This beautiful bird is sadly extinct in the wild, making it one of the rarest species at Chester Zoo.

This dove originally lived on the remote island of Socorro, off the west coast of Mexico, but they became extinct there in the 1970’s. Like many island bird species, Socorro Doves are often very tame and naïve, having no or few natural predators and no fear of people.

These birds became Extinct in the Wild due to predation by introduced rats and domestic cats, which were brought to the island as pets by the Mexican Navy. At the same time, their woodland habitat was being badly damaged through grazing by feral sheep and goats, which also ate newly sprouting tree seedlings.

Thankfully a small population of Socorro Doves were kept in aviaries outside of Socorro and a European Endangered Species Breeding Programme has been established. Chester Zoos birds play an extremely important role in this by helping to maintain a healthy breeding population in Zoos.

Meanwhile, on the island of Socorro the goats and sheep have been now been removed and there is a re-planting scheme to help the forests regenerate. Once the cats have been removed, we will be in a position to return some of our Chester bred birds back to their natural environment. You can see our precious Socorro Doves in the Tropical Realm aviaries.

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Interesting facts

Where they live: Endemic to Socorro Island off the west coast of Mexico. They are now Extinct in the Wild.

Habitat: Formally occurred in highland forest and rarer in the lowlands. They are a ground dweller, which made them more vulnerable to predators.

Diet: Mostly seeds, but also eats some fruits, berries and insects.

Weight: 165-215 grams.

Threats: Predation by feral cats and introduced rats. Over hunting, following human settlement on the Island in 1957. Overgrazing by sheep destroyed the forest under-storey and ground cover plants, on which the birds depended.

Species Information

Scientific name Zenaida macroura graysoni
Order Columbiiformes
Family Columbidae
Genus Zenaida
IUCN status Extinct in the Wild
Roles in the zoo

Insurance population: This is a species that is extinct in the wild or is in imminent danger of extinction. We’re helping to manage a breeding programme at Chester Zoo as part of a conservation action plan.


Interdependence: This species helps demonstrate that all living things, including humans, live in ecosystems and depend on other living things for their survival.

Human Impact: This species helps demonstrate that human activities are causing serious environmental damage.

You! This species helps demonstrate that we can all make changes to help the environment and zoos can help inspire people to do this.

Husbandry Development and/or Skills Training: This is a species for which we’re developing particular husbandry methods to address an identified issue and/or helping to build staff capacity in specific husbandry or field conservation skills.