Tag Archives: Columba

Columba vitiensis ssp. godmanae (Mathews)

Lord Howe White-throated Pigeon (Columba vitiensis ssp. godmanae)

Described in 1915, this species is still exclusively known by some contemporaneous accounts and depictions made in the early 1800s.

This beautiful bird was restricted to Lord Howe island and was one of the first bird forms from that island to go extinct; it was actually hunted (and eaten) to extinction already by the first few European settlers on the island.

The Lord Howe White-throated Pigeon is now usually considered a subspecies of the White-throated Pigeon (Columba vitiensis Qouy & Gaimard) which is distributed from the Philippines to eastern Indonesia, parts of Melanesia to westernmost Polynesia; however, the species is a candidate for splitting, and some forms should rather be regarded as distinct species, including the extinct one from Lord Howe Island.

The pigeons were last recorded in 1853.


Depiction from an album of watercolor drawings of Australian natural history owned by a man named Robert Anderson Seton; ca. 1800

(public domain)


edited: 19.08.2022

Columba sp. ‘Azores’

Azores Mountain Pigeon (Columba sp.)

Today the Azores Islands harbor a single native (actually even endemic) (sub)species of pigeon, the Azores Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus ssp. azorica (Tschusi)), however, there was once at least one more species.

This now lost pigeon taxon, however, is known only from a single account in a manuscript from the late 16th century, namely from “Saudades da Terra” written between 1586 and 1590 by a father Gaspar Frutuoso.:

Posto que muitas aves vieram aqui de fora a esta terra, nela se acharam algumas maneirasde pombos, como naturais dela, uns pretos que chamavam pombos da serra, que matavam àstrochadas com paus e aguilhadas e com lanças, nos paus e nas árvores, tão tolos eram, pelapouca comunicação da gente, que tudo esperavam; estes eram da terra. Outros houvecinzentos, que chamavam torcazes, que eu cuido serem naturais, mas alguns dizem quevieram depois aqui de fora, porque dantes os não havia, e multiplicaram tanto que agora há aímuitos, nas Furnas e na serra sobre a Povoação Velha. E há tão grande número deles naAchada e Fenais da Maia, que cobrem as terras como entra Março, e às vezes fazem perdanas novidades de trigo e linho, derribando as paveias no campo. Estes sempre foram maisrecatados e dificultosos de caçar e tomar; mas os pretos, indo-os a caçar, atirando-lhe do pé daárvore com a besta a um, derribando aquele, os outros que na árvore estavam, olhando abaixopara aquele que caía, se deixavam estar quedos e tornando a atirar a outros e a derribá-losmortos, os que ficavam em cima da árvore faziam o mesmo, deixando-se estar tolamente, atéque o besteiro matava deles quantos queria.

[My humble] Translation:

Although many birds came to this land from the outside, some kinds of pigeons were found as natives, some black ones that they called pigeons of the mountains, that they killed with sticks and with spears, on the poles and in the trees, so foolish they were, because they had little knowledge of men, that they wait for everything; these ones were from this land. Others ashy-grey, they called them wood pigeons, which I think to be natural, but some say they came later here from outside, because before there were no, and multiplied so much that now there are fine, at Furnas and the mountains above Povoação Velha [the village Povoação?]. And there are so many of them at Achada and Fenais da Maia, they cover the land like a windy weather, and sometimes they make losses of wheat and flax, breaking down the sheafs in the field. These have always been less reckless and difficult to hunt and to take; but the blacks were easy to hunt, shooting them from the foot of the tree with the crossbow, and knocking down one, the others stayed in the tree, looking down at the one who fell, kept still and going on shooting others those who stood on the tree did the same, remaining there foolishly, till the crossbowman would slay of them as many as he wanted.


An interesting study from 2011 showed that the Azores Wood Pigeon is not a monophyletic species but in fact is a hybrid population of the nominate race of the European Wood Pigeon and another species, the extinct Azores Mountain Pigeon. The author of the study, however, not knowing this 16th century account, thinks that this may have been the Dark-tailed Laurel Pigeon (Columba bollii Godman) from the Canary Islands or the Madeiran Laurel Pigeon (Columba trocaz Heineken). [1]

Apparently Wood Pigeons only begun to settle the Azores sometimes during the 16th century, they soon multiplied and took over the islands, crossing with the last remaining endemic pigeons and finally hybridize them into extinction. But at least some of the genes of the extinct endemic pigeon species still live on in the Azores Wood Pigeons of today.



[1] Ana Catarina Gonçalves Dourado: Phylogeny and phylogeography of Atlantic Islands’ Columba species. Dissertation, Universidade de Lisboa 2011


edited: 12.01.2019

Columba melitensis Lydekker

Malta Pigeon (Columba melitensis)

The Malta Pigeon was described in 1891, it is known exclusively from fossil bones that were excavated from depostits in the Ghar Dalam Cave (and probably other caves) on the island of Malta.

The species was obviously somewhat similar to the extant Rock Dove (Columba livia Gmelin), but apparently slightly smaller.

The bones can be dated to an age of about 10000 years, making this species a case of a Pleistocene/Holocene borderline extinction. 


edited: 13.01.2019

Columba versicolor Kittlitz

Bonin Wood Pigeon (Columba versicolor)

The Bonin Wood Pigeon is known only from four specimens, which had been collected on two of the Ogasawara Islands, namely Chichijima and Nakodojima, however, it may formerly of course have occurred on other islands of the archipelago as well.

Friedrich Heinrich von Kittlitz, the discoverer of this spescies, writes in his work ‘Kupfertafeln zur Naturgeschichte der Vögel’ about this bird:

“I saw it [Columba janthina] often on the island group of Boninsima, here it lives with Fig.2. (C. versicolor mihi) ,which, as a species, is visibly different albeit very similar to it, but thereby occurring much more scarcer. In al sexual- and age disparities the difference of both in colour and size is noticeable, in food and lifestyle they are incidentally closely related. They survive singly or pairwise, and readily feed, amongst other things, fruits of the local fan palm.”

The Bonin Wood Pigeon, whose Japanes name is Ogasawara-Karasubato, reached a body length of 45 cm.

The species disappeared sometimes after 1889, an exact extinction date is not known.



[1] Friedrich Heinrich von Kittlitz: Kupfertafeln zur Naturgeschichte der Vögel. Frankfurt am Main: Johann David Sauerländer 1832-1833
[2] Dieter Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986
[3] Errol Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987
[4] David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes, John Cox: Pigeons and Doves, A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. Pica Press, Sussex 2001


Depiction from: ‘Friedrich Heinrich von Kittlitz: Kupfertafeln zur Naturgeschichte der Vögel. Frankfurt am Main: Johann David Sauerländer 1832-1833’

(public domain)


edited: 30.07.2011