Geophaps smithii


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Geophaps smithii
Species Authority: (Jardine & Selby, 1830)
Common Name(s):
English Partridge Pigeon

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2ce+3ce+4ce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Woinarski, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable because it is suspected to have undergone rapid declines over the past three generations (17 years), owing to a combination of changed fire regimes and introduced predators: anthropogenic fires occurring over increasingly large scales often remove cover for the species, rendering it more vulnerable to multiple predators, particularly feral cats.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Geophaps smithii is endemic to Western Australia and Northern Territory, Australia. The nominate subspecies has declined or disappeared from the west, east and south parts of its distribution, over the last 100 years. It is now only found in about half of its former range, in sub-coastal north Northern Territory. G. s. smithi was estimated to number c120,000 mature individuals in 2010 (115,000 in the mainland subpopulation and 5,000 on the Tiwi Islands) (Garnett et al. 2011). Subspecies blaauwi is recorded from remote areas of the west and north-west Kimberley region, northern Western Australia. However, there are few recent records, including from Kalumburu where it was common in the 1970s. G. s. blaauwi was estimated to number 6,000 mature individuals in 2010 (Garnett et al. 2011). Both subspecies are thought to be declining, with rapid declines in relative abundance at several monitored sites (Garnett et al. 2011).

Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


The population of G. s. smithi was estimated at c120,000 mature individuals in 2010, based on an AOO of 6,000 km2 and a density of 0.2 birds/ha, while G. s. blaauwi was estimated at 6,000 mature individuals in 2010 based on 0.1 birds/ha in occupied habitat (Garnett et al. 2011), giving a total population estimate of 126,000 mature individuals (Garnett et al. 2011).

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The western subspecies blaauwi occurs primarily in open woodland, particularly between the rugged King Leopold Sandstones and alluvial flats. The eastern subspecies smithii primarily inhabits open forest and woodland dominated by Eucalyptus tetrodonta and E. miniata that has a structurally diverse understorey, usually in areas with a fire regime that promotes a mosaic of fire ages, including wet season burns, which promote grass diversity and year-round seed availa­bility (Fraser et al. 2003). The ground cover is mostly tall grasses, though the pigeons are usually seen feeding in recently burnt areas, by roads and in short grass (Johnstone 1981, in Garnett et al. 2011). It appears to rely on per­ennial grass species which set seed relatively early (Fraser 2001). Breeding takes place in the dry season, between March and October, and it usually lays 2 eggs in nests made on the ground, most often at the base of a clump of grass. It feeds on seeds taken from bare ground. It may benefit from the recent spread of introduced feral cane toads Bufo marinus throughout large parts of its range, as the toads are likely to cause severe reductions in goanna monitor lizards Varanus spp. and snakes, which are likely to be major predators of the species and its eggs and young (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Both subspecies are threatened by a change in fire regime to one where fires extend over large areas and the mosaic of fire ages is erased (Fraser 2001; Fraser et al. 2003; Woinarski et al. 2007). Although early fires burn some nests; extensive, late dry season fires, promote uniform vegetation of tall annual sorghum. Most areas in which the species persists are still under Aboriginal management or have a fire regime that promotes a mosaic of vegetation ages. Climate change may cause even more unfavourable fire regimes (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). Two further threats are associated with fire. Predation by feral cats Felis catus may increase when extensive fires reduce cover (Woin­arski 2004) and, in the Northern Territory, exotic pasture grasses, particularly Gamba Grass Andropogon gayanus, are invading habitat and change the vegetation structures because the fires they generate are so intense (Rossiter et al. 2003, in Garnett et al. 2011). Grazing by cattle and other livestock may cause habitat degradation in some areas, and there has been some habitat clearance on the Tiwi Islands and in the Darwin-Daly area (Woinarski 2004, in Garnett et al. 2011).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation measures are known for this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Investigate effects of the spread of exotic pasture grasses and grazing on behaviour and abundance (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). Determine breeding success and the factors that affect it (particularly the significance of feral cat predation) (J. Woinarski in litt. 2007). Develop robust monitoring techniques, and monitor abundance in landscapes under different management regimes, or in selected accessible parts of range. Continue to undertake annual fire planning and management, managing land with a fine-scale mosaic of burning across the range. Control populations of introduced herbivores and cats as appropriate.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Geophaps smithii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 29 March 2015.
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