Nilgiri wood pigeon

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Nilgiri wood pigeon
Nilgiri wood pigeon.jpg
Nilgiri wood pigeon Columba elphinstonii
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Genus: Columba
C. elphinstonii
Binomial name
Columba elphinstonii
(Sykes, 1832)[2]
Columba elphinstonii map.png

Alsocomus elphinstonii
Ptilinopus elphinstonii

The Nilgiri wood pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) is large pigeon found in the moist deciduous forests and sholas of the Western Ghats in southwestern India. They are mainly frugivorous and forage in the canopy of dense hill forests. They are best identified in the field by their large size, dark colours and the distinctive checkerboard pattern on their nape.


Nilgiri wood pigeon photograph from Munnar, Kerala

This pigeon appears dark grey and a black and white patterned patch made of white tipped stiff feathers on the back of the neck is distinctive. The mantle is chestnut. The male has a paler grey crown while the female has a darker grey crown with a pale throat. The most confusable other species is the mountain imperial pigeon but that species has paler underwing coverts.[3] The feet and the base of the bill are red.[4][5]

The species is evolutionarily close to the Ceylon woodpigeon Columba torringtoni and the ashy wood pigeon Columba pulchricollis which form a clade that is basal within the Old World genus Columba.[6][7][8] The binomial commemorates Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779–1859).


The species is mainly found along the Western Ghats and in the Nilgiri Hills.[3] Although found mainly in the hills, it is sometimes seen at lower elevations within the Western Ghats.[9] A few relict populations survive on the high elevations hills of the peninsula such as the Biligirirangan Hills[10] and Nandi Hills near Bangalore.[11][12]

Postage stamp in India depicting the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Nilgiri wood pigeons are usually seen singly, in pairs or in small groups, feeding almost entirely in the trees but sometimes descending to the ground to forage on fallen fruits. Although feeding mainly on fruits they have been recorded taking small snails and other invertebrates.[3] The breeding season is March to July during which time they make a flimsy platform of twigs and lay a single white egg which is usually visible from below the nest.[4] They feed on large fruits and may play an important role in dispersal of the seeds of many forest trees.[13] Fruits of the family Lauraceae are particularly favoured and most of their food is gathered by gleaning on the outer twigs of the middle and upper canopy.[14] They have been recorded ingesting soil that may provide mineral nutrients or aid digestion.[15] They often make movements within the forest according to the fruiting seasons of their favourite trees. Their call is a loud langur-like low-frequency hooting "who" followed by a series of deep "who-who-who" notes.[16]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Columba elphinstonii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Sykes WH (1832). "Catalogue of Birds of the Rasorial, Grallatorial and Natatorial Orders, observed in the Dukhun". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (Part 2): 149–172.
  3. ^ a b c Rasmussen PC, Anderton JC (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 206.
  4. ^ a b Baker, EC Stuart (1913). Indian pigeons and doves. Witherby and Co. pp. 164–167.
  5. ^ Blanford WT (1898). Fauna of British India. Birds. Volume 4. Taylor and Francis, London. p. 36.
  6. ^ Goodwin, D. (1959). "Taxonomy of the genus Columba". Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Zool. 6: 1–23. doi:10.5962/bhl.part.26842.
  7. ^ Johnston, Richard F (1962). "The taxonomy of pigeons" (PDF). Condor. 64 (1): 69–74. doi:10.2307/1365442. JSTOR 1365442.
  8. ^ Johnson KP; de Kort, Selvino; Dinwoodey, Karen; Mateman, A. C.; ten Cate; Carel; Lessells, C. M.; Clayton, Dale H. & Sheldon, F. (2001). "A molecular phylogeny of the dove genera Streptopelia and Columba" (PDF). The Auk. 118 (4): 874–887. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2001)118[0874:AMPOTD]2.0.CO;2. hdl:20.500.11755/a92515bb-c1c6-4c0e-ae9a-849936c41ca2.
  9. ^ Daniel JC, Amladi SR (1974). "The Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Columba elphinstonii (Sykes) on Salsette Island, Bombay". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 71 (2): 304.
  10. ^ Srinivasan U. & Prashanth N.S. (2006). "Preferential routes of bird dispersal to the Western Ghats in India: An explanation for the avifaunal peculiarities of the Biligirirangan Hills" (PDF). Indian Birds. 2 (4): 114–119. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2011.
  11. ^ Karthikeyan, S. (2000). "Circumstantial evidence of breeding of the Nilgiri wood pigeon Columba elphinstonii (Sykes) at Nandi hills, near Bangalore". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 97 (3): 429.
  12. ^ Subramanya, S.; Prasad J.N. & Karthikeyan S. (1994). "Nilgiri Wood Pigeon Columba elphinstonii (Sykes) at Nandi Hills near Bangalore". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 91 (2): 319–320.
  13. ^ Ganesh T & Priya Davidar (2001). "Dispersal modes of tree species in the wet forests of southern Western Ghats" (PDF). Current Science. 80 (3): 394–399.
  14. ^ Somasundaram S, Vijayan L (2010). "Foraging ecology of the globally threatened Nilgiri Wood Pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) in the Western Ghats, India". Chinese Birds. 1 (1): 9–21. doi:10.5122/cbirds.2009.0017.
  15. ^ Somasundaram S, Vijayan L (2011). "Soil Feeding Behaviour of Globally Threatened Nilgiri Woodpigeon Columba elphinstonii in the Western Ghats, South India" (PDF). Podoces. 6 (1): 92–94.
  16. ^ Ali S, Ripley SD (1981). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 3 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 132–133.

External links[edit]