Geographical patterns of threat among pigeons and doves (Columbidae)

Jonathan S. Walker c1


Columbidae (pigeons and doves) is one of the most threatened bird families in the world. I analysed data on the BirdLife International Species Information Database to examine the distribution and causes of threat among columbids. Of 304 species extant in the wild, 59 (19%) are threatened with extinction, 48 (83%) of which have restricted ranges. All but two threatened columbid species (97%) inhabit tropical forests, and of these, 45 are island species (78% of all threatened columbid species). The taxonomic distribution of columbids follows three coherent areas: the Americas; Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia; Asia, Australasia and Oceania. Asia, Australasia and Oceania support nearly two-thirds of all extant species and three-quarters of threatened species (44), most of which (84%) are restricted range insular species. Three countries within this area are the most important for the conservation of columbid diversity: Indonesia, the Philippines and French Polynesia. Together these three countries support 40% of extant species and half of all threatened species. The greatest causes of threat to columbids are (1) habitat loss and fragmentation due to agriculture and extraction, (2) hunting for food, and (3) alien predator species. Habitat loss and fragmentation are universal threats to columbids. Hunting, however, is a significantly greater threat to species in Asia, Australasia and Oceania than to species in the other two areas and urgently needs to be addressed. I discuss the conservation implications of these findings and make research recommendations to aid and encourage the conservation of threatened columbids and their habitats.

(Received October 28 2005)

(Reviewed May 19 2006)

(Accepted October 06 2006)


c1 Economic Studies, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK. E-mail jon@columbidae.org.uk