Justification of Red List Category
This species has declined rapidly in the past, probably as a result of changing agricultural practice and hunting in its wintering grounds, and possibly habitat loss in its breeding grounds, and this decline is projected to continue. These factors qualify it as Vulnerable; although there have been reported local population increases, and if this should prove to be a more general trend then the species may warrant downlisting in the future.
The species is described as being rare in most of its range (Baptista et al. 2020). The population size is preliminarily suspected to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.
The species declined historically owing to hunting pressure, and declines are suspected to be continuing today through the widespread loss and conversion of habitat in both its breeding and wintering ranges (del Hoyo at al. 1997); although there have been local population increases (Bohra and Vyas 2014, D. L. Bohra in litt. 2016), but it is not certain whether this is representative for the global population. Precautionarily, the species is therefore suspected of undergoing a rapid decline over 10 years.
Columba eversmanni breeds in southern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, north-east Iran and extreme north-west China (BirdLife International 2001). Its status and distribution within this range are poorly known. It winters in Pakistan and north-west India, historically as far east as Bihar, and southern Xinjiang and western Gansu, China. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was recorded in huge flocks in its wintering grounds, particularly in the Punjab, India. However, it has declined rapidly, from wintering flocks numbering thousands of birds to flocks generally only of tens or a few hundreds of birds, with occasional larger counts, most recently (1995) of up to 2,000 individuals in a single flock. Whether it continues to decline is unclear, and there is some evidence that it may have steadily increased at one site in India (Jorbeer dead animal dump) since 2011 (Bohra and Vyas 2014, D. L. Bohra in litt. 2016).
It breeds in holes in trees, buildings, cliffs, earth banks, and potentially on power lines (D. L. Bohra in litt. 2016) in steppe, semi-arid and desert areas, including around human settlement and (at least in Kazakhstan) in woodland. It may also occur on mountain valleys close to water sources (Baptista et al. 2020). In winter, it occurs in open areas with scattered trees, often with agricultural crops, and in areas with suitable fruiting trees, where it roosts and feeds gregariously. It is reportedly on the rise in the western part of the Thar Desert where it experiences extreme temperatures, within a habitat of sparse thorny vegetation and grasses (D. L. Bohra in litt. 2016). Its diet includes grass seeds, arable crop seeds and the fruit of trees and shrubs, including Zizyphus and mulberry Morus alba. The species breeds from April to August (Baptista et al. 2020).
Hunting in both its breeding and wintering grounds has been the primary cause of its decline and continues to be a major threat in China. In India, intensification of arable cultivation and a change from the large-scale cultivation of pulses and mustard to wheat and rice has reduced the quality of habitat in its key wintering areas. Destruction of poplar Populus woodland is believed to have had a major impact on the breeding population in eastern Kazakhstan.
Conservation Actions Underway
In China, 15 protected areas have been designated within its range. In India, it occurs around the Harike Lake Bird Sanctuary, Punjab.
30 cm. Medium-sized, mostly grey pigeon but with brownish cast to upperparts. Yellow eyes and eye-ring. Whitish lower back, rump and underwing. Diffuse, dark tail-band. Narrow black bar across secondaries. Juvenile has brownish-tinged eyes and lacks gloss in plumage. Similar spp. Rock Pigeon C. livia larger with grey tail and well defined terminal band. Broader, more extensive black bars across greater coverts, tertials and secondaries. Hill Pigeon C. rupestris has white subterminal band and black terminal band to tail. Voice Quiet oo-oo-oo during breeding season. Hints In winter, scrutinise large flocks of pigeons in north India and west Pakistan.
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Bohra, D.L., Peet, N., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Columba eversmanni. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/03/2023.