The Blue-eyed Ground-dove, or Columbina cyanopis, is a critically endangered bird endemic to Brazil. Once thought to have gone extinct in 1941, the Blue-eyed ground-dove was found once again by Rafael Bessa. While doing field work, Bessa heard a strange bird call. He then recorded it and played it back until he could see the singer. Bessa took pictures and was able to match it’s bright blue eyes and blue spots on tawny feathers with descriptions of the Blue-eyed ground-dove. Scientists rushed to study these birds and find out their status, unfortunately finding only 16-20 birds that were still in danger of extinction. They also found that these were split into three groups about a mile apart, and that the Blue-eyed ground-dove lives in the tropical savanna or cerrado in eastern Brazil and eats seeds and insects. These birds rarely leave the ground cover and avoid flying. Finding the Blue-eyed ground-dove was an amazing rediscovery!
There are only about 16 Blue-eyed ground-doves left, so what we do next will affect whether they survive in the future or become extinct once again. The main problem facing this precarious population of little birds is habitat loss. The Blue-eyed ground-dove lives in a very small section of the cerrado. Unfortunately, the cerrado is an extremely threatened biome, especially by the industrial agriculture industry that is causing vegetation loss and deforestation. Another problem facing the conservationists trying to help this bird was that the part of the cerrado where Blue-eyed ground-doves live is private land, which was soon to be used for mining iron ore. Luckily several organizations raised enough money to, in 2018, buy the land where this rare bird lives, and it is now called the Blue-eyed Ground-dove Nature Reserve. A few months later another 89,000 acres near this land, called Espinhaco Ridge, was recognized as protected and created the Botumirim State Park. Amazingly, this endangered bird’s population may be increasing, as 5 of their nests were recently recorded. Although the Blue-eyed ground-dove is not out of danger yet, hopefully one day these birds will be a conservation success story.
Image by João Sérgio Barros Freitas de Souza
Partly because of all the work conservationists did to get protection for the Blue-eyed ground-dove’s land, the Botumirim State park was created in Espinhaco Ridge. Not only does protecting Espinhaco Ridge help the Blue-eyed ground-dove, but it also helps keep the 2,000 plants, 300 birds, and plenty of other animals, many of them endemic, safe from the harms of deforestation. Recently, the Blue-eyed Ground-dove Nature Reserve was opened to the public so they could see this bird (with a guide). This, and helping create jobs in ecotourism, birdwatching and protecting the environment helps the people around the Reserve get involved in protecting the environment. Protecting the Blue-eyed ground-dove also helps a species of native grass, Lagenocarpus, the seeds of which this rare bird depends on, and several other endemic birds including the Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Caatinga Antwren, and the Minas Gerais Tyrannulet.
The main things you can do is donate to organizations dedicated to protecting the Blue-eyed ground-dove, the cerrado, and the many other endangered and endemic birds, animals and plants of Brazil. Another thing you can do is raise awareness for this rare bird. The Blue-eyed Ground-dove Nature Reserve and the Botumirim State Park are examples of conservation successes, and what can happen if we work together to help conserve species that have become endangered because of humans.
Images by Rafael Bessa
Image from birdlife.org
Image taken by João Sérgio Barros Freitas de Souza
Images by Rafael Bessa
Blue-Eyed Ground-Dove. 16 Jan. 2020, abcbirds.org/bird/blue-eyed-ground-dove/.
International, BirdLife. “Back from the Dead? The Story of the Blue-Eyed Ground-Dove.” BirdLife, 23 July 2018
Lemelin, Madison. “Blue-Eyed Ground-Dove Chick Spotted in Rainforest Trust Reserve.” Rainforest Trust Saves Rainforest, Madison Lemelin 7 May 2019,
Top image from birdlife.org