Save the Tooth-billed Pigeon

  • by: Edo R
  • target: International Union for Conservation of Nature
The Tooth-billed Pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris), also known as the Manumea, is a large pigeon found only in Samoa. It is the only living species of genus Didunculus.

The Tooth-billed Pigeon is a medium-sized, approximately 31 cm long, dark pigeon with reddish feet and red bare skin around the eye. The underparts, head and neck are greyish with a slight blue-green iridescence, and the tail, wings-coverts and tertials are rufous chestnut, while the remaining remiges are blackish. It has a large, curved, and hooked bright red bill with toothlike projections on the lower mandible. Both sexes are similar, but the juvenile is duller with a browner head, with a black bill with only the base a pale orange.

It has no close living relative, but it has been shown to be genetically close to the dodo, and the genus name Didunculus means "little Dodo". the English name of Dodlet was suggested by Sir Richard Owen. The jaw and tongue structure, and the superficially parrotlike bill have suggested a relationship to the parrots, but these features have arisen from its specialised diet rather than any real relationship.

Because of ongoing habitat loss, limited range, small population size, hunting and occasional cyclones as well as the likely impact of introduced species such as pigs, dogs, rats and cats, the Tooth-billed Pigeon is evaluated as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is likely to be upgraded to critically endangered in the near future. Surveys suggest numbers are critical and that in 2013 only 200 birds remain, but the actual population size may be much smaller, and there are no birds currently located in captivity. In addition no chicks have been sighted during any of the surveys. It is highly likely that chick mortality is high and the observed population are an aged population of adult birds. Immediate action to save this species is required: this will require 1) conservation education to reduce hunting risk and 2) knowledge of the biology of the population and the reasons behind the current decline.
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