White-fronted Quail Dove (Geotrygon leucometopia)

The beautiful white-fronted quail-dove, like other quail-doves of its genus, Geotrygon, are roughly the size and shape of the more familiar pigeons, but in contrast to those powerful fliers, quail-doves, nest, forage, and live most of their lives on the ground of dense forests which they inhabit. The white-fronted quail-dove may be found in the same forest alongside the ruddy quail-dove (G. montana), but its unique iridescent colors make the two impossible to confuse. The sides of the white-fronted quail-dove’s neck are violet or reddish-violet, while most of its body is slate gray, its back is darker, suffused with a purplish-blue sheen. Its lower belly and the feathers under the wing are reddish. The eye is red, and the legs are also reddish. What is most distinctive, however, is its pure white forehead, which lends it its name.

Although the common name for this quail in Spanish is perdiz, in the Dominican Republic many people also call it perdía (meaning lost), perhaps also because one easily loses sight of them in the forest. Some farmers in the Dominican Republic think that the white-fronted quail-dove is a hybrid between a scaly-naped pigeon (Patagioenas squamosa) and the ruddy quail-dove, possibly because it has part of the colors of the former and the body shape of the later.

The white-fronted quail-dove has been reported only in the major mountain ranges of the Dominican Republic (Sierra de Bahoruco, Sierra de Neiba and Cordillera Central), at elevations from 700-1,700 meters, where it occupies moist montane forests of Hispaniola with abundant leaf litter and undergrowth. It forages on the ground, alone, or in pairs, feeding on seeds. Studies that have recaptured individuals show that these birds persist in their favored localities.This bird prefers to walk, but if disturbed it usually flies only a short distance, low to the ground and hides in the vegetation.

EN Endangered

Conservation status

When walking, or even while standing or perching, this quail-dove often bobs its head. Its shy habits make it much easier to hear than to see. The call is a continuous, low hoot without pauses that may change to a prolonged coo-o-o. One of the few reported nests of the white-fronted quaildove consisted of a small platform of dry pine needles, placed in a tree about 6 meters above the ground. The white-fronted quail-dove was recently recognized as a full species, separated from its close relative, the gray-fronted quail-dove (G. caniceps) of Cuba.

“...above Constanza, in heavy rain-forest where slender palms thrust their heads toward the light amid denser growth, he heard a strange call, certainly a pigeon but one not familiar, that began as a low hoot – hoot – hoot repeated with great rapidity and audible for only a few yards and changed suddenly to a hollow, resonant …ooo… that came to the ear in slow, throbbing beats often for the space of a minute, a sound that carried for a long distance through the dripping verdure.” Alexander Wetmore and Bradshaw H. Swales
“It was a truly wonderful bird that well repaid the long tramps afoot over execrable trails in the faint light of dawn, and the waits in the wet jungle growth.” Alexander Wetmore and Bradshaw H. Swales

The white-fronted quail-dove is believed to have become very scarce due to the triple threats of mountain forest loss, hunting and introduced mammals. As early as 1931 Wetmore and Swales predicted their fate: “Apparently the species now has a considerable distribution in the high mountains but will soon be restricted in range as the rain-forests that provide its home are cleared to provide lands for cultivation.” Indeed, it has become a very rare bird, and seems to have already been extirpated from Sierra de Neiba and extremely rare in the Cordillera Central. Reflecting this status, both the IUCN Red List, and the Dominican Republic Red List classify this species as Endangered.