Columba elphinstonii 


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. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
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: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Praveen, J., Somasundaram, S., Vijayan, L., Subramanya, S. & Vinod, U.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Peet, N., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Allinson, T
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:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2007 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Columba elphinstonii is endemic to the hill-ranges of the Western Ghats, south-west India, occurring from north-west Maharashtra south, through Karnataka and Goa, to southern Kerala and western Tamil Nadu. 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. Most recent records come from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where it still appears to be locally common.

Countries occurrence:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 133000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Lower elevation limit (metres): 50
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 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: 2500-9999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 1 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All 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 and semi-evergreen forest, 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 50 m (J. Praveen in litt. 2007). Breeding has been exclusively recorded from natural forest but it does forage in 'Wattle' plantations and occasionally visits moist deciduous forest, Pinus and Eucalyptus plantations to roost and preen (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2006). 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).

Systems: Terrestrial
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, forest cover is declining because of shifting cultivation and collection of timber for fuel and building. 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 at least 16 protected areas, most in Kerala, including three national parks, 10 wildlife sanctuaries, one tiger reserve and two reserve forests. 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 seasonal movements and identify key sites. Establish protected areas where necessary, ensure these sites are effectively safeguarded, and promote sustainable exploitation of forests throughout the Western Ghats. 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.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Columba elphinstonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22690173A38891418. . Downloaded on 29 November 2015.
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