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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

Raising awareness & promoting sustainable use of natural resources

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Category and Criteria lists the global population of the white-crowned pigeon, Patagioenas leucocephala, as Near Threatened. The threat is due to intense habitat degradation and deforestation. In the Caribbean much of the threat is in the form of hunting, poaching and habitat loss. The pigeon is present on Antigua and Barbuda but there was never a formal attempt to gather accurate data on population density and health.

It was known from the work of the Offshore Islands Conservation Project that White-crowned pigeons nested on the offshore islands, but the methods for surveying them were inconsistent from survey to survey and provided only marginally useful information. It is also thought that the local populations are augmented during the breeding season by individuals from other parts of the Caribbean and perhaps Florida. The birds are hunted on other Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The bird in Antigua represents a potentially high population density and may be a refuge which allows the hunted populations in other Caribbean Islands to recover between open seasons.

There is thus a unique opportunity to use well-designed survey techniques to gather sound scientific data to guide policy and adaptive management of the birds as it becomes necessary. This project seeks to do this and present this data for the edification of local, regional and international interests in the welfare of the White-crowned pigeon.

The major goal of this project is to assess the conservation status of the near threatened White-crowned Pigeon (Patagioneas leucocephala) in Antigua. The project sought to document seasonal movements of the birds in breeding and non-breeding areas, determine major breeding and feeding habitats and assess threats to the well-being of the population.

The population density was determined to be 0.519 pigeons/ha (SE = 0.107), and population size was 13,486 pigeons (SE = 2,786, 95% CI = 8,384, 19,045) in 26,000 ha for the island of Antigua. Pigeons fed on a wide variety of fruiting trees but were especially observed feeding on Clamon Cherry (Cordia obliqua). The biggest threat is loss of breeding habitat on the offshore islands.

Roosting took place in 2014 from June to August and the only nesting areas found were on the offshore islands of Long, Maiden and Great Bird (to a much smaller extent).

White-crowned pigeons (WCPi) were found feeding mainly on Clammy cherry (Cordia obliqua), which is in fruit from July until September. The pigeons also preferentially feed on Java Plum  (Syzygium cumini) when it is in season (from October) but were also found to eat the berries of Royal Palm, Poisonwood, West Indian cherries, wild fig, pigeon berry and other plants. During the protracted drought which has affected the island since 2013 and is still on-going, the pigeons have been observed feeding on Coralita although it is unclear what part of the vine they are consuming. Of note also is that the pigeons eat the seeds of the invasive and prolific cat tail (Typha sp.). They may be partly responsible for its rapid spread across the wetlands of Antigua and can be found even in gutters.

White Crowned Pigeon Project

White Crowned Pigeon

White Crowned Pigeon

Juvenile White Crowned Pigeon on Long Island

White Crowned Pigeon nest

Andrea surveying at Lion Hill

Trainee, Nicolette using the range finder

Cordia obliqua eaten by the pigeons