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The also called Long-toed Pigeon is an endemic species of Madeira, it once existed in Porto Santo but nowadays is restricted to Madeira Island.
It is a dark grey corpulent pigeon with big red toes, an indistinct glossy silvery patch on neck-side, a visible white strike on the tail and red bill. The female is a little smaller than the male but it is not easy to distinguish them.
There is strong evidence that the pigeons move from valley to valley all year round, and that they look for different areas at different times of the year. Habitat selection has been studied in summer when the pigeons show a strong preference for Laurel forest at low altitudes, especially forest with a good height of canopy on steep slopes. In places not altered by housing and agriculture pigeons may occur very near the coast. The biotopes that are preferred are those dominated by Ocotea foetens, although those with exotic vegetation are in relatively high demand all year round if compared with some of the Laurel forest habitats. Pigeons occur within the whole altitudinal range of the Laurel forest but they show a much higher preference for forest under 850 m.
Columba trocaz is endemic to Europe, where it has a very small range (The Trocaz Pigeon (Columba trocaz), an endemic bird of Madeira that lives on the northern slopes of mountains and in some secluded places of the southern coast of the island, and which is characteristic of the Laurel forest, was first described in 1829 by Heineken.
In the past, the also known as Long-toed Pigeon was highly affected by the destruction of its habitat. Today this species isn’t endangered anymore, because all Laurel areas have been considered Integral or Partial Nature Reserves thanks to the jurisdiction of the Madeira Natural Park.
Although this species appears associated to the Laurel forest because it feeds from the berries of the big laurel trees and the leaves and flowers of other small plants, the Long-toed Pigeon is frequently observed in the cultivated lands near the forest, where it seeks food and usually damages crops, especially cabbages. For this reason the Trocaz Pigeon became unpopular and was hunted by the population. In 1984 and 1985, the authorities were pressured into authorizing the hunting of this species due to the damage they had made on the cabbage patches. This went on until 1989, but since then the species has gained a strict protection status.
During the decades in which these birds where victims of poisoning and killing, the population size was drastically reduced, and some authors say that in 1982 there were only 500 birds and in 1985 they were around 1000. After hunting was considered illegal, the first census with a complete and specific methodology was done in 1986 and from the results it was concluded that there were about 2700 birds. After that, this type of study continued and was done regularly every four years. According to the 1995 census, the population consisted of about 10400 birds, in 1999 more than 8400 and in 2003 only 7000 birds.
Even though the hunting and poisoning of these birds has been considered illegal, and the population has become relatively numerous, it is still subject to a conservation program, for its eggs and nestlings are still constantly threatened by rats.
Food consists mainly of the fruits of Laurus azorica and Ocotea foetens, but also flowers and leaves of Sonchus spp., Apium nodiflorum, Nastasium officinale, and a wide variety of other plants. The crop contents and state of the gonads of 25 pigeons were examined in 1985 and compared to a sample of 29 birds in 1988. In 1985 only agricultural food remains were found in the pigeons and the gonads were inactive; in 1988 only berries from Laurel forest trees were found and, of the 25 birds, 19 were sexually active, three were juveniles and three had undeveloped gonads.
Columba trocaz is endemic to Madeira and formerly the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, Portugal. It is found predominantly on the island’s mountainous northern slopes, but there are a few isolated populations in the south. It was very abundant in the early years of human colonisation, but subsequently declined dramatically to c. 2,700 birds in 19862. However, the population has recovered in recent years, probably due to the ban on hunting. There are now an estimated 10,400 birds in approximately 12 km2 of suitable habitat1,2, and well protected within Madeira Natural Park. The species is confined to laurel forest, largely below 850 m 2. There is strong evidence that it is highly mobile between different areas at different times of year. It nests in trees in laurel forest, occasionally on the ground or in cavities in cliffs. Normally only one egg is laid. Food consists of the fruit of Laurus azorica and Ocotea foetens, and the leaves and flowers of herbaceous plants. Birds may also feed on agricultural land. Nest predation by black rat Rattus rattus is likely to be a factor limiting reproduction. Although the area of laurel forest is now increasing, regeneration is adversely affected by grazing and fire. Extinction on Porto Santo and historical declines on Madeira were directly related to forest destruction for wood, agriculture, grazing and human settlements. Hunting and poisoning compounded the effects of habitat loss and continue illegally in a few well-defined areas, especially on agricultural land. This species’s unpopularity, as a result of its use of agricultural areas, has a negative influence on conservation and management actions. It is legally protected and hunting was banned in 1986. Madeira Natural Park has a management plan, and an action plan for the species was published in 1996. Research and monitoring should be continued; new areas of laurel forest should be protected; habitat loss (from livestock-grazing) and hunting should be controlled or prevented; an education campaign may overcome the species’s unpopularity. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Madeira Laurel Pigeons build their nest with dry twigs in a forest tree, and occasionally on the ground or in cavities in cliffs. Normally one egg is laid, occasionally two, though no nest with two chicks has ever been found. Incubation takes 19-20 days and the fledging period is up to 28 days. Captive breeding has been achieved.
Resident and endemic to Madeira
- spanwidth min.: 72 cm
- spanwidth max.: 76 cm
- size min.: 38 cm
- size max.: 40 cm
- incubation min.: 19 days
- incubation max.: 20 days
- fledging min.: 28 days
- fledging max.: 29 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 1
- eggs max.: 2
- Conservation Status