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Unraveling the Fascinating Nature of Chiriqui Quail-Doves: From Plumages to Behavior

Birdwatching and bird identification are popular hobbies around the world. For bird lovers, the Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a species that one cannot help but appreciate.

This species has an interesting plumage that makes it stand out from other birds. In this article, we will look at the identification, plumages, and molts of this fascinating bird.


Field Identification:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a medium-sized bird that measures between 27 to 31 cm long. It has a wingspan between 46 to 50 cm, and its weight ranges from 113 to 142 g.

The bird is mostly colored in shades of brown with a rufous belly and a white-tipped tail. It has a long, slender neck and a rounded head.

The eyes are dark with a yellow ring that surrounds them. The beak is short and thin, with a black upper mandible and a yellow lower mandible.

The legs and feet are also yellow. Similar Species:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove may be confused with other dove species.

The closest relative of this bird is the White-tipped Dove, which has a similar color pattern. The main difference between these two species is that the Quail-Dove has a rufous belly, while the White-tipped Dove has a gray belly.

Other species that may be mistaken for the Chiriqui Quail-Dove include the Plain-breasted Ground Dove and the Ruddy Quail-Dove. However, the markings on these species are different, making the identification process easier.


The Chiriqui Quail-Dove has only one plumage throughout its life. Its feathers are brownish with a rufous belly and white-tipped tail feathers.

The neck and head are a darker shade of brown. The feathers on the back are darker, while the feathers on the underparts are lighter.

The eyes have a yellow ring around them, which makes them easy to identify. Molts:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove experiences two molts each year, which are the pre-basic and pre-alternate molts.

During these molts, the bird sheds its old feathers and replaces them with new ones. The timing of these molts varies depending on the bird’s age and location.

Juvenile birds molt into their first-adult plumage after the breeding season. The timing of this molt varies, but it usually occurs between November and March.


The Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a unique bird that has distinctive features. Its rufous belly, white-tipped tail feathers, and yellow eyes make it a fascinating bird to observe.

Thanks to this article, we hope you now have a better understanding of the identification, plumages, and molts of this amazing bird. Happy birdwatching!

Systematics History:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove, also known as Zentrygon chiriquensis, belongs to the family of Columbidae, which includes all doves and pigeons.

Systematics studies have revealed that this species is closely related to other quail-dove species such as Zentrygon lawrencii, Zentrygon albifacies, and Zentrygon goldmani. Geographic Variation:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove has a wide range that extends from Costa Rica to Panama.

This species is found in humid forests at elevations of up to 2,100 meters. Despite its wide range, the species exhibits geographic variation in its appearance and genetic structure.

Individuals in the southern part of its range tend to have darker plumage than those further north. Subspecies:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove has three recognized subspecies: Zentrygon chiriquensis exquisita, Zentrygon chiriquensis trinotata, and Zentrygon chiriquensis chiriquensis.

These subspecies differ in their geographic distribution, as well as in their appearance. Zentrygon chiriquensis exquisita is found in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica and has a more reddish-brown coloration than the other two subspecies.

Zentrygon chiriquensis trinotata is found in the central and western regions of Panama and has a paler coloration than the other two subspecies. Zentrygon chiriquensis chiriquensis is found in the eastern regions of Panama and is the most widely distributed subspecies.

Related Species:

Within the quail-dove species, the Chiriqui Quail-Dove is most closely related to the Grenada Dove, which is found in the Caribbean. These two species share similar plumages, and recent genetic studies have shown that they are sister taxa.

The Grenada Dove has not been sighted in the wild since 1953, and it is believed that this species may have gone extinct. Historical Changes to Distribution:

Historically, the Chiriqui Quail-Dove was found at elevations above 1,500 meters in Costa Rica and Panama.

However, habitat loss due to deforestation and land-use changes has caused significant declines in this species’ population. In Costa Rica, the species has been extirpated from several sites due to extensive deforestation for agriculture and ranching.

In Panama, the species is still relatively common, but it is listed as near threatened due to ongoing habitat loss. One significant historical change to the distribution of this species involves its presence on the San Juan River in southwestern Nicaragua.

In the 1960s, a single male Chiriqui Quail-Dove was collected near the San Juan River, representing a significant extension of the species’ range. However, despite numerous attempts to locate the species in the region, no further sightings have been reported.

Additionally, the Chiriqui Quail-Dove has been documented on Isla del Coco, an isolated island located 550 km from the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The individuals found on the island have been shown to have a unique genetic signature, suggesting that they may represent a distinct subspecies.

