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A photo of a Nilgiri Wood Pigeon (Columba elphinstonii)
Nilgiri Wood Pigeon

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon

Columba elphinstonii

The Nilgiri wood pigeon, Columba elphinstonii, presents itself as a large pigeon, cloaked in dark grey plumage. A striking feature is the checkerboard pattern adorning its nape, composed of white-tipped stiff feathers. The mantle boasts a rich chestnut hue, distinguishing it from its kin. Males exhibit a paler grey crown, while females have a darker grey crown complemented by a pale throat. The feet and base of the bill are a vivid red, adding a splash of color to this otherwise somberly dressed bird.

Identification Tips

When observing these birds, look for the unique black and white pattern on the back of the neck and the chestnut mantle. The underwing coverts are darker than those of the similar mountain imperial pigeon. The red feet and bill base are also key identifiers.


This species graces the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Hills with its presence. While it predominantly resides in the hills, it occasionally ventures to lower elevations within the Western Ghats. Isolated populations can be found in the high-elevation hills of the peninsula, such as the Biligirirangan and Nandi Hills near Bangalore.


The Nilgiri wood pigeon is often seen alone, in pairs, or small groups. It is an arboreal feeder, preferring the canopy of dense hill forests, but it will descend to the ground to forage on fallen fruits. It is known to consume small snails and invertebrates, supplementing its mainly frugivorous diet. The breeding season spans from March to July, during which a single white egg is laid on a flimsy twig platform. The species is instrumental in seed dispersal for many forest trees, particularly favoring fruit from the Lauraceae family.

Song & Calls

The call of the Nilgiri wood pigeon is a distinctive, low-frequency hooting "who," followed by a series of deep "who-who-who" notes, reminiscent of the calls of langurs.

Conservation status

The Nilgiri wood pigeon is currently classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its survival is of concern, and conservation efforts are necessary to ensure its continued presence in our world's rich tapestry of avian life.

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George Gay
24 Jan 2023 - 1:30am

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