Although closely related to the common Mourning Dove, the Socorro Dove has been called the "Solitary Dove" because only one male and female were normally seen together in the wild on their native Socorro Island.
Typical of many birds on islands without native mammalian predators, Socorro Doves showed little fear of humans or, fatally, cats, which were introduced there during the 1970s. Cat predation, combined with habitat degradation caused chiefly by non-native sheep, is thought to have quickly led to a disastrous population decline.
The last sighting of a Socorro Dove in the wild was in 1972. Fortunately, aviculture has prevented the extinction of the species, with captive populations in the United States and 12 European countries, managed since 1995 under the direction of the European Endangered Species Program (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.
The Socorro Dove Project, begun by the Island Endemics Foundation in 1987, aims to return these doves to their native island. By 2004, a breeding station funded by the Island Endemics Foundation and the Mexican Navy had been built on Socorro, but in 2005, concerns about the potential for spreading avian influenza from Europe prevented the return of the doves bred by the EEP to Mexico.
In April 2013, the conservation breeding program was successfully extended to Mexico. Plans for the species’ reintroduction to Socorro Island are under development by a diverse group of partners committed to securing a future for the bird: the Island Endemics Foundation, the EEP (led by the Frankfurt Zoo), the U.S. conservation breeding program, led by the Albuquerque Zoo and other U.S. zoological parks, Africam Safari, INECOL, and Mexico's National Autonomous University. This program’s success will largely depend on the conservation breeding efforts in Mexico and a habitat restoration program funded by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
Learn more about the Socorro Dove’s return to Mexico.