However, further research is necessary to confirm this proposed subspecies. Conclusion:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a fascinating bird species with a rich natural history.

Systematics studies have revealed the species’ relatedness to other quail-dove species, while geographic variation is present in its distribution. The species has three recognized subspecies and shares similarities with the Grenada Dove, a species that may now be extinct.

Habitat loss due to deforestation has caused significant declines in the species’ population, and its current status is near threatened. Despite historical changes to its distribution, the Chiriqui Quail-Dove remains a remarkable and beautiful species to observe in the wild.


Chiriqui Quail-Doves are found in various habitats throughout their range, primarily in humid forests at elevations of 1500 to 2100 meters. They are more common in mossy or cloud forests, where the canopy cover is denser, and the humidity is higher.

They are known to forage along the forest floor, feeding on seeds, insects, and small fruits. These birds prefer to stay hidden in the understory, making it difficult to observe them.

Movements and Migration:

Chiriqui Quail-Doves are mostly sedentary birds, meaning they remain in their designated territories throughout the year. However, studies have shown that they do make seasonal movements within their range.

During periods of low food availability, they can be seen moving to lower altitudes to find food and resources. Although these birds have not been documented to make long-distance migrations, they have been known to make altitudinal movements.

In Central America, temperatures can fluctuate drastically as the seasons change. The temperate forests where these birds live can become too cold or even become frosty during winter, and some individuals respond to these changes in temperature by moving to warmer altitudes.

In summer, they move back to their original territories. Migration can also be triggered by habitat changes caused by natural disasters, such as hurricanes or forest fires.

These birds may temporarily relocate to another suitable habitat as they wait for their territory to recover from the damages caused by the disaster. Studies have shown that some Chiriqui Quail-Doves have moved to areas outside of their typical range.

For instance, researchers reported that some individuals had left their original territories to nest in more open habitats such as coffee plantations. This suggests that these birds may be adapting to changes in their environment and finding new ways to survive.


The Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a species that is vulnerable to habitat degradation and loss. As previously mentioned, these birds are found in areas where the forest canopy is dense and humid.

However, natural forests in Central America have been destroyed and fragmented by human activities such as logging, agriculture, and urbanization. This fragmentation results in the reduction of suitable habitat for these birds.

Moreover, as temperatures are rising due to climate change, the optimal range of the Chiriqui Quail-Dove is shifting, affecting their food sources and habitat. If habitable zones shift uphill in response to climate change, certain populations of Chiriqui Quail-Doves may not be able to move to higher ground, leading to population declines or even local extinctions.

To protect the Chiriqui Quail-Dove from further decline, conservation efforts need to be focused on preserving the forests where these birds live. The creation of protected areas and corridors of habitat can provide safe habitats for these birds.

Additionally, efforts to restore degraded habitats can help to reverse population declines. Conclusion:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a species that is well adapted to the humid and dense forests of Central America.

Although these birds are mostly sedentary, they do make seasonal movements in response to changes in resource availability, temperature, and weather patterns. However, human activities and climate change have put this species at risk.

To protect the Chiriqui Quail-Dove, it is essential to create protected areas and restore degraded habitats, allowing these birds to continue thriving in their natural homes. Diet and Foraging:


Chiriqui Quail-Doves are primarily ground feeders, often foraging for food on the forest floor.

They are most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours when the forest is cooler. During these periods, they will search for fallen seeds, fruits, and insects, which comprise the bulk of their diet.

These birds are also known to move through the forest margins, following temporary food sources such as flowering or fruiting trees.


Chiriqui Quail-Doves have a largely seed-based diet, feeding on various seeds from different tree species, including the mountain nutmeg tree and the laurel tree.

Insects such as grasshoppers, ants, and beetles provide supplementary protein in their diet. When food is scarce, they resort to eating snails that they find on the forest floor.

In addition, these birds are observed to feed on fruit from plants like the Sapium glandulosum tree. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

Because Chiriqui Quail-Doves are primarily ground feeders, their metabolic rate is lower compared to arboreal birds.

This adaptation allows them to conserve energy as they forage for food on the forest floor. They also rely on high humidity levels to regulate their body temperature since they are not as well adapted to soar or engage in active flight.

High humidity levels help these birds leave the forest floor damp and cool, which helps maintain their internal body temperature.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior:


Like many other birds, Chiriqui Quail-Doves use vocalizations to maintain contact with their mates and signal their presence to other individuals within their habitat.

