Grenada Heritage – The Grenada Dove

Grenada ~ Pea Dove

By Ric Greaves, 1995

The Grenada Dove (Leptotila wellis) is a medium-sized New World tropical dove. It is endemic to the island of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. Originally known as the Pea Dove or Well’s Dove, it is the national bird of Grenada. It is considered to be one of the most critically endangered doves in the world.

For three years following 1883, John Grant Wells (of St. George’s) had been sending specimens of the birds of the Island of Grenada, West Indies, to ornithologist George N. Lawrence (Smithsonian Institution, New York) for identifications, from which resulted a ‘Catalogue’ [2] of ninety-two species of the birds of the island. Mr. Lawrence at that time stated,

Mr. Wells enumerates thirty-nine species more than were given by Frederick Albion Ober (1849-1913) in his catologue of the birds of Grenada. He procured all the species obtained or seen previously in 1878 by Mr. Ober during his tour of the West Indies, and four Ober had not identified have been determined“.

Of most of the species Wells gave very full and interesting notes of their habits. He proved himself to be a most diligent collector and careful investigator, the result being, besides the greatly increased number of birds added to the fauna of Grenada, the discovery of three distinct species new to science and of eleven species not before noted from the Lesser Antilles.

Mr. Wells’s very full and interesting biographical notes are often supplemented by technical remarks by Mr. Lawrence, including the description of one new species (Blacicus flavlventrls) and of the male of Engyptila wellsi.  Mr. Lawrence then described a fourth species (Margarops albiventrls),[3] making twelve species described by from collections made by Messrs. Ober and Wells in the Island of Grenada.

The first “Grenada Dove” here identified was caught by John Wells alive at Fontenoy, St. Georges, Grenada on 16 February 1884, it was a male with Iris of a pale buff colour.  

Other common names: Wells’s/Whistling/Mountain Dove, French: Colombe de Grenade German: Welltaube Spanish: Paloma Montaraz de Granada

Taxonomy: Engyptila wellsi Lawrence, 1884, Grenada, Lesser Antilles

Considered part of a superspecies: L. rufaxilla, L. plumbeiceps, L. pallida and L. battyi, and all five have been considered conspecific. Also related to L. verreauxi. Monotypic.

Note: it was incorrect to lump L.wellsi with L.rufaxilla (Blockstien & Hardy, 1989)

Distribution: Grenada, in S Lesser Antilles

Habitat: Island of Grenada

Species Threat: Critically Endangered

Description:
The sexes are said to be alike – The front is whitish, with a slight tinge of fawn color on the anterior portion, and is of a bluish cast on the posterior; the crown and occiput are dark brown; the hind neck is of a rather lighter brown; the back, wings, and upper tail-coverts are of a dull oilvaceous-green; the first outer tail-feather is brownish-black, narrowly tipped with white; the second is dark brown for two-thirds its length, terminating in blackish; all the other tail-feathers are dark umber brown above, are black underneath; the chin is white; the neck in front and the upper part of the breast are of a reddish fawn color; the middle and lower parts of the breast and the abdomen are creamy-white; the sides are of a light fulvous color; the under tail-coverts are white, tinged with fulvous; the quills have their outer webs of a clear warm brown; the inner webs and under wing-coverts are of a rather light cinnamon color; the bill is black; the tarsi and toes are bright carmine red. Length 10.25 inches; wing, 6.0o; tail, 4.0o; bill, .63; tarsus, 1.35.

This beautiful and endangered dove first appeared on the postage stamp Grenadines (G) Flora and fauna 7v set on the 04 February 1976.

Then on a special World Wildlife Fund set of Grenada postage stamps on the 10 January 1995.

______________
[1] Wells. John Grant. A List of the Birds of Grenada, West Indies. W.W.C.H. Wells, St. Andrew’s, 1886, p.12

[2] Lawrence, George N. Characters of a New Species of Pigeon of the Genus Engyptila, from the Island of Grenada, West Indies, The Auk, Vol. 1, No. 2, Apr 1884, pp. 180-181.

[3] Wells. John Grant., Lawrence, George N. (Ed.). A Catalogue of the Birds of Grenada, West Indies, with observations thereon. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus, 1886, 9: pp. 609-633.

[4] Lawrence, George N. Description of a New Species of Thrush from the Island of Grenada, West Indies. Ann. New York Acad. Sci., Vol. IV, 1886, pp. 23, 24.

[5] Devas, Raymund P. Birds of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (British West Indies): How to Identify Them, when and where to Look for Them, 1942, p.31

[6] Gov., Grenada. The Grenada Handbook and Directory. Advocate Company Ltd, 1946, p.292

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