Leptotila wellsi 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Columbiformes Columbidae

Scientific Name: Leptotila wellsi
Species Authority: (Lawrence, 1884)
Common Name(s):
English Grenada Dove
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 31 cm. Medium-sized, plump bicoloured dove. Brown upperparts, with white forehead and white breast feathers that extend around shoulder. White underparts with pinkish-brown breast, plain dark wings, tail tipped white, and pale eye. Shows cinnamon underwing in flight. Pinkish red legs, feet and bare skin around the eyes. Similar spp. Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata is smaller, more uniform brown with dark eye and auricular mark, black spots on scapulars and no white in tail. Voice Mournful descending hoooo, repeated at seven to eight-second intervals.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Collar, N., Ellard, J., Rusk, B. & Wege, D.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Capper, D., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Wege, D., Khwaja, N. & Ashpole, J
This species is considered Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small and fragmented population which has declined owing to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by hurricanes, fire, clearance for residential housing, roads and other development, as well as grazing and predation by invasive species. A 2008 recovery plan aims to urgently prevent further population decline due to habitat loss and other threats, and increase the wild population through protection and restoration to allow for four self-sustaining subpopulations.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species is endemic to Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. Historically, it was more widespread in coastal and possibly offshore islands (B. L. Rusk in litt. 1998), but may always have been rare (Devas 1943). The population declined by c.50% in 1987-1990 (Blockstein 1991), and by 1998 numbered only c. 100 individuals, with strongholds on the Mt Hartman estate, and on the Perseverance and adjacent Woodford estates in the west (Rusk 1998). The population increased to an estimated 182 individuals by 2003-2004, but in 2004 hurricane Ivan had a devastating impact upon the island and the dove's population. This resulted in declines, particularly severe along the west coast, where the population declined from 36 calling males to 3-12 calling males, but also within the Mt Hartman area, from 55 males to 30-48 males (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010). Three years following hurricane Ivan the population was estimated at 68 calling males with 136 individuals in total (Rusk 2007, B. L. Rusk in litt. 2005), however this assumes an even sex ratio, and there is a tendency for such relict populations to be male-dominated. The total population may therefore be as small as 100 mature individuals or c. 30 reproductive pairs (N. J. Collar in litt. 2008). A survey in 2013 estimated the population to be approximately 160 individuals using distance sampling, with 33 birds recorded (Rivera-Milán et al. 2015). This is equivalent to approximately 110 mature individuals (range 90-130). Of all remaining known territories, 28 are within protected areas, 11 on unprotected crown land and 29 on private land. Forty-three per cent of remaining birds are thought to occur in the Mt Hartman Estate (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012).

Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:8
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:2-5Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):150
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is estimated at c. 160 individuals, roughly equivalent to 110 mature individuals (range 90 to 130) (Rivera-Milán et al. 2015).

Trend Justification:  The population was estimated at 100 individuals in 1998, climbing to 182 individuals by 2003-2004. However, the population declined following hurricane Ivan in 2004, with a maximum of 136 individuals estimated in 2007 (Rusk 2007). Although these figures suggest that the population may have increased between 1998 and 2007, this includes c. 30 new individuals discovered in 2003, and increases may reflect an improvement in sampling methods. The population is thought to be undergoing a continued decline (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2010), estimated here at 1-19% over 13 years (three generations).

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:110Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It inhabits a successional stage of dry, coastal scrub-woodland in the south-west, which comprises a closed canopy of leguminous (often thorny) trees and shrubs c.3-6 m high, a sparse understorey of shrubs and saplings, sparse to absent ground-cover and much exposed soil (Blockstein 1991). The flowering tree Haematoxylum campechianum is dominant in these areas (Baptista et al. 2015). On the west coast, its habitat includes some mixed deciduous/evergreen vegetation. It may have been always confined to xeric, coastal areas where climax vegetation was deciduous, seasonal forest and thorn woodland, but frequent natural disturbances (particularly hurricanes) kept the vegetation in a sub-climax condition. This temporary occupation of ephemeral patches and recolonisation of developing patches may be the normal life history pattern. Breeding is limited to the rainy season in the south-west, but is more extended on the less xeric west coast (Rusk 1998).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):4.2
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss due to clearing for small plantations and charcoal production has been replaced in recent years with chronic and continuing habitat loss for residential housing, roads and other development. Habitat on private land is vulnerable to development and high land prices mean that it is not practical for the government to purchase these areas to ensure their protection (Anon. 2012). Population declines are likely to be compounded by introduced mongooses, cats, rats and manicous predating eggs and fledglings, of which rats were found to be the most widespread, followed by mongooses and manicous (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012, Twyman and Hyslette unpubl. data). It is possible that mongooses and cats are able to climb diagonal branches and trunks to reach the birds. By 2012 mongoose numbers had reached levels whereby they were found to occur daily across much of Grenada Dove habitat (Bolton et al. 2015). Cutting was substantially reduced at Mt Hartman (B. L. Rusk in litt. 1998) but, in 1995, 50% of Perseverance was clear-cut for a planned quarry, with half the site now a sanitary land-fill (Rusk and Temple unpubl. data). A lease was granted for a new quarry at this site in 2008, but that was temporarily halted in 2009 (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2006, 2008, 2010). Increases in squatters and cattle in the 1990s resulted in more disturbance at Perseverance, though currently habitat degradation is due to garbage and toxic fumes invading the site from the garbage dump across the road as well as spillover from the adjacent hurricane debris site (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2006, 2008, 2010).