The species’ song is often described as a low, fluty coo, which starts low and ends on an ascending note. In addition to the song, these birds produce a wide range of clucks, coos, and other vocalizations that are used for communication.

Chiriqui Quail-Doves have a slightly lesser degree of vocal activity when compared to other Columbidae members, which can be attributed to their sedentary lifestyle. However, their calls are clear and easily recognizable, making it possible for avid birdwatchers and scientists to recognize them.

These birds also use vocalizations to convey territorial boundaries and maintain their space. Both males and females have different call patterns and songs, and each pair has their unique frequency and intonation style.

Their songs usually last between two to six seconds and are repeated frequently throughout the day. Conclusion:

Chiriqui Quail-Doves are interesting bird species with unique adaptations.

As ground feeders, their metabolic rate is lower compared to their arboreal counterparts, which helps conserve energy. These birds are also highly reliant on humidity levels to regulate their temperature.

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove’s vocalizations are essential for their communication, and these birds are to be known for their low fluty cooing. By understanding their diet, foraging behavior, and vocalization methods, we can appreciate the unique nature of these birds and understand how to best protect them in their natural habitats.



Chiriqui Quail-Doves are generally slow-moving birds and move mostly on the forest floor searching for their food. They do, however, fly short distances from branch to branch within forest understory while foraging.

Their wings are rounded and broad, which does not allow them to carry out low-altitude gliding or hovering. Self Maintenance:

Chiriqui Quail-Doves are clean birds that take good care of their feathers.

They often bathe in water sources found in their habitat or take dust-baths in dry areas of the forest floor. They are also meticulous about feather preening, grooming their wings for flight and generally keeping their feathers from getting tangled or stuck.

They use their beaks to clean their feathers, removing parasites, mites, and other foreign materials. Agonistic Behavior:

Chiriqui Quail-Doves defend their territories from other individuals of the same sex by using a range of display behaviors.

One common display is the “Upright” posture, where they grasp a nearby branch with their feet, fluff out their feathers, and bow their head while producing a low-pitched call. They also use the “Bow” posture, where they crouch down and bring their tail feathers upward to their heads as a means of displaying aggression.

Sexual Behavior:

During the breeding season, males will often display a series of courtship behaviors to attract potential mates. They may engage in strutting, fanning of the tail feathers, and calling.

The male courts the female by jumping in front of her, fluffing his feathers and cooing softly. Once the female accepts the courtship, the pair will then engage in copulation that typically lasts for a few seconds.


The breeding season for Chiriqui Quail-Doves typically takes place from March through June in Costa Rica. However, the breeding season can vary depending on the location and seasonal rainfall.

These birds typically form monogamous pair bonds that can last for multiple breeding seasons. During the breeding season, the male will choose a suitable nesting site and construct a nest from twigs, moss, and other materials found in the forest.

The nest is typically located on a horizontal branch or fork, close to the trunk of a tree and is camouflaged with surrounding moss and lichens. Once the nest is complete, the female will lay one or two eggs, which both parents will take turns incubating for 14 to 16 days.

After the eggs hatch, both parents will continue to take care of the young, feeding them regurgitated food until they are old enough to leave the nest. The young fledge from the nest at around 15 to 20 days old and are independent from their parents by approximately 30 days of age.

Demography and Populations:

The Chiriqui Quail-Dove is not an endangered species, but it is considered near threatened due primarily to habitat destruction and degradation. The population is thought to be declining, but accurate population data is lacking due to the bird’s cryptic behavior and difficult to detect.

The species occupies a relatively small range, and populations in Costa Rica have already been lost due to a combination of deforestation, hunting, and development. Efforts to protect the species are underway in both Costa Rica and Panama, with several areas designated as protected reserves.

Conservation strategies aim to address the destruction and fragmentation of forest habitats, which involves reducing deforestation across the range of the species. These efforts are essential to maintaining viable populations of this species and ensuring their continued survival.


Chiriqui Quail-Doves are unique birds that exhibit a range of behaviors, including movement, self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behavior. They form monogamous pair bonds during the breeding season and raise their young together.

Despite not being endangered, their populations are declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation, making conservation efforts essential in their protection. By understanding their behavior patterns, breeding habits, and population dynamics, we can take necessary action to protect these birds and ensure that they continue to thrive in their natural habitats.

In conclusion, the Chiriqui Quail-Dove is a remarkable bird species that exhibits unique behaviors and adaptations, making them essential to

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