Photo: © Shutterstock.com/Peter Wey. In the wild, the Mindanao bleeding-heart is found in the Philippines, notably the islands of Bohol and Mindanao

 

As Cotswold Wildlife Park looks for a suitable mate for its male Mindanao bleeding-heart dove, Chris Green explains why this Vulnerable species requires specialist conservation

 

THE Mindanao bleeding-heart dove (Gallicolumba crinigera) is a remarkably coloured pigeon and one of 11 bleeding-heart species. Its name comes from the large almost blood-red patch on the chest. This patch varies slightly in shape and colour among the different species; the Mindanao has a patch that is large and more uniformly dark red, which contrasts with its white breast and throat. The male and female are similar, apart from the colour of the iris; the male’s are blue, while the female’s are purplish.

A frequent job for professional birdkeepers that have bleeding hearts in their collections is assuring the public that the birds aren’t actually injured.

The Mindanao is only found in the Philippines, but its population has declined. In the past, it was found in many different regions, but more recently, populations have only been found in the islands of Bohol and Mindanao.

The Mindanao is classified as a Vulnerable species, with logging and mining in native habitats having a detrimental effect. Fortunately, efforts in the wild are being made to preserve birds. There are several protected areas, including Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape on Bohol, but the actual protection provided does vary from park to park. Sadly, in some parks habitat destruction continues. There are laws restricting the hunting of this species, but it is reported that these are rarely enforced. Increased enforcement of protected areas, hunting laws and the creation of new reserves is needed to help stop the decline of this species.

Zoos in Europe and the UK are making a collective effort to build up populations of this species with a European breeding programme. This aims to provide a self-sustaining captive population and develop important care and breeding techniques, which can be used on wild populations in the Philippines. The programme, coordinated by Bristol Zoo, has ensured the Mindanao bleeding-heart has been bred every year in captivity since 1998. It is hoped that once their habitat is securely protected, birds could be returned to the wild. Currently, 45 zoos hold Mindanaos.

Here at Cotswold Wildlife Park, we have recently become new members of the programme. It is hoped that in the near future we will be able to further maintain stocks by breeding generations of Mindanaos. Currently, we have a lone male in the tropical house awaiting a female, which we hope will arrive in the soon.

However, the park is not entirely new to bleeding heart doves and for many years, enjoyed much success with the Luzon bleeding-heart (G. luzonica). A pair lived long and fruitful lives in the tropical house, with the hen living to a ripe old age of 17. They produced many youngsters in their lifetime, which were passed on to other zoos. The studbook for the Luzon is also run by Bristol Zoo.

This dove would construct its own stick nest in the foliage of the tropical house. Interestingly, while the Luzon – along with many other pigeon and dove species – lay the familiar “pigeon pair” of eggs, the Mindanao only lays a single egg.

When our Mindanao hen arrives, our management of the species will imitate the techniques learned with the Luzon. First, only one pair will be kept in an enclosure, because they may show aggression to others of the same species.

In addition, the cock will be moved from the tropical house before the hen is released into this to allow her time to acclimatise to her surroundings. The cock will then be reintroduced. To release the hen into a new environment and to be the immediate focus of an established cock would more than likely lead to problems.

Chris Green is a birdkeeper at Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens. Website: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk

 

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