Bird Conservation International

Species limits within Grey-headed Quail-dove Geotrygon caniceps and implications for the conservation of a globally threatened species

Orlando H. Garrido a1, Guy M. Kirwan a2c1 and David R. Capper a3
a1 Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Cuba, Obispo 61, Plaza de Armas, La Habana, Cuba
a2 74 Waddington Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 4JS, U.K.
a3 1029A Garratt Lane, Tooting, London SW17, U.K.


Grey-headed Quail-dove Geotrygon caniceps has traditionally been considered a polytypic species endemic to Cuba and the Dominican Republic and treated as globally threatened within the most recent Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2000). Chapman (1917) described Geotrygon leucometopius of Hispaniola as specifically distinct from G. caniceps of Cuba based on 10 specimens, taken by Rollo Beck in the Dominican Republic. Subsequently, Bond (1936, 1956) merged leucometopius within caniceps, an arrangement that has persisted, unchallenged in the technical literature, until the present. Through examination of 76 specimens, extensive field experience of Cuban birds, and less exhaustive fieldwork in the Dominican Republic, we re-evaluate the taxonomic status of the Hispaniolan population, identifying consistent differences in coloration, tail length and characteristics of the second to fifth primaries between it and the Cuban population. Based on these differences, we suggest that caniceps (endemic to Cuba) and leucometopius (restricted to the Dominican Republic) be henceforth resurrected to species status. We were unable to undertake a complete analysis of the vocalizations of the two forms, due to the lack of definite recordings from Hispaniola, but present sonograms and notes concerning Cuban birds. Further work, including molecular analyses, would be clearly desirable to test our hypothesis. Both forms are undoubtedly declining due to habitat destruction and hunting, and both certainly qualify as Vulnerable under current IUCN criteria. Indeed, leucometopius may even qualify as Endangered under the range criterion. Its status requires particularly careful monitoring, while new information, published since the BirdLife International (2000) review of globally threatened birds, suggests that the range even of nominate caniceps is considerably smaller than previously considered.

(Received June 4 2001)
(Accepted January 7 2002)

c1 Author for correspondence