Way back in February when I was enjoying a family-and-friends vacation on New Providence in the Bahamas I wisely hired the best – and the only – bird guide on the island, Carolyn Wardle, for half a day to show me around some of the hotspots and help me find endemics and other species I wanted to see. Within ten minutes of picking me up Carolyn was pulling over on the side of the road at a completely nondescript spot. Why? Pied Imperial Pigeons, that’s why! It was perhaps the oddest life bird I got in my too short time in the Bahamas, a bird that does not belong in the western hemisphere at all. So what is it doing in the Bahamas?
It is unclear when, exactly, the Pied Imperial Pigeon became established on New Providence in the Bahamas other than it happened in the last decade. The first record in eBird for this southeast Asian native is from 2007 and then none show up in the eBird database until 2011. After that they become more regular and now checklists showing more than a dozen at a time are common. They are concentrated in a small area on the northeastern part of the island. In addition to the date of the bird’s establishment being unclear, the way that it happened is unknown though a quick Google search for “Pied Imperial Pigeon for sale” shows that they are not uncommonly offered, though they are pricey.
Carolyn and I saw at least five of this fine species, all in seemingly good health and free-flying and wild as you could expect. Though I tend not to be a fan of introduced species (and the Eurasian Collared-Doves that infest New Providence are a good explanation as to why) this bird is impressive and, hopefully, not likely to spread like wildfire. And seeing a Pied Imperial Pigeon in the Bahamas is a heck of a lot easier than travelling to Papua New Guinea!
Pied Imperial Pigeons are big birds and their taxonomy is murky as best. There is a ton of debate as to how many species and subspecies there are within the taxon and I’m really unsure, seeing as I have no experience with them, as to which population the New Providence birds descend from. Any Pied Imperial Pigeon experts out there care to hazard a guess?
Whatever their origin, I appreciated these impressive Columbids. If you get to New Providence hopefully you can too!