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Fascinating Facts About the Afep Pigeon: From Plumages to Vocalizations

Instead, you will wrap up the content by summarizing the important points and encouraging the readers to learn more about the Afep Pigeon.The Afep Pigeon, also known as Columba unicincta, is a medium-sized pigeon that is native to the tropical forests of West and Central Africa. This bird species belongs to the family Columbidae, which includes doves and other pigeons that are found all over the world.

The Afep Pigeon has unique plumages and characteristics that make it easy to identify. In this article, we will look at the identification, plumages, and molts of this fascinating bird species.

Identification

Field Identification

The Afep Pigeon has a distinctive appearance that makes it easy to identify in the field. It has a bluish-grey head and breast, with darker grey feathers on its back and wings.

Its belly is light grey, and its undertail coverts are white. Its eyes are dark, and it has a red eye-ring.

It also has a long, pointed tail, which is black with white tips. The Afep Pigeon has a unique, deep, and slow vocalization, which can be heard in the forest.

Similar Species

The Afep Pigeon has similar species, which can make identification challenging. The closest resembles is the Forest Dove, which has a similar appearance, but the Afep Pigeon is larger in size.

The Afep Pigeon can also be differentiated from the Forest Dove by its distinct call. The spotted throat of the Forest Dove is also another feature that separates the two species.

Plumages

The Afep Pigeon has different plumages that change as it ages. Juvenile Afep Pigeon has an overall dark brown colour with white and black patterns all over its feathers.

The pattern looks like they have painted white droplets over their feathers with a brush. The post-juvenile plumage is similar but with less obvious white spots.

The primary feathers are a slightly darker hue of brown compared to the secondaries and the scapulars. The head is a greyish-brown, and the belly is pale pinkish-gray.

The mature Afep Pigeon has a bluish-grey head and breast, with darker grey feathers on its back and wings. Its belly is light grey, and its undertail coverts are white.

Molts

The Afep Pigeon has two molts a year, the post-juvenile and the complete annual molt. The post-juvenile molt happens after the young Afep Pigeon leaves the nest, and it occurs from August to December.

This molt replaces the juvenile feathers with the post-juvenile plumage. The annual molt happens during the breeding season, and it occurs from January to March.

The primary feathers, tail feathers, and head feathers are the first to molt. The wing feathers are replaced in order from the innermost to the outermost secondary feathers.

After molting, the new feathers are brighter and smoother in texture.

Conclusion

The Afep Pigeon is a fascinating bird species with unique plumages and characteristics that make it easy to observe in the field. Its bluish-grey head and breast, with darker grey feathers on its back and wings, make it easy to identify.

Its deep and slow vocalization is also one of its distinguishing features. The Afep Pigeon has two molts a year, the post-juvenile and the complete annual molt, which replace old feathers with newer, brighter and smoother feathers.

Overall, the Afep Pigeon is an incredible bird species to watch and learn about in the forests of West and Central Africa.

Systematics History

The Afep Pigeon, scientifically known as Columba unicincta, belongs to the family Columbidae, which includes more than 300 species of pigeons and doves. The systematic history of the Afep Pigeon has undergone several changes over the years, in terms of classification, nomenclature, and distribution.

Geographic Variation

The Afep Pigeon is a species that shows remarkable geographic variation in colour, size, and morphology across its range. The geographic variation is thought to be related to local selective pressures and genetic differentiation.

The different populations of the Afep Pigeon are distributed across the tropical forests of West and Central Africa. The birds found in the Guinean and Congolian forests differ markedly in size and colouration, but there is significant overlap in morphology and vocalization.

Subspecies

The Afep Pigeon is currently divided into three subspecies, based on morphological and vocalization differences, which may have arisen due to geographical isolation and natural selection. The three subspecies are:

1.

Columba unicincta unicincta (Guinean Afep Pigeon): This subspecies is found in the upper Guinea forests, from Guinea to Nigeria. It is the largest of the three subspecies, with a bluish-grey head, breast, and belly, and dark grey wings and back.

The undertail coverts are white, and the tail has black and white tips. 2.

Columba unicincta elgonensis (Elgon Afep Pigeon): This subspecies is found in the montane forests of East Africa, mainly on Mount Elgon. It is smaller than the Guinean Afep Pigeon, with a dark bluish-grey head, breast, and belly, and black wings and back.

It has white undertail coverts and white tips on its tail feathers. 3.

Columba unicincta reichenowi (Reichenows Afep Pigeon): This subspecies is found in the Congolian rainforests, from Nigeria to Uganda. It is the smallest of the three subspecies, with a dark bluish-grey head, breast, and belly, and black wings and back.

