The Bridled Quail-dove (Geotrygon mystacea) is a beautiful dove species that inhabits some of our islands. Found in small numbers on Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten, the Bridled Quail-dove is anything but drab. Its olive-brown upper parts have an eye-catching blue-green iridescence on the crown, forehead and upper neck that takes on purple tones on the lower neck and upper back. The dove also has a distinct white stripe that runs under its eyes, cinnamon coloured primary flight feathers, a two-toned bill (reddish near the base, white at the tip), and bright orange-red eyes surrounded by a bright red eye ring.
The Bridled Quail-dove is known locally as the Wood Hen because it inhabits dense mountain forest and woodland areas. This plump dove spends much of its time foraging for fruit and seeds on the forest floor amongst dead leaf litter, using its bill to move leaves aside when needed. It is a very shy dove that is hard to approach. When disturbed, it will often walk away quickly rather than fly; when it does fly, it is usually only for a short distance.
The geographical range of the Bridled Quail-dove is quite small; it includes the Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Despite being listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, numbers of this dove are decreasing throughout its range. The two main threats are habitat loss caused by hurricanes and development, as well as introduced predators such as cats and rats that prey on the dove’s eggs. There is much concern over the future of the Bridled Quail-dove on our islands; on Saba, numbers have declined dramatically over the past ten years. Work by local conservation organisations such as the Saba Conservation Foundation will be crucial in determining the fate of this dove within our forests and woodlands.
Sources: The CornellLab of Ornithology: NeotropicalBirds International Dove Society Nature on Statia