Once the eggs hatch, the male and female will care for the young incubated goslings. The birds remain in the nest until the young are strong enough to leave, at which time they will begin to forage with their parents.

Demography and Populations

The Rosss Gooses population trends have been on the rise over the past few decades. The birds population had been declining for many years, but conservation efforts, including the protection of critical habitats and the implementation of hunting regulations, helped to reverse the trend.

The Rosss Goose is currently listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, while the birds population is increasing, it still faces several threats to its survival, including habitat loss, hunting, and pollution.

It is important to continue to monitor the Rosss Gooses population trends and to work to protect critical habitats, reduce pollution, and regulate hunting pressure to ensure the species survival. By working together, we can help to ensure that this remarkable bird continues to thrive for generations to come.

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