It has white undertail coverts and white tips on its tail feathers.

Related Species

The Afep Pigeon is closely related to other species of pigeons in the Columba genus, including the Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus), the European Stock Dove (Columba oenas), and the Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea). These species share similar morphological and behavioural traits, such as a plump body, short legs, and a cooing vocalization, but they differ in plumage and distribution.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Afep Pigeon has undergone significant changes in distribution over the years due to habitat loss, deforestation, and hunting. The species was once widespread across the tropical rainforests of West and Central Africa, but it has suffered a severe population decline due to increased human activity in these habitats.

Forest loss and fragmentation have reduced the available habitat for the Afep Pigeon, and unsustainable hunting practices have led to declines in populations. The Afep Pigeon is now classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, which highlights the need for conservation efforts to protect and preserve the species and its habitats.

The creation of protected areas, such as national parks and reserves, can help to safeguard the Afep Pigeon and other wildlife in its range. Education and awareness programs can also help to promote sustainable land use practices and reduce hunting pressure on the species.

Conclusion

The Afep Pigeon is a bird species that shows remarkable geographic variation in colour, size, and morphology across its range. The species is divided into three subspecies based on morphological and vocalization differences, and related to other species in the Columba genus.

The historical changes to distribution of Afep Pigeons have been significant, with declines and loss of habitat due to human activities. It is crucial that efforts to conserve the Afep Pigeon’s habitat and reduce hunting pressure on the species are implemented to ensure its survival into the future.

Habitat

The Afep Pigeon inhabits the tropical and subtropical forests of West and Central Africa. These forests are characterised by tall trees, dense undergrowth, and a humid climate.

The species is usually found in the upper canopy of the trees, where it feeds on a variety of fruits, seeds, and insects. The Afep Pigeon is known to prefer the primary rainforests as they offer a more diverse range of food sources.

Movements and Migration

The Afep Pigeon is considered a non-migratory species, meaning that it does not undertake seasonal movements over long distances like many other birds. Their habitat supports year-round food sources, which eliminates the need for migration in search of food.

However, the species may move locally in response to changes in food and water availability, or to find suitable nesting sites. Afep Pigeons are generally considered poor dispersers, and both juvenile and adult birds are known to remain in the same general area throughout their lifespan.

Breeding Behavior

Afep Pigeons are monogamous and form strong pair bonds that last throughout the breeding season and sometimes beyond. The breeding season varies across the different regions, with the Guinean subspecies breeding from November to April, while the Congolian subspecies breeds from March to October.

The Elgon subspecies breed throughout the year. Nesting generally takes place in trees in the forest canopy, and the species is known to use the same nest site year after year.

The nests are often flimsy constructs of sticks, intertwined leaves, and bark lined with grass, and are built in trees, usually 5-30 meters above the ground. Generally, the male Afep Pigeon lands in the nest with twigs in its beak, then the female takes over, arranging and building the nest until it is constructed.

A clutch consists of one blue-white egg, which is incubated by both parents for 15 to 18 days. Both parents participate in the feeding of the chick, primarily with “pigeon milk”, which is produced by the crop, a specialized part of the digestive system.

The chicks fledge 16 to 19 days after hatching and become independent after 4 to 6 weeks. The female can lay several clutches in one season, but the timing of nesting and number of clutches is not well defined.

Conservation Status

The Afep Pigeon is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The threat to the species primarily comes from hunting, habitat loss due to deforestation, and land-use change.

The race that is found on Mount Oku, known as Columba unicincta camerunensis, is considered Endangered because its high altitude forest habitat is rapidly being destroyed and degraded by human activities. The creation of protected areas such as national parks, nature reserves, and community conservation initiatives, such as sustainable forestry, can be effective in conserving the Afep Pigeon.

Additionally, promoting agroforestry practices that incorporate species composition resembling forest structure and provide habitats within human landscapes aid in increasing the species’ resilience. Long-term monitoring programs by local communities, educational and awareness campaigns, and enforcement of wildlife trade laws can also contribute to the conservation of the Afep Pigeon.

Conclusion

The Afep Pigeon is a non-migratory bird species that prefers the tropical and subtropical forests of West and Central Africa. The species forms strong pair bonds and has a high degree of nesting site fidelity.

Afep Pigeon populations are declining due to hunting and habitat loss. The implementation of protected areas, community-based resource management, and sustainable forestry can help preserve the species.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding

Afep Pigeons are primarily frugivorous, meaning they feed mostly on fruits. They also feed on seeds and insects, such as caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers, from the forest canopy.

The species has a relatively slow metabolism, which contributes to their low energy requirements and infrequent bouts of foraging.

