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Grenada Dove (Leptotila wellsi)

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Old Tuesday 30th March 2004, 10:17   #1
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Grenada Dove (Leptotila wellsi)

Grenada Dove (Leptotila wellsi)

Justification Conservation action may be just in time to save this species from extinction. Its status is Critical because it has an extremely small and fragmented population as a result of a very rapid decline. The existing recovery plan aims to increase the wild population to 200 individuals in four subpopulations and establish a captive-breeding programme for reintroduction.

Identification 31 cm. Medium-sized, plump bicoloured dove. Grey-brown upperparts except white forehead and slight bluish sheen to crown above eye. White underparts with buffy-cinnamon breast, plain dark wings, tail tipped white, and pale eye. Shows cinnamon underwing in flight. 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 eight-second intervals.

Population estimate 130

Range & Population Leptotila wellsi is endemic to Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. The population declined by c.50% in 1987-1990, and now numbers only c.100 individuals. In July 1998, there were 29 pairs in fragmented habitat on and adjacent to the Mt Hartman Estate in the south-west, and 19 pairs on the Perseverance and adjacent Woodford Estates in the west. Three males heard calling in Beausejour in 1990 were not present in 1995. Historically, it was more widespread in coastal and possibly offshore islands, but may always have been rare.

Ecology It inhabits a successional stage of dry, coastal scrub-woodland, 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. 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.

Threats Chronic and continuing habitat loss for plantations and construction has possibly been compounded by introduced mongooses, cats and rats predating fledglings. Cutting has been substantially reduced at Mt Hartma but, in 1995, 50% of Perserverance was clear-cut for a planned quarry (now to be used as a land-fill). Increases in squatters and cattle in the 1990s have resulted in more disturbance at Perserverance. At Mt Hartman, a golf course and road are under construction adjacent to, and between, occupied habitat.
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