Schlagwort-Archive: Columbidae

Ground Doves in the Gilbert Islands?

The Polynesian Ground-Dove (Pampusanna erythroptera (Gmelin)) and the Friendly Ground-Dove (Pampusanna stairi (Gray)) are mentioned in several enumerations of birds that are thought to inhabit the Gilbert Islands in the Micronesian part of Kiribati.

So, I did a little search to find out something more ….:

The first thing I found was that D. H. R. Spennemann and H. Benjamin name these two species as inhabitants of the Marshall Islands, which apparently is an error since they use A. B. Amerson’s account as their source, in which they are clearly named as inhabiting the Gilbert – but not the Marshall Islands. [2][4].

This is the abovementioned account by A. B. Amerson Jr..:

Gallicolumba erythroptera* Ground Dove

Status — Introduced breeder in the Gilbert Islands.

Marshall-Gilbert Distribution Records — Breeding: Gilberts – Abemama, Nonouti.

Pacific Distribution — Native to the Society and Tuamotu Islands (Baker, 1951).

*Remarks — I am using the species designation given by Child (1960), who says this species was reported to have been introduced into the Gilberts from Nauru about 1940. Pearson (1962) did not find any doves at Nauru in 1961.
“ [2]

The Gilbertese name of this bird is given here as bitin, more about that later.

Gallicolumba stairi* Friendly Ground Dove

Status — Introduced, possible breeder in the Gilbert Islands.

Marshall-Gilbert Distribution Records — Gilberts – Abemama.

Pacific Distribution — Present only at Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa Islands (Peters, 1934)

*Remarks — I am using the species designation given by Child (1960) who says this species was probably introduced from Fiji.
“ [2]

Here the author states „Child (1960)“ as his source, so let’s see where that leads me to.

I could trace all accounts back to the following one, which appears to be the first that mentiones these two dove species, it is from a Peter Child who worked for about one year as an radio operator in the Coastwatching Organisation during WWII and who visited nearly all the islands in the ‚colony‘ within a time of three years from 1953 to 1956.

He was an amateur bird-watcher, as he called himself, but his accounts are in fact reliable, in my opinion.

Here they are.:

24. Gallicolumba erythroptera: Ground Dove.

Lupe palangi. Bitin (Taobe)

While Ducula is a native in the Ellice, being referred to in many old songs and legends, the ground doves are undoubtedly recent introductions of the present century, probably mainly from Fiji. At Abemama they are reported to have been introduced from Nauru about 20 years ago [ca. 1936 because this account was originally puplished in 1956], and have multiplied considerably so that there is now a fair number in a wild state. A few pairs have also been taken from Abemama to some other Gilbert Islands as pets, but in most of the Colony they are unknown. A pair taken to Nanouti had four offspring, and in June two females had nests about ten feet of the ground in an old deserted house; the nests were of grass and stra and built inside old boxes; each contained two eggs, oval in shape and creamy-white in colour. At Abemama they are said to nest in coconut crowns, often high above the ground. They feed mainly on the ground; when disturbed they fly up into the palms and their call, a soft „coo“, may then be heard.

The colouring is typically darkish greys and white; the head, neck, back and upper breats are grey with a purplish and greenish sheen or irridescence; the secondary wing feathers are mainly dark grey and the primaries and tail feathers mainly white; the abdomen is white, often speckled with grey, and he under tail-coverts white. The short bill is dark grey with a small whitish operculum at the base; the legs and feet are coral red, or purplish red. Some birds have less white than others, and hardly any two are exactly alike.
“ [1]

The name Bitin apparently is the local variation of the English word pigeon, while the name Taobeundoubtedly is the local variation of the German word Taube which means nothing but dove/pigeon; both these names suggest that the birds were imported from somewhere else.

The name Lupe palangi is the Tuvaluan name given to this bird, it can be translated as foreign pigeon (!).

It also appears to me that he did see this species with his own eyes.

He goes on with the second dove species.:

25. Gallicolumba stairii. Friendly Ground Dove.

There are few individuals in a semi-wild state at Abemama, probably of this species, and probably introduced from Fiji where it is common. The habits are similar to those of G. erythroptera, and there is no distinction in vernacular names of the two species.