Diet

Afep Pigeons have a relatively diverse diet that varies depending on the seasonal availability of fruits and insects. In the Guinean and Congolian forests, the Afep Pigeon feeds on fruits such as figs, kola nuts, and Elaeis guineensis, as well as the fruits of trees in the Myristicaceae and Annonaceae families.

In East Africa, the species is known to feed on the fruits of various tree species and insects that it finds in the forest canopy. The Afep Pigeon has a special structure in its digestive tract, called the crop, which allows it to store food until later processing.

It is believed that this provides them a nutritional advantage over other forest birds and reduces the amount of time that they have to be exposed to predators while foraging.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Afep Pigeon has a low metabolism, which is contributed by their sedentary lifestyle and low energy requirement due to their small body size. In some West African lineages, the birds may enter a state of torpor during food shortages to conserve energy.

The Afep Pigeon is capable of regulating its body temperature through various physiological processes such as panting, fluffing its feathers, and reducing activity. These physiological mechanisms enable it to endure the high temperatures and humidity prevalent in the forests it inhabits.

Sounds and Vocal Behaviour

Vocalization

Afep Pigeons have a distinct, deep and resounding vocalization that is considered one of the slowest coos among pigeons. The vocalization is reportedly challenging to imitate due to its unique and deep base tone of w-nu-nu-nu”.

The species’ unique vocalization varies slightly depending on the subspecies, with the Congolian Afep Pigeon having a slightly faster-paced coo. The vocalization is an essential communication tool, particularly during breeding times, and is used to maintain territorial boundaries and attract mates.

Beyond the breeding season, the vocalisations primarily vary depending on the activity, with alarm calls when threatened by predators being one of them.

Conclusion

The Afep Pigeon’s dietary habits and manner of foraging are unique to what is usually observed in other bird species. They possess a unique structure in their digestive tract, which allows them to store food to process later, which is an evolved adaptation that ensures the species’ efficient energy utilization.

Their sedentary lifestyle contributes to their low metabolism and slightly more profound body temperature regulation. The Afep Pigeon’s vocalization is distinct in comparison to other bird species, making it an easily recognizable element in the forest’s soundscape.

The unique vocals have been significant in maintaining territorial domains, breeding, and communicating when threatened.

Behavior

Locomotion

The Afep Pigeon is primarily a forest-dwelling bird and can be found in the upper canopy of the trees where it forages and nests. The species has adapted to living in the canopy, with certain adaptations to make tree movement characteristics easier, such as the ability to land or ‘perch’ on small branches that other birds of similar size find challenging.

They are also proficient climbers, and they use their well-developed legs to scale the tree trunks.

Self-Maintenance

The Afep Pigeon spends a significant amount of its time grooming itself, with the function of removing dust, dirt, and parasites from its plumage. The birds also strengthen their pair bonds through mutual preening by nibbling each other’s feathers and placing their beaks on their mate’s feathers.

Self-maintenance is an important aspect of most animals’ lives, and they have developed mechanisms that make the handling of their fur, feathers, or skin essential.

Agonistic Behavior

Although Afep pigeons display primarily peaceful behavior, they do show signs of agonistic behavior during territorial conflicts. Agonistic behavior may include pecking or scratching in the case of intimate combat or glowering and threatening from farther away in the case of non-contact combat.

Endurance, rapid movement, and retreat are behavioral adaptations that help in such situations.

Sexual Behavior

The mating procedure of Afep Pigeons begins with a courtship ritual in which a male bird woos a female bird. The male struts, puffs up its feathers, and makes its distinct vocalizations to attract the female.

After this initial attraction, the males will demonstrate a series of dances, which may involve bobbing their heads and fanning, or puffing up their feathers. The male will choose a nesting site, and they will start building a nest by gathering together small twigs, leaves, and other debris.

The female will lay a single egg, which both parents will take turns incubating. After hatching, the chicks remain in the nest for a few weeks before leaving to forage on their own.

Breeding

The Afep Pigeon breeds throughout the year, with peak breeding seasons varying depending on the subspecies. In some regions, the breeding season is between November to April, while in others such as on Mount Elgon, it occurs year-round.

Adult birds generally form monogamous pairs and remain together throughout the breeding season, taking turns incubating the single egg they lay.

Demography and Populations

The Afep Pigeon is found throughout the tropical and subtropical forests of West and Central Africa and in East Africa. The size and structure of the populations throughout the species’ range remain uncertain.

While Afep Pigeons are considered relatively common, populations are threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, and hunting. The species is classified as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which highlights the need for monitoring and conservation efforts.

Conservation efforts can

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