Mauritius Blue Pigeon

Alectroenas nitidissima

Credits: Dr Julian P. Hume. Book ‘Lost of the Dodo: The
Ecological History of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues’

Mauritius Blue Pigeon

Species type: Bird
Species (Common name): Blue pigeon or Pigeon Hollandais (Dutch Pigeon)
Scientific name: Alectroenas nitidissima
Endemism: Endemic to Mauritius
Conservation status: Extinct

Description: This very striking pigeon was at 30 cm long the largest of the six blue pigeon species. It had a white head and shoulders, a mainly blue body and a red tail. Males had red foreheads. The red, white and blue sequence was said to resemble the Dutch flag, hence the name “pigeon Hollandais”. It had fine white feathers around the neck that resembled a ruff. These could be raised and used for display. Its diet was probably mainly fruit, nuts, molluscs and other invertebrates. The Mauritius blue pigeon is believed to have became extinct in about 1830 due to the continued predation from introduced mammals and the increased rate of deforestation during this period.

Fun facts:

  1. The six closely related species of Blue Pigeons in the genus Alectroenas are all native to islands in the western Indian Ocean – Madagascar, Comores, Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues. The surviving species are the Madagascar Blue Pigeon (Alectroenas madagascariensis), the Comoro Blue Pigeon (Alectroenas sganzini), and the Seychelles Blue Pigeon (Alectroenas pulcherrima). All three of the Mascarene species are extinct.
  2. The closest living relatives of the Blue Pigeons are found in New Caledonia, nearly 11,000 km to the east of Mauritius. It is believed that the ancestors of the Blue Pigeons reached the western Indian Ocean by “island hopping”. Many of these island stepping stones no longer exist.
  3. In 1786 Giovanni Antonio Scopoli gave the bird the scientific name Columba nitidissima, meaning "most brilliant pigeon".
  4. The Mauritius Blue Pigeon became extinct at about the same time as the Mauritius Owl (Mascarenotus commersoni) and the small Mauritian Flying Fox (Pteropus subniger). These were the last three extinctions to date of large vertebrates from the Mauritian mainland.