The colouring is mainly brown with a little white on the wings and lower breast; the upperparts have a greenish sheen in some lights. The bill is dark and the feet deep red or purplish red.


Abemama atoll

STS-61A mission crew 

(public domain)

All in all it appears to me that both, the Polynesian- as well as the Friendly Ground Doves, indeed had been introduced sometimes during the middle 1930s, during WWII to at least the Abemama atoll, it appears not to be known by whom, and it also appears not to be known if they still exist there.  

Interesting is the statement that at least one of them had been brought from Nauru, where no groud dove species is known to have existed – and if one has existed it might rather have been a distinct, endemic one, but not the Polynesian Ground Dove.

Maybe someone with an interest in birds will be able to make a visit to the Abemama atoll some day and clarify these questions.



[1] P. Child: Birds of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. Atoll Research Bulletin 74:1-38. 1960
[2] A. B. Amerson Jr.: Ornithology of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 127: 1-348. 1969
[3] Robert P. Owen: A checklist of the birds of Micronesia. Micronesica 13(1): 65-81. 1977
[4] Dirk H. R. Spennemann; Hemley Benjamin: Notes on the Avifauna of Ebon Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Historic Preservation Office 1992


edited: 30.07.2020

The less popular case of Columba R. forsteri

A pigeon collected during one of J. Cook’s journeys in the middle of the 18th century on the island of Tahiti, Society Islands, was described and named Columba R. forsteri in 1829 by J. G. Wagler, this is the original description.:

C. R. Forsteri. Habitus et magnitudo C. globicerae; capite et cervice prorsus nigris; dorso, uropygio, remigibus et rectricibus coeruleo et viridi nitentibus; gula, jugulo, pectore, abdomine femoribusque fuliginosis; crisso ferrugineo; capistro albo; cera prorsus non globosa.

Columba globicera var.? Reinh. Forster in Manuscr.

Rostrum nigrum; pedes rubri. Habitat in insula Otaheite, ab incolis Aroobu appeliate.
“ [1]

(my humble) translation:

C. R. Forsteri. Shape and size of C. globicera; head and neck completely black; on the back, from the rump, and the rectrices shining blue and green; throat, neck, breast, belly (hips?) sooty; undertail coverts ferruginous; lores white; cere absolutely not globose.  

Columba globicera var.? Reinh. Forster in Manuscr.  

Beak black; feet red. Inhabits the island of Otaheite, named by the islanders Aroobu.


According to S. L. Olson and D. W. Steadman this description fits very well with the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon (Ducula galeata (Bonaparte)), which is now restricted to the island of Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, but which indeed is known to have been much more widespread in former times. [2]

However, this species is much larger than the Polynesian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aurora Peale) from Tahiti, named Columba globicera in the description, and not of the same size, and its head and neck are slate-colored and not black as the description says; anyway, neither the adult nor the juvenile Polynesian Imperial Pigeon have ferruginous undertail coverts while the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon again has.

Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon (Ducula galeata); unfortunately the ferruginous undertail coverts are not visible in this photo

Photo: Samuel Etienne

(under creative commons license (3.0))

So, after all, this little description may indeed be the only historical record of the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon outside the island of Nuku Hiva, it disappeared sometimes during the 18th century. Subfossils assigned to this large bird are now known from Mangaia, Cook Islands; Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Ua Huka, Marquesas; as well as from Huahine, Society Islands. [3] 

However, I personally still have some doubts about the identity of these large imperial pigeon forms outside of the Marquesas, in my humble opinion they should rather be considered distinct forms.



[1] J. G. Wagler: Beiträge und Bemerkungen zu dem ersten Bande seines Sytsema Avium. (Fortsetzung III.) Isis von Oken 7: 735-762. 1829 
[2] S. L. Olson; D. W. Steadman: Comments on the proposed suppression of Rallus nigra Miller, 1784 and Columba R. Forsteri Wagler, 1829 (Aves) .Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 44, 126-127. 1987 
[3] David W. Steadman; Dominique S. Pahlavan: Extinction and biogeography of birds on Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Geoarchaeology 7(5): 449-483. 1992


edited: 18.03.2020

A ground dove from Karoraina?

