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Version 1.0

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Bridled Quail-Dove Geotrygon mystacea

Clint W. Boal
Version: 1.0 — Published September 16, 2011


Distinguishing Characteristics

A plump, long-legged, medium-sized, ground-dwelling dove with overall drab body plumage; a green-dominated iridescence with shades of blue and violet on the nape, neck, and upper back; cinnamon-red flight feathers; and a distinctive horizontal white line below the eye.

Similar Species

There are 17 species of Geotrygon found across the New World tropics (Gibbs et al. 2001). Among these, Bridled Quail-Doves are most similar to the Key West Quail-Dove (Geotrygon chrysia) and, less so, to the Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana). Bridled Quail-Doves are the largest of the three species, and have darker underparts and overall brown plumage with red only in the wings, whereas Key West Quail-Doves have lighter underparts and an overall reddish-brown wing and back plumage (Raffaele et al. 1998). Ruddy Quail-Doves are smaller, reddish brown overall, with a comparatively drab white facial streak compared to Bridled Quail-Doves (Raffaele et al. 1998).

Detailed Description

Adult: In general, Bridled Quail-Doves are an overall brown with reddish patches in the wings. The distinctive field mark is a white horizontal stripe below the eye, extending from the hinge of the beak across the auriculars to the edge of the nape (Raffaele et al. 1998). This field mark is shared with Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana) and Key West Quail-Dove (Geotrygon chrysia), the ranges of both of which overlap with that of the Bridled Quail-Dove. However, the stripe appears to be brighter and more distinct than that of the Key West Quail-Dove, and certainly more so than that of the Ruddy Quail-Dove (Raffaele et al. 1998). The crown is brown, but transitions to iridescence down the nape and neck, and into the upper back feathers. Iridescence is primarily greenish on the head, nape, and upper neck, transitioning to blues and violets down the neck and upper back. Females are reported to have slightly less iridescence (Chipley 1991, Raffaele et al. 1998). The back feathering is an overall brown with some lighter edging and traces of iridescence. The tail feathers are dark brownish-gray with black feather shafts. The primary and outermost secondary feathers are a cinnamon-red with brownish-red feather shafts. The leading and trailing edges near the feather tips transitions to brown. The innermost secondary feathers also transition to brown. Similarly, the primary coverts are cinnamon-red with brown edging at the tip; all other wing coverts are brown. Ventrally, there is a small white patch on the throat that transitions to a brown breast, then to cream belly with a buffy wash on the thighs.

Juvenile: Little information is available. Fledgling Bridled Quail-Doves have the white stripe under the eye, but body feathering is an overall brown or chestnut brown and iridescence is either lacking or much subdued; the cere and the bill are both pinkish, but not brightly colored as in adults (Chipley 1991, Boal unpublished data).


A single male Bridled Quail-Dove captured on St. Martin in January 2006 was undergoing a synchronous molt of the 3rd primary, with both feathers estimated as being 1/3 grown (Brown and Newman 2007). No other information available. However, if similar to other columbids in the Caribbean, multiple feathers can be molting at the same time; and molting can occur during and outside the main nesting season due to multiple brooding and extended nesting (year-round in some years, e.g., Key West Quail-Doves (Geotrygon chrysia; in the Guanica Forest, Puerto Rico, with good rainfall and high food abundance; Rivera- Milán, unpublished data).

Bare Parts

Bridled Quail-Doves have a long bill; feathering extends out approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the beak length from the beak hinge. The cere is a bright magenta at the edge of the feathering, and continues to about 2/3 of the bill length, terminating at the opening of the nares. The remainder of the beak varies from a pale yellow to a bright white. Similar to the cere, the eye ring is a bright magenta, and the iris is bright orangish red. Boal (unpublished data) noted lateral elongation of the pupil of Bridled Quail-doves captured on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands. The tarsi are pink with grayish white claws.


The limited information available suggests the species has low morphometric variance across its distribution. The following measures are averages and standard deviations. The mean wing chord of individuals on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands is 164.6 mm (± 9.2; n = 19) and mean mass is 208.3 g (± 16.8; n = 15; Boal, unpublished data). Individuals on Montserrat (Arendt et al. 2004) were similar, with mean wing chords of 162.2 mm (± 6.29; n = 16) and mean mass of 224.1 g (± 20.24; n = 15). When small numbers are included from Guadeloupe (n = 1), St. Thomas (n = 1), St. Kitts (n = 4), and St. Martin (n = 1; Arendt et al. 2004), the mean wing chord is 163.8 mm (± 7.5; n = 42) and mean mass is 217.2 g (± 20.2; n = 33). Tail lengths and tarsus lengths for 19 unaged or sexed Bridled Quail-doves averaged 89.1 mm (± 8.4 SD; n = 15) and 35.5 mm (± 1.8 SD; n = 15), respectively. The mean exposed culmen is 19.5 mm (± 1.1 SD; n = 17), with a depth and width of 5.3 mm (± 0.4 SD; n = 15) and 4.25 mm (± 0.4 SD; n = 15), respectively, for birds of unknown sex or age (Arendt et al. 2004)

Recommended Citation

Boal, C. W. (2011). Bridled Quail-Dove (Geotrygon mystacea), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.brqdov1.01