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Crested Quail Dove

Order:  Columbiformes - pigeons and doves

Family:  Columbidae - pigeons and doves

Scientific Name:  Geotrygon versicolor


Crested quail doveDescription Like other pigeons and doves, the crested quail dove has a short beak, a small head, a plump body, and short legs.  The legs may be slightly longer than those of other pigeons, as an adaptation for life on the ground.  The head and nape feathers form a small cap-like crest.  The upperparts and tail are greenish black with purple iridescence.  The face, neck, and underparts are gray, with a reddish stripe under each eye.  The beak is black, and the legs and feet are pink.  Females may be identical to males, or they may be slightly paler and browner on the neck and underparts.  They are 10-12 inches tall.

RangeHome Range:   Jamaica;  most numerous in the
Blue Mountains at elevations of 300-6000 ft.


Habitat Type:   Montane forest


Reproduction:   The breeding season for crested quail doves is March through June.  Each pair builds a small, cup-shaped nest of twigs in vegetation close to the ground.  Occasionally the nest may be built on the ground.  They lay 2 cream-colored eggs with each clutch.  The incubation period is 13 days, and both parents help to incubate.  Male doves usually incubate during the mornings and afternoons, while the female incubates during the evening and overnight.  When the chicks hatch they are covered with a thin layer of down.  Their eyes are closed, and they are usually silent, although they may make quiet peeping sounds.  Chicks are fed “crop-milk”, a nutritious food produced in the crops of both parents.  The chicks’ down is quickly replaced with juvenile feathers, which are duller and more rusty-colored than those of adults.  Soon after fledging, the chicks get their adult feathers.


Diet in the Wild:   Feed on seeds and fallen fruit, and probably invertebrates


Diet in the Zoo:  Soft-billed bird diet, small bird maintenance, minced fruits and vegetables.


General Information:   The Crested quail dove is known locally as the “mountain witch dove”, possibly because of its mysterious moaning call.  Its voice has been described as “a doleful cooo-cu, the second note softer and lower in pitch”.  Crested quail doves spend most of their time on the ground, foraging in leaf litter on the forest floor.  They are occasionally seen along trails or road edges, usually alone or in pairs.  They walk with the bobbing motion typical of pigeons and doves.  If frightened, they prefer to escape by running.  Their flight is short and heavy.  When not feeding, they spend much of their time preening or bathing to maintain their feathers.  Sun-bathing is another important activity.  Sunlight is necessary for the manufacture of certain vitamins in the birds, and captive doves and pigeons that have been prevented from sun-bathing have lower chick survival rates. 


Conservation Status:  They are common locally, but have a very limited range.  Destruction of Jamaica’s montane forests is the most important threat to this species.  They are listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened.


Predators:   Birds of prey, arboreal snakes.



A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies:  Peterson Field Guides.  1993.  J. Bond.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.  pp. 106-107.


Encyclopedia of Aviculture Vol. 1.  1979.  A. Rutgers and K.A. Norris.  Blandford Press, Poole.  p. 329-330.


Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 4.  1997.  Ed. J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal.  Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.  pp. 60-111, 174.