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First Blue-eyed Ground-dove chick recorded

In great news for the Critically Endangered species, a chick has been seen close to fledging.

The Blue-eyed Ground-dove baby (© SAVE Brasil)

Marcelo Lisita was conducting his daily monitoring rounds when he spotted it.

The bird was perched on a branch – a smaller, slightly scruffier looking version of the mature Blue-eyed Ground-doves Columbina cyanopis Marcelo had been monitoring for the past year. A wave of emotion overcame him as he realized what he was seeing: the first Blue-eyed Ground-dove chick spotted in more than 75 years.

“It’s so exciting to record a dove at this stage!” Lisita said of the discovery. “This is such an important record as these doves do not breed easily, and require a few peculiarities in their habitat.”

The finding is especially poignant because for a long time, it seemed as though a Blue-eyed Ground-dove chick might never be seen in the wild again. From 1941 to 2014, not a single Blue-eyed Ground-dove was spotted in the wild, despite numerous surveys of their habitat. The world was ready to declare the species extinct when, in 2015, ornithologist Rafael Bessa was walking through the cerrado (a savannah-like ecosystem) and heard the bird’s call.

Since then, SAVE Brasil (BirdLife Partner) has been working diligently to help the Blue-eyed Ground-dove stage a comeback. In January 2018, with the help of the Rainforest Trust, SAVE Brasil bought the plot of land where the original dove was found, as well as the surrounding area, and formed the Blue-eyed Ground-dove Nature Reserve. In July of that same year, the government of Minas Gerais also officially extended protection to an additional 89,000 acres as protected, forming the Botumirim State Park (which overlaps with SAVE’s reserve). At this point, there were an estimated 15 doves known to be living in the wild.

In March of 2019, an additional population of four Blue-eyed Ground-doves were discovered, about five kilometers away from where the original population was found. With the new birds, the total known population of Blue-eyed Ground-doves rose to 19 individuals. Though the population increase was small, it was still significant. The new population meant increased genetic diversity, and pointed to the potential presence of more undiscovered doves in the wild.

For there to be real hope that the population would rebound though, the organization needed confirmation of one more thing: that the doves were successfully breeding. In the time the organization has been monitoring the birds, they had spotted eight nests, but had never recorded a chick. Worse still, there had been evidence of nest predation, leading to fears about the suitability of the doves’ habitat.

The chick that Lisita spotted, however, shows that the birds are successfully breeding. In order to further help the doves, SAVE has installed camera traps in different places around the reserve to understand what the doves’ potential predators are, and how to best protect the birds. Hopefully with the doves successful breeding and a better understanding of what their threats are, the birds can make a comeback once and for all.

 

10 May 2019

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