Marquesan imperial-pigeon (Ducula galeata)

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Marquesan imperial-pigeon sub-adult in tree
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Marquesan imperial-pigeon fact file

Marquesan imperial-pigeon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderColumbiformes
FamilyColumbidae
GenusDucula (1)

The Marquesan imperial-pigeon is a large, broad-winged pigeon with a distinctively flattened cere. The plumage is mostly dark slate-grey, shimmering with metallic bronze-green reflections on the upperparts, and with rufous-chestnut undertail-coverts (3).

Also known as
Upe.
Size
Length: 50 – 55 cm (2)
Wingspan: 70 – 75 cm (2)
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Marquesan imperial-pigeon biology

This frugivorous pigeon feeds on the fruits of both native and exotic plants, including large quantities of guava (Psidium guajava), as well as on leaves, flowers, grain and invertebrates (3) (4) (5).

Very little is known about the Marquesan imperial-pigeon’s courtship and reproduction. The breeding season is thought to be long, extending from at least mid-May to December. Nests are usually situated in trees at between 13 and 20 m above the ground, but may be as low as 5 m (4). Only one egg is laid at a time, suggesting that the species is long-lived with a slow reproductive turnover (3).

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Marquesan imperial-pigeon range

The Marquesan imperial-pigeon is endemic to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, where it is restricted to valleys in the west and north of the island (3). However, five birds have also been translocated to the island of Ua Huka, 50 km east of Nuka Hiva, where the species became extinct hundreds of years ago (4).

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Marquesan imperial-pigeon habitat

Found in remote wooded valleys from 250 to 1,300 m above sea level, although records also exist from secondary forest and at the edge of banana and orange plantations (3).

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Marquesan imperial-pigeon status

The Marquesan imperial-pigeon is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Marquesan imperial-pigeon threats

The main threats to the Marquesan imperial pigeon are illegal hunting, habitat loss and modification, predation and competition (3) (4). Habitat has been degraded throughout a long period of Polynesian occupancy through clearance for settlements, agriculture and forestry, fire regimes, introduced vegetation, and importation of mammalian herbivores including grazing feral stock, although cattle have now been eradicated and goats and pigs are decreasing in number (3) (4). It is feared that construction of new roads may lead not only to further habitat loss, but also to greater access and considerable disturbance to the last few remaining inaccessible refuges (3). Introduced predators such as cats and rats, particularly black rats (Rattus rattus), are also thought to pose a serious potential threat to eggs, nestlings, juveniles and adults (3) (4). In addition, black rats compete for fruit, reducing the available food supply for the Marquesan imperial-pigeon (4).

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Marquesan imperial-pigeon conservation

The Marquesan imperial-pigeon is revered in local culture and hunting is prohibited, although it clearly continues illegally (3). Fortunately, campaigns to increase awareness of this species’ plight appear to be reducing hunting pressure. In addition, lobbying by the Ornithological Society of Polynesia (MANU) has successfully stopped the development of a new road and tunnel project that would have claimed parts of this species’ habitat. As a result of these actions the population on Nuku Hiva appears to be stable, and may possibly be showing a slow increase (1) (3).

The major success story for this species is its translocation to the island of Ua Huku. In May/June 2000, MANU translocated five tagged birds to this black rat-free island (3) (4) (6), where, with the aid of further translocations of individuals in 2003, it has successfully established a growing population. At the current rate of growth it is likely that this species will reach the desired target of 50 individuals by 2010 (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the Marquesan imperial-pigeon see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Cere
In birds, an area of skin at the base of the upper mandible surrounding the nostrils.
Coverts
Small feathers concealing the bases of larger primary feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Frugivorous
Fruit-eating.
Translocation
The transfer of individuals of living organisms from one area with release or planting in another.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Ornithological Society of Polynesia (MANU) (October, 2009)
    http://www.manu.pf/PDF/OSB10.pdf
  3. BirdLife International (October, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=2721&m=0
  4. Thorsen, M., Blanvillain, C. and Sulpice, R. (2002) Reasons for decline, conservation needs, and a translocation of the critically endangered upe (Marquesas imperial pigeon, Ducula galeata), French Polynesia. DOC Science Internal Series 88. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand. Available at:
    http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/documents/science-and-technical/dsis88.pdf
  5. Blanvillain, C. and Thorsen, M. (2003) The biology of the critically endangered Marquesan Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula galeata), Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago (French Polynesia). Emu, 103(4): 381 - 386.
  6. Ornithological Society of Polynesia (MANU): The 'Upe' Flies Again Over Ua Huka (October, 2009)
    http://www.manu.pf/E_upe.html
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Image credit

Marquesan imperial-pigeon sub-adult in tree  
Marquesan imperial-pigeon sub-adult in tree

© Mike Thorsen

Mike Thorsen
Otago Conservancy
P.O. Box 5244
77 Stuart Street
Dunedin
New Zealand
Tel: +64 (0) 3477 0677
mthorsen@doc.govt.nz
http://www.doc.govt.nz

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