Blue-headed quail-dove

The blue-headed quail-dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala), or blue-headed partridge-dove, is a species of bird in the pigeon and dove family Columbidae. It is monotypic within the subfamily Starnoenadinae and genus Starnoenas.[2][3]

Blue-headed quail-dove
Blue-headed quail dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala).JPG
Blue-headed quail-dove
Near Playa Larga, Cuba
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Genus: Starnoenas
Bonaparte, 1838
S. cyanocephala
Binomial name
Starnoenas cyanocephala

Columba cyanocephala Linnaeus, 1758


In 1734 the English naturalist Eleazar Albin included a picture and a description of the blue-headed quail-dove in his A Natural History of Birds. His drawing was made from a live bird that had been brought to England from the East Indies.[4] When in 1758 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the tenth edition, he placed the blue-headed quail-dove with all the other pigeons in the genus Columba. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Columba cyanocephala and cited Albin's work.[5] The specific epithet combines the Ancient Greek kuanos meaning "dark blue" and -kephalos meaning "-headed".[6] It is now the only species placed in the genus Starnoenas that was introduced by the French naturalist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1838.[7][8] The species is monotypic: no subspecies are recognised.[8]

A taxonomic review of the species' taxonomic history, morphology, anatomy, behavior, distribution, and zoogeography was published in 2016. It found that this species is unlike any other New World Columbidae and shares characteristics with many Australasian genera, the most similar being the Australian Geophaps and related terrestrial pigeons. The study recommends that the species be placed in its own subfamily, Starnoenadinae. However, additional data, including molecular, must be studied to further refine its relationship with Australasian pigeons. The study has also recommended that the English name be changed to "blue-headed partridge-dove" to distinguish it from New World quail-doves[disambiguation needed].[2]


This bird has a mainly cinnamon-brown body with a bright blue crown, black eye stripe, white facial stripe, and a black gorget narrowly bordered with white markings and blue mottling on the sides. 30–33 cm in length.[1]


This species lives primarily on the forest floor where it forages for seeds, berries, and snails. It is generally found in pairs, though larger groups have been recorded with 18 birds found at a water hole in 1995. Breeding occurs mainly between April and June, with nests made on or close to the ground.[1]


This species is endemic to Cuba. Its natural habitat is lowland forests and swampy areas. It can occasionally be found in highland forests.[1]


The species was once common and widespread throughout Cuba. Today, it is very rare or virtually extinct in most of its range. As of 2012, the population size is estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,499 individuals and there are three populations with good numbers near the Zapata Swamp and in the Pinar del Río Province. However, the density of this species may be greater than previously estimated, and as such there may be more individuals than previously expected. The population is suspected to have a slow or moderate declining trend. The major threats to the species continue to be hunting and habitat destruction. Its meat tastes good and thus the animal is still illegally trapped. Large hurricanes are also a threat to the species due to the damage caused to large areas of forest.

It is protected under national law, though this is not enforced and hunting continues. The only known highland population is protected in the La Güira National Park.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e BirdLife International (2012). "Starnoenas cyanocephala". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012: e.T22690970A38969667. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T22690970A38969667.en.
  2. ^ a b Olson, Storrs L.; Wiley, James W. (2016). "The Blue-headed Quail-Dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala): an Australasian dove marooned in Cuba". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 128 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1676/1559-4491-128.1.1.
  3. ^ Thomas M. Brooks; John D. Pilgrim; Ana S. L. Rodrigues & Gustavo A. B. Da Fonseca (2005). "Conservation status and geographic distribution of avian evolutionary history". In Andy Purvis; John L. Gittleman & Thomas Brooks (eds.). Phylogeny and Conservation. Conservation Biology. 8. Cambridge University Press. pp. 267–294. ISBN 978-0-521-82502-3.
  4. ^ Albin, Eleazar; Derham, William (1734). A Natural History of Birds : Illustrated with a Hundred and One Copper Plates, Curiously Engraven from the Life. Volume 2. London: Printed for the author and sold by William Innys. p. 45, Plate 49.
  5. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Volume 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae:Laurentii Salvii. p. 163.
  6. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  7. ^ Bonaparte, Charles Lucian (1838). A Geographical and Comparative List of the Birds of Europe and North America. London: John Van Voorst. p. 41.
  8. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (2020). "Pigeons". IOC World Bird List Version 10.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 20 March 2020.

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