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Discover the Diverse Behaviors and Beautiful Plumage of the Chilean Pigeon

Chilean Pigeon, Patagioenas araucanaThe Chilean Pigeon, also known as the Araucana Pigeon, can be found in the southern parts of South America, including Chile and Argentina. This species is a part of the family Columbidae, which includes doves and pigeons.

With their distinct blue-gray plumage and red eyes, they are easily recognizable. In this article, we will take a closer look at the identification and plumages of the Chilean Pigeon.

Identification

Field Identification

The Chilean Pigeon is a medium to large-sized bird that measures up to 35 cm in length. They have a blue-gray back and a lighter underside.

The wings are also blue-gray with a black barring pattern, and they have a distinctive white wing patch. Their red eyes stand out against the colors of their plumage.

The tail is long and has a black band at the end. When in flight, the wings make a distinctive whistling sound.

Similar Species

The Chilean Pigeon may be mistaken for the Spot-winged Pigeon, another South American species that has a similar blue-gray plumage. However, the Spot-winged Pigeon has a white stripe on its wings rather than a white wing patch.

The Chilean Pigeon may also be confused with the Scaled Pigeon, which has a similar plumage but lacks the white wing patch and has a black and white striped tail.

Plumages

The Chilean Pigeon has a variety of plumages throughout its life, including juvenile, non-breeding, and breeding plumages. Juvenile plumage: Juvenile Chilean Pigeons have a dark brown plumage and lack the distinct blue-gray color of adults.

Non-breeding plumage: Outside of breeding season, adults may have a duller version of their breeding plumage with less distinct black barring on their wings.

Breeding plumage: During breeding season, the Chilean Pigeon sports a vivid blue-gray color with striking black barring on their wings. The white wing patch is more pronounced during this time.

Molts

The Chilean Pigeon goes through two molting periods each year when it sheds its old feathers and grows new ones. The first molt usually occurs after the breeding season, and the second occurs in the non-breeding season.

Molts can last for several months, during which the bird may look quite different from its usual appearance.

Conclusion

The Chilean Pigeon is a unique species that exhibits distinct plumages at different stages of its life. It can be easily identified by its blue-grey plumage, the white wing patch, and red eyes.

Mistaking it for other South American pigeon species is common, but its black barring on the wings and distinctive tail feathers make it stand out. Understanding the plumages of this species is key to proper identification and appreciation of the Chilean Pigeon.

Systematics History

The Chilean Pigeon, Patagioenas araucana, was first described by the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789. It was originally classified in the genus Columba but was later moved to the genus Patagioenas with other New World pigeons.

The genus Patagioenas is further divided into sub-genera, of which the Chilean Pigeon belongs to the Patagioenas sub-genus.

Geographic Variation

The Chilean Pigeon is distributed throughout the southern parts of South America, including Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Geographic variation in color and size is observed across its range, and several subspecies have been identified.

Subspecies

There are several recognized subspecies of the Chilean Pigeon, including:

– P. a.

auca – found in Argentina and Chile, this subspecies is the most widespread and has a pale gray-blue plumage. – P.

a. cotti – this subspecies is found in Tierra del Fuego and has a darker plumage than other subspecies.

– P. a.

griseinucha – this subspecies is found in eastern Argentina and Uruguay and has a more brownish-gray plumage than others. – P.

a. rubripes – this subspecies is found on the Falkland Islands and has reddish feet, which gives it its name.

Related Species

The Chilean Pigeon is part of the Patagioenas sub-genus, which includes several other New World pigeon species, such as the Red-billed Pigeon, the Plain-breasted Ground Dove, and the Ruddy Pigeon. Some of these species have similar plumage patterns and vocalizations, making it difficult to differentiate them in the field.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Chilean Pigeon’s distribution has undergone significant changes throughout history, mainly due to human activities, such as deforestation and hunting. In the 19th and 20th centuries, much of the native forest cover in central and southern Chile was destroyed, leading to a decline in the Chilean Pigeon population.

Hunting has also played a significant role in population declines, as they are considered game birds in some regions. However, conservation efforts have helped the Chilean Pigeon population recover in some areas.

In 2004, the species was deemed to be of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List due to its stable population and large range. Although much of its habitat has been modified and fragmented, the species can now be found in a variety of habitats, including native forests, plantations, and urban areas.

These adaptations have likely helped the Chilean Pigeon survive human activities and changes in the environment.

Conclusion

The Chilean Pigeon is an interesting and widespread species, showing geographic variation in plumage and distribution across its range. The identification of subspecies is critical to aid in the conservation of this species, which has experienced significant declines in population due to deforestation and hunting.

