Ducula aurorae 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Columbiformes Columbidae

Scientific Name: Ducula aurorae (Peale, 1848)
Common Name(s):
English Polynesian Imperial-pigeon, Polynesian Imperial Pigeon, Polynesian Imperial-Pigeon, Society Islands 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: 51 cm. Large, knob-billed pigeon with broad rounded wings. Silver-grey head and most of underparts, dark bronzy-green upperparts, black undertail-coverts. Similar spp. Feral pigeon Columba livia much smaller and does not live in forests. Voice Gruff, hoarse rouw-rouw-rouw and variety of quieter notes.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Raust, P., Thibault, J., Kesler, D. & Blanvillain, C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Derhé, M., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A. & Symes, A.
This species qualifies as Endangered because it has a very small population, and almost certainly only now occurs on only one very small island. Although it may currently be increasing there owing to a cessation of mining activities and hunting, it has a very small population and could decline rapidly in the near future owing to habitat destruction, or if Swamp Harrier Circus approximans colonises the island. Confirmation that the population is larger than previously thought, and further clarification of future potential threats, may show that the species warrants downlisting to a lower category of threat.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Ducula aurorae is known from Tahiti in the Society Islands and Makatea in the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia. On Tahiti, it may already be extinct, it was restricted to the Papeno`o and Hitia`a valleys in 1986-1990 (Monnet et al. 1993b), but none were reported in 1998 and in 2006 it was considered unlikely to persist (Thibault and Cibois 2006). On Makatea, the population was judged to lie between 100 and 500 individuals in 1986-1987, but have since increased following a reduction in hunting (Thibault and Guyot 1987, Thibault and Cibois 2006). A survey on Makatea in 2009 estimated the total population size at 1,206 individuals (95% C. I., 867-1,677) (Albar et al. 2009, 2010). Further clarification of this estimate is needed. It is unclear whether this represents a genuine population increase, however the cessation of mining activities and reduction of the human population inhabiting the island represent prospects for population recovery of many of the native birds on Makatea. There are also fossil records indicating that it was once more widespread, including in the Southern Cook Islands (Steadman 1989).

Countries occurrence:
French Polynesia
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:28
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:1Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1100
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:A survey on Makatea in 2009 (Albar et al. 2009, 2010) estimated the total population size at 1,206 individuals (with a 95% confidence interval of 867-1,677 individuals, roughly equating to 570-1,200 mature individuals). Further clarification of this estimate is needed, and the previous estimate of 100-500 mature individuals is precautionarily retained until higher numbers can be confirmed.

Trend Justification:  Population estimates are too inaccurate to detect trends, although hunting has been much reduced and the species may be increasing on Makatea where forest is regenerating. An overall increase of 1-9% is suspected to have taken place over the last ten years. However, a future decline is very possible given the plans for infrastructure development and the distinct possibility that C. approximans could colonise the island.
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:100-500Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
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:Though the species was formerly found only in dense forest, where it feeds on fruit from a variety of native and introduced trees, it has recently spread into secondary habitats and even gardens (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Pratt et al. 1987, Thibault and Guyot 1987, Te Manu 1998, Thibault and Cibois 2006). It is now an important seed disperser on Makatea, accelerating the spread of native forest into areas which had been mined (Thibault and Cibois 2006).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):6.6
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): On Makatea, much of its habitat was destroyed during the period 1917-1964 as a result of phosphate mining, however it is now spreading as vegetation recovers and hunting is reduced (Thibault and Guyot 1987, P. Raust in litt. 1999, Thibault and Cibois 2006, Albar et al. 2009, 2010). However, Makatea is being considered for new mining activities, which may further affect the birds (Albar et al. 2010). The proposed mining project is now dormant but may be resurrected in future (P. Raust and C. Blanvillain in litt. 2013). A proposed runway and associated road and infrastructure development is likely to lead to renewed deforestation (Thibault and Cibois 2006). Predation by introduced cats and rats (particularly black rat Rattus rattus) may be a problem (Monnet et al. 1993b), although the species has coexisted with rats for several decades (J.-C. Thibault in litt. 2000). On Moorea, Tahiti and other formerly inhabited islands, its extinction may have been the consequence of the spread through the Society Islands of the Swamp Harrier Circus approximans (Holyoak and Thibault 1984, Thibault 1988, Seitre and Seitre 1991, Thibault and Cibois 2006). This species continues to spread throughout the region, and its arrival on Makatea would be disastrous for D. aurorae (Thibault and Cibois 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
On Tahiti, a year-long study in 1998 collected information from the inhabitants of the valleys where it was last recorded (J.-C. Thibault in litt. 2000). Work was carried out in 2009 by Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie Manu to determine the population size of the species through distance sampling (Albar et al. 2009, 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
On Makatea, resurvey the population (P. Raust in litt. 1999) in order to assess both numbers and distribution within primary and regenerating forest.

On Tahiti, conduct field surveys to confirm its extirpation. Ensure C. approximans does not become established on Makeata by developing a reporting system for residents. Eradicate C. approximans from Tahiti and the Society Islands to prevent it spreading to Makatea. Oppose plans for a large runway on Makatea, support instead plans for a smaller runway. Continue to oppose plans for phosphate mining on Makatea. Consider captive breeding and reintroduction to Tahiti.

Amended [top]

Amended reason: EOO updated

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Ducula aurorae. (amended version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22691668A113053997. . Downloaded on 21 November 2017.
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