Following strong opposition to initial proposals, which would have proved disastrous for the species, modified plans for the development of a Four Seasons resort and golf course at Mt Hartman are now predicted to result in the displacement or loss of four pairs, or 6% of the total population (D. Wege in litt. 2008). Hurricanes pose a pertinent threat now that the remaining population is so small. Following hurricane Ivan in 2004 calling frequency by males during the breeding season appeared to have fallen significantly, possibly as a result of stress owing to limited resources (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2005). The hurricane damaged habitat structure and allowed the invasion of alien vines into suitable dove habitat. In the Mount Hartman Estate the dove was found to use man-made wells, and one which the birds used frequently was threatened by development (Bolton et al. 2015). Spread of disease (e.g. trichomonosis) between other bird species using these water sources is also a threat (Bolton et al. 2015).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
A recovery plan was drafted in 1998 (Rusk et al. 1998) and a four-year GEF/WB funded Dry Forest Biodiversity Conservation Project based on stakeholder input was implemented from 2001-2006. In 2008, an updated 10 year conservation and recovery plan was drafted (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2006, 2008, 2010). In 2011, critical dove habitat on crown lands at the Beauséjour Estate (c.100 acres) received Government of Grenada cabinet approval for its protection and addition to the Perseverance Protected Area (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012). This species is legally protected from hunting and egg-collecting, but these threats are insignificant. Grenada Dove is the national bird of Grenada, has been a focus of environmental education in schools and ecotourism, and features on stamps. In 1996, parts of the Mt Hartman and Perseverance estates were declared a national park and a protected area, respectively (B. L. Rusk in litt. 1998).

The Four Seasons resort development on the Mt Hartman Estate has been extensively modified to minimise impacts on the dove, and the national park has been redesigned and will now comprise one contiguous area of habitat, including 50 of 58 doves known from the Mt Hartman Estate within the new boundaries. The redesigned park will also include significant opportunities for habitat creation (D. Wege in litt. 2008). A predator control programme has been agreed to ensure that land disturbance from construction does not also encourage the migration of predators such as mongoose to the sanctuary. Developers of the Four Seasons resort will fund the construction of traps and hire local residents to set and monitor the traps, and the predator control programme will be monitored by the government of Grenada (J. Ellard in litt. 2008, B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012). The developers agreed to permanent (dove-sensitive) fencing around the perimeter of the national park (D. Wege in litt. 2008, B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012). Clearance for the golf course was to begin in 2009, but no construction has taken place except for a road built across the valley, which was supervised by a dove biologist and did not impact dove territory (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, Anon. 2013). The timing and sequence of hole clearing will be designed to minimise disturbance near dove habitat during the breeding season and allow for the movement of doves into protected habitat before territorial behaviour begins. Recent clearing on the development lands for farming and veterinary activities can limit this movement, and is being addressed.

Dove habitats on private lands at Beauséjour, Grenville Vale and Woodford, all IBAs, are recommended for protection in the 2010 Conservation and Management Plan for Perseverance Protected Area.  All dove habitat are IBAs and are included in Grenada's System Plan for Parks and Protected Areas. Currently, all remaining dove habitat is on unprotected, privately owned land. A legislative review to address private lands slated for protection has taken place (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012). The Grenada Dove Conservation Programme is collaborating with the Society for the Conservation and the Study of Caribbean Birds with the aim of developing eco-tourism activities in two of the key areas for the species (Mt Hartman and Beauséjour) (Anon. 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Habitat protection and restoration and predator removal should be priorities for conservation of this species (Rivera-Milán et al. 2015). Eliminate/minimise further habitat loss. Formally protect important habitat that falls within private lands (Rusk 2011). Carry out regular surveys and establish a long-term monitoring programme (Bolton et al. 2015) to monitor population trends and determine the sex ratio (and therefore the actual population) of remaining birds. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Undertake a control programme to reduce mongoose presence in dove habitat and monitor and manage numbers of other introduced predators (Bolton et al. 2015). Undertake research into the species's ecology, including home range size and habitat preferences (Bolton et al. 2015). Finalise and implement the revised recovery plan. Ensure that the Mt Hartman and Perseverance reserves are effectively protected. Develop incentives/regulations for protection of dove habitat on private residential lots in the south-west (adjacent to Mt Hartman), and Beauséjour and Woodford on the west coast (B. L. Rusk in litt. 2012). Restore habitat at existing and new sites. Investigate whether the flowering tree Haematoxylon campechianum is important for Grenada Dove and if appropriate develop a planting scheme (Bolton et al. 2015). Establish two new subpopulations (Rusk et al. 1998) and consider establishing a captive breeding population. Provide alternatives to standing water sources such as 'leaky' hose water stations to reduce the risk of disease (Bolton et al. 2015). 

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Leptotila wellsi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22690874A78597701. . Downloaded on 04 December 2016.
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