Understanding the historical changes to the pigeon’s distribution provides insight into its current range and how it adapts to various environments. Conservation efforts have helped the Chilean Pigeon recover in some areas, highlighting the importance of habitat preservation to protect this unique New World pigeon species.

Habitat

The Chilean Pigeon is a bird species that inhabits a wide range of habitats, from dense forests to open areas, farmland, and urban environments. They can be found in various habitats, including temperate forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban gardens.

The species’ preference for forest habitats with large trees is due to their dependence on trees for nesting and roosting. In some cases, they are also found in agricultural fields, where they feed on crops such as wheat, corn, and sunflowers.

Movements and Migration

The Chilean Pigeon is considered a non-migratory species, meaning that it does not undertake long-distance movements to different regions. However, some local movements are observed during the year, particularly from higher to lower elevations, to find food resources and climatic conditions favorable for breeding.

During courtship and nesting, the Chilean Pigeon is a sedentary bird that remains in a small area where it feeds and reproduces. However, outside of this period, they may undertake short-distance movements in search of food resources.

These movements are generally localized, and the birds return to their original territory once the resources become available again. In general, movements of the Chilean Pigeon are local, and no major migration patterns are observed.

However, there may be some shifts in the distribution of birds in response to climate or habitat changes, especially if the resources in their usual habitat become scarce. For example, in a study carried out in the Valdivian temperate rainforest of southern Chile, several species of birds, including the Chilean Pigeon, showed changes in their distribution in response to different climatic conditions.

The study suggested that the changes in distribution were due to the availability of fruiting trees, which represent a critical food resource for many bird species. In this case, the Chilean Pigeon showed an expansion of its range into areas with higher densities of fruiting trees, indicating that the species may undertake some movements in search of crucial food resources.

In response to habitat changes, urbanization, and deforestation, some populations of the Chilean Pigeon may become isolated, leading to gene flow restrictions and may reduce the genetic diversity of the population. It is crucial to maintain the genetic diversity of the species by conserving larger areas with natural habitat, avoiding habitat fragmentation, and ensuring connectivity between different populations.

Conclusion

The Chilean Pigeon is a versatile bird species that can adapt to different habitats, including human-modified environments. As a non-migratory species, it does not undertake long-distance movements, and its movements are mostly localized with only short-distance movements in response to climatic conditions or food availability.

This highlights the importance of habitat availability to ensure that the species does not become isolated, retain genetic diversity, and maintain its population size. The Chilean Pigeon’s adaptability to different habitats and its movements may help maintain its population, particularly in the face of changing environmental conditions such as urbanization, climate change, and habitat fragmentation.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding

The Chilean Pigeon feeds primarily on fruit, but it also eats seeds and insects. The species is frugivorous, and fruits make up to 90% of its diet.

Fruits from over 60 different plant species have been identified in the diet of the Chilean Pigeon, including berries, cherries, olives, and figs. They feed by plucking fruits with their beaks while perched on trees or shrubs.

In addition to fruit, Chilean Pigeons also consume small quantities of seeds and insects, especially during the non-breeding season when fruit availability is low. They forage on the ground or low branches to get access to insects and seeds.

Diet

The diet of the Chilean Pigeon varies depending on the geographical region and the availability of food. In some areas, such as the Valdivian Rainforest in Chile, they feed mainly on nectar and fruits of trees from the Lauraceae family.

In other regions, they feed mostly on fruits and seeds of the native Nothofagus trees. Studies have shown that the Chilean Pigeon’s diet is influenced by the availability of fruit, with fruit availability being the primary factor affecting their diet.

They focus on fruit consumption in the breeding season, as fruits are an essential source of energy needed for egg-laying and chick-rearing.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Chilean Pigeon is an endothermic species that maintains a constant body temperature despite changes in environmental temperature. The ability of the bird to regulate its body temperature is essential since its metabolic rate increases after feeding on fruits.

The species copes well with cold temperatures by fluffing up its feathers, which traps a layer of warm air close to the body, preventing heat loss. They can also regulate body temperature through its feet, which have large blood vessels that release or conserve heat depending on the temperature.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Vocalization

The Chilean Pigeon is a vocal bird species with a distinctive and varied vocalization. Their vocal repertoire consists of six different calls, including cooing, crooning, and chuckling.

The species has a soft cooing call that is often heard during courtship and breeding, which is used to attract a mate. Male Chilean Pigeons use their vocalizations to establish territories, repel rivals and communicate with other members of the species.

