The Afep Pigeon, also known as the Gray Wood Pigeon and African Wood Pigeon, is a large forest pigeon found in Africa, extending its extensive range across the equatorial forests.
Origins of the Afep Pigeon
The Afep Pigeon, named Columba unicincta in 1860, is a bird native to Cameroon, with its name derived from the Latin words uni meaning “one” and Cinctus meaning “banded” in the Bulu language.
Distribution And Habitat of The Afep Pigeon
The Afep Pigeon is a canopy species found in the African tropical rainforest, covering approximately 6,070,000 km2 and reaching elevations of 1,600 meters.
It lives in primary and secondary tropical lowland and montane forests in countries like Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, their range is discontinuous, with isolated populations in Liberia, Ivory Coast, southern Ghana, northern Uganda, and northern Cameroon.
The distribution is more continuous in the Congo basin.
Afep Pigeons are primarily arboreal and prefer areas with thick canopy, but can also be found on plantations and farmland when food is unavailable.
Closest Columbidae Relatives of the Afep Pigeon
The Afep Pigeon is a large bird in the Columba genus, a large bird genus consisting of 35 species, primarily wood pigeons.
It shares similarities with the Common Wood Pigeon, with a similar head shape and rounded body.
However, none of the Columba species are particularly similar except during flight.
White-naped Pigeon (Columba Albinucha)
The White-naped Pigeon, found in western Cameroon, Uganda, and Eastern DRC, has less uniform patterning, is darker overall, and has a white nape compared to the Afep Pigeon.
Cameroon Olive Pigeon (Columba Sjostedti)
The species, smaller than the Afep Pigeon, is found near the Cameroon-Nigeria border and is darker with less uniform patterning and white spots on its maroon wings.
Western Bronze-Naped Pigeon (Columba Iriditorques)
The Western Bronze-Naped Pigeon, found from Ivory Coast to Uganda, resembles the Afep Pigeon in flight but is larger, with a dark gray appearance, iridescent neck, and coppery mantle.
Afep Pigeon Appearance
Afep Pigeons are compact, heavily built birds with a pale coloration and dark slate wings with blackish-gray primary feathers. They have dark gray flanks, underwings, and a lighter gray head and back. Males have a strong pink flush across the breast, while females have a reduced pink flush.
Their tail is black with a broad white/gray band. Juvenile Afep Pigeons are darker, more brown, and strongly barred. Their distinctive features distinguish them from other forest pigeons.
Afep Pigeon Conservation
The Afep Pigeon, classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, is believed to be common within its range but may be in decline due to habitat loss. Although no specific conservation measures exist, conservation sites are located in protected areas across the bird’s range.
Afep Pigeons are birds that eat grains, seeds, and fruit, with different preferences depending on their habitat. In Gabon, they prefer turkey berries, Coelocaryon, and Musanga, while in Zambia, they prefer fig trees and Sapium. They have also been recorded eating termites.
Although they usually stay in the same area, they may move around due to food availability. In Zambia, they are rarer between March and May, while more often from August to November. If food is scarce, they may also be seen in agricultural areas.
Mating And Breeding Afep Pigeons
Afep Pigeons breed in the latter half of the dry season, typically between June and September in most regions.
In Gabon, they breed between January-February and March-April, with each region having its own breeding season.
The female lays a white egg, which is incubated for 14-18 days.
Both parents care for the chick, which begins eating solid food a few days after hatching and leaves the nest at 20-25 days old.