Columba elphinstonii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Columbiformes Columbidae

Scientific Name: Columba elphinstonii
Species Authority: (Sykes, 1833)
Common Name(s):
English Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 42 cm. Large pigeon with mostly chestnut-maroon upperparts and greyish head and underparts. Prominent black-and-white patterned hindneck. Uniform dark slaty tail. Juveniles have less distinct neck pattern and are duller above with chestnut fringing on mantle and wing-coverts. Similar spp. Mountain Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia lacks hindneck markings and has dark band across base of tail. Voice Loud who, followed by deep 3-4 note who-who-who.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Praveen, J., Somasundaram, S., Vijayan, L., Subramanya, S., Vinod, U. & Koparde, P.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Peet, N., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Allinson, T, Westrip, J.
This pigeon qualifies as Vulnerable owing to its small, declining population; a consequence of the widespread destruction of its forest habitat.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Columba elphinstonii is thought to be endemic to the hill-ranges of the Western Ghats, south-west India, occurring from north-west Maharashtra (where it may be present in 10 protected areas [Mehta and Kulkarni 2012, Koparde et al. 2015, ebird 2016]) south, through Karnataka and Goa, to southern Kerala and western Tamil Nadu. The species does not necessarily occur across all suitable forest patches in Sahyadri Tiger Reserve – a part of Northern Western Ghats (Koparde et al. 2015), which is suggestive of possible overestimation in the current projected range of the species in Western Ghats. However, observations by Subramanya (2005) and those posted in ebird (2016) suggest that the species may occur, on adjacent hills like Nandi Hills, outside Western Ghats region, which suggests a possible underestimation of the species distribution outside Western Ghats region. It was once considered common and widespread, but has undergone a major decline, which is thought to be continuing owing to on-going forest loss.

Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:334000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):20
Upper elevation limit (metres):2250
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This may be conservative as the species may be rare in suitable habitat as encounter rates of 0.03-0.6 individuals/km have been recorded (Mehta and Kulkarni 2012) and c.71 individuals were found during surveys of Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (1165km2) (Koparde et al. 2015). The population size estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals (P. O. Nameer in litt. 2003).

Trend Justification:  This species is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate, based on on-going rates of habitat loss and potential hunting pressure.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2500-9999Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is virtually confined to moist evergreen, semi-evergreen forest, and moist deciduous forest (which may be used as corridors for local movements [Korparde et al. 2015]) including densely wooded ravines and hollows ("sholas"), chiefly in foothills and mountains up to c.2,250 m, but there have been an increasing number of records in the lowlands down to 20 m (Taware et al. 2012, J. Praveen in litt. 2007). Breeding has been exclusively recorded from natural forest but it does forage in 'Wattle' and mango plantations and occasionally visits moist deciduous forest, Pinus and Eucalyptus plantations to roost and preen (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2006, Taware et al. 2012). It is absent from tea and Acacia plantations. Most breeding takes place in montane temperate (shola) forests above 2,000 m and in very low densities in evergreen forests in mid-altitudes at 900 to 1,800 m (L. Vijayan in litt. 2007). It appears to make some nomadic movements in response to food availability and perhaps colder weather suggesting that its dispersal range is much larger than for most other species in the Western Ghats (J. Praveen in litt. 2007). A study of its diet using direct observations and faecal sampling indicated that it feeds on the fruits of at least 39 plant species, the seeds of 11 species, flowers and leaf buds of four species and some ground-dwelling invertebrates (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2010). The same study found that fruits of species in the family Lauraceae were the most preferred. The species forages mainly by gleaning, predominantly at the edges of the upper and middle canopy, and the frequency of fruit consumption is correlated with fruit abundance (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2010). It generally breeds in March-July but has been recorded starting in November-December (Subramanya 2005).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):5.6
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Historically, it was hunted for food and sport, which probably contributed to its decline. Currently, the loss, degradation and increasing fragmentation of forest are a greater concern. In Maharashtra and Goa, forest cover is declining because of shifting cultivation, collection of timber for fuel and building, and developmental projects such as hydropower plants and wind energy farms (P. Koparde in litt. 2016). In the Western Ghats region of the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka a major threat to the species habitat is on-going and proposed mining projects (P. Koparde in litt. 2016). A massive 47% of evergreen/semi-evergreen forest was lost in the Kerala portion of the Western Ghats between 1961 and 1988, principally as a result of conversion to plantations, cash-crops, and clearance for human settlements and development projects. This apparently continued with c.25% of forest cover lost within its range during the 20 years prior to 1997 (S. Somasundaram in litt.), and forest loss continues to date (L. Vijayan in litt. 2007). In certain portions of its range (e.g. Goa) hunting is still considered a threat.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in India and occurs in several protected areas. A remote sensing project is planned to attempt to delimit the range and assess rates of forest loss (L. Vijayan in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct research into species's ecology, genetics and seasonal movements; more accurately quantify its range; and identify key sites - Gole (1998) suggests that the Mahabaleshwar-Matheran-Chandoli-Radhanagari complex may be particularly important in the northern Western Ghats. Establish protected areas where necessary, ensure these sites are effectively safeguarded, and promote sustainable exploitation of forests throughout the species's range. Encourage the protection of all habitat types used by the species (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2010). Conserve and propagate preferred fruiting trees (Subramanya in litt. 2012). Campaign for significant reductions in the conversion of natural forest to plantation. Promote community-based conservation initiatives focusing on alternatives to deforestation and restoration of disturbed natural habitats within its range.

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Edited Population Information, Geographic Range, Threats, Habitats and Ecology and Conservation Actions Information text. There was a subsequent change to the lower elevation limit, and a new threat and new suggested 'Research Needed' were added. Also added were a new Contributor and Facilitator/Compiler.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Columba elphinstonii. (amended version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22690173A110095502. . Downloaded on 21 July 2017.
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