The species also has a loud whistle, used as an alarm call to alert other birds of potential threats. Furthermore, the species also has a range of calls used for communication between the members of the flock, such as greeting calls, food-sharing calls, and threats.

In addition to the calls, the Chilean Pigeon produces a unique wing whistling sound. During flight, the outer primary feathers of their wings generate a distinctive whistling sound that is characteristic of the species.

The sound is produced when air moves over and through the feathers. This sound is an important means of communication between the birds, particularly during flight, and helps to maintain group cohesion.

Conclusion

The Chilean Pigeon is a frugivorous species that feeds primarily on fruits, but also consumes seeds and insects. The consumption of fruit is essential during the breeding season when birds require energy for egg-laying and chick-rearing.

The species is endothermic, regulating its body temperature through various physiological mechanisms. The vocalization and calls of the Chilean Pigeon are distinct and diverse, enabling communication between members of the flock and helping to maintain group cohesion.

Additionally, the species produces a unique wing-whistling sound during flight, another important means of communication for the species.

Behavior

Locomotion

The Chilean Pigeon is a good flier, and its powerful flight allows it to move through dense forests and glide between trees. In addition to flight, their long legs allow them to walk and run on the ground and climb trees.

While moving through the trees, they use their wings for balance and support.

Self Maintenance

The Chilean Pigeon regularly engages in self-maintenance behaviors such as preening to keep their feathers clean and healthy. Preening is essential for bird species, as it helps maintain optimal feather condition, waterproofing, and insulation.

Agonistic Behavior

The Chilean Pigeon can exhibit agonistic behavior, particularly during territories’ defense. They use territorial calls to warn off rival birds, and if necessary, they will engage in physical battles to defend their territory.

The species also engages in dominance displays such as head-bobbing and puffing up their feathers to intimidate rivals and assert their dominance.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, the Chilean Pigeon establishes pair-bonds that can last for several years. Males use song and territorial displays to attract a mate and defend their territory.

Courtship behavior involves dancing and cooing to show off to a potential mate. After mating, the female builds a nest from sticks and leaves, where she lays one or two eggs.

Breeding

The Chilean Pigeon breeds from September through February, which is the Southern Hemisphere’s spring and summer. During this time, the male establishes a territory and defends it against rivals.

Once a territory is established, the male attracts a female through courtship displays, including songs and mating dances. Once pair-bonds are formed, the female builds a nest out of sticks in the fork of a tree or bush, typically about one to five meters above the ground.

The nest is a flat platform with a shallow depression in the center where eggs are laid. The female lays one or two eggs, which both the male and female incubate, taking turns brooding the eggs and providing food for each other.

After hatching, the chicks are altricial, meaning that they are featherless and dependent on their parents for food, warmth, and protection. The chicks fledge after 15-23 days and leave the nest, but the parents continue to provide food for them for several weeks after fledging.

Demography and Populations

The Chilean Pigeon’s population size and trend are currently stable, and the species is not considered globally threatened. However, some local populations have declined due to habitat destruction, hunting, and invasive species.

Conservation efforts have been made to protect the habitat of the Chilean Pigeon, such as the creation of protected areas and reforestation projects. In addition, hunting regulations have been implemented to manage the harvest of the species.

Despite these conservation measures, the isolated populations of Chilean Pigeon may suffer from low genetic variability and disease susceptibility. Therefore, there is a need to maintain connectivity between different populations and manage inbreeding rates to prevent reductions in genetic diversity and improve population stability.

Conclusion

The Chilean Pigeon’s behavior is diverse, exhibiting a range of self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behaviors. During the breeding season, the species establishes pair-bonds and builds nests out of sticks and leaves in the forks of trees or bushes.

The population of the Chilean Pigeon is currently stable, but isolated populations may suffer from low genetic variability and susceptibility to disease. Conservation efforts, including habitat protection and hunting regulations, are critical for the continued survival of this species.

In summary, the Chilean Pigeon is a fascinating bird species with a distinctive blue-gray plumage, red eyes, and unique vocalizations. Its diverse behaviors, including feeding, self-maintenance, and courtship displays, illustrate the complexity of this species.

While the population of the Chilean Pigeon is currently stable, it may face challenges in the future due to habitat loss, hunting, and disease susceptibility. Understanding the factors that threaten the survival of this species is vital for conservation efforts, including habitat protection, management of inbreeding rates, and hunting regulations.

By implementing these measures, we can ensure the long-term survival of this unique New World pigeon species that plays an essential role in its ecosystem.

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