The genus Pampusana, formerly Gallicolumba and then Alopecoenas, apparently did once occur also as far northeast as to the Line Islands of Kiribati, as can be taken from an account from 1840 by Frederick Debell Bennett about a stay on Caroline Island, now named Karoraina.:

At night, on the 22nd of April, many shoal-birds came about the ship, greeting us with their hoarse cries, so prophetic of the vicinity of land; and at daybreak on the following morning, Caroline Island was seen from the mast-head, bearing N.W., distant 10 miles.

 The inland thickets contained a great number of small pigeons, with white head and neck, and the rest of their plumage of a rich brown colour.
“ [1]

This account might refer to a population of the Polynesian Ground Dove (Pampusana erythroptera (Gmelin)) as suggested by David W. Steadman & Dominique S. Pahlavan or, given the extreme distance between the northernmost Tuamotuan atolls and the island of Karoraina, may perhaps rather refer to a distinct, now extinct species. [2]



[1] F. D. Bennett: Narrative of a Whaling Voyage round the Globe, from the year 1833 to 1836. London: Richard Bentley 1840
[2] David W. Steadman; Dominique S. Pahlavan: Extinction and biogeography of birds on Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Geoarchaeology 7(5): 449-483. 1992


edited: 17.03.2020

What is the Colombe Oricou?

Just recently, that means today, I did hear about this pigeon for the first time.

What is known about this bird?

Colombe Oricou (Columba auricularia Temminck & Knip)

Depiction from: Pauline Knip: Les pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, le texte par C. J. Themminck. Paris: chez Mme. Knip 1838-1843

(public domain)

Well, let us read (a part of) the description.:

Nous avons vu une variété entièrement blanche qui n’avoit du noir que sur la queue; d autres avoient le plumage plus ou moins marqué de taches grises et noires : ces derniers nous ont paru être de jeunes oiseaux. Les pieds sont constamment d’un beau rouge, et le bec est noir.
Nous présumons que l’Oricou habite les îles de la mer Pacifique, c’est du moins par des vaisseaux venant de ces parages que quelques individus ont été rapportés en Angleterre. Le Pigeon qui a servi de modèle à notre planche coloriée est déposé dans le cabinet de M. Raye de Breukelerwaert à Amsterdam. Cet amateur possède aussi la variété de cette espèce, dont les ailes sont entièrement blanches.“ [1]


We saw an entirely white variety that only had black on the tail; others had more or less marked plumage of gray and black spots: these appeared to us to be young birds. The feet are constantly beautiful red, and the bill is black.
We assume that the Oricou lives in the islands of the Pacific Sea, it is less by vessels from these areas than a few individuals have been reported in England. The Pigeon which served as a model for our colored board is deposited in the cabinet of Mr. Raye de Breukelerwaert in Amsterdam. This amateur also has the variety of this species, whose wings are entirely white.

The description clearly based on a stuffed specimen, and the first and last sentences are especially interesting … for reasons …. 


The bird is also mentioned in another work.:

Note. – The Columba auricularis, Temm. Pig. t. 20,

is said to inhabit some of the islands of the Pacific Ocean; and others have more particularly given the Friendly Islands 
[Tonga] as the abode of this bird; but it is only an artificial production of some ingenious bird-preserver.“ [2]

Ah, there it is: the Colombe Oricou apparently was one of the many made-up stuffed animals stored in museum- and private collections all over the world, made by extremely talented taxidermists and sold as exceedingly rare specimens for the highest prices – a practice that was quite common in former times.


The only question that remains is, which birds are involved here?

The body might have been that of a common feral pigeon, and the naked parts may indeed just have been plucked and painted subsequently.

That’s just all.



[1] Pauline Knip: Les pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, le texte par C. J. Themminck. Paris: chez Mme. Knip 1838-1843
[2] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859


edited: 10.03.