Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the November 20, 2011 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

The terms pigeon and dove are used fairly interchangeably. However, in general, pigeons are usually thought of as larger, plumper birds, mainly in the genus Columba, while doves are smaller and more slender, often in the genus Zenaida. Pigeons and doves are different enough from other birds to have their own bird family, the Columbidae. The Yucatán hosts 13 to 15 species in the Pigeon and Dove Family, depending on how far south you think the Yucatán Peninsula goes. The farther south and east, the more species turn up.

During the last two years here at Hacienda Chichen I've grown accustomed to seeing White-tipped and White-winged Doves, as well as stubby little Ruddy Ground-Doves, but not much else, even though we're within the distribution areas of other species. While I was away, another species turned up, one shown above.

That picture is a little grainy and colorless because the bird is in dim light inside the storage room beside the old colonial church in which I lived when I first arrived here. The bird had entered an open door.

He's a Red-billed Pigeon, COLUMBA FLAVIROSTRIS. The bill is mostly whitish, being a little reddish toward its base. Red-bills are distinguished from other pigeons and doves in this area by the shoulders' rusty blushes. Other species either lack the rustiness or have rustiness spreading to other parts. If you're used to seeing only White-tipped and White-winged Doves, Red-bills stand out with their longer necks. Unlike White-tipped Doves they perch in treetops and unlike White-winged Doves often they perch alone.

It's interesting that several Red-bills have appeared here after being absent for at least a couple of years, and it's also interesting that about a month ago along the beach north of Mahahual the same species began turning up fairly commonly where I'd not seen it the previous five months. It's as if the species has invaded a large part of the Yucatán after being absent awhile, though my sample of two places is too small to come to such a conclusion.

Red-billed Pigeons are regarded as inhabiting lowland forests, forest edges and semiopen areas with forest patches and scattered trees from Mexico through Central America to central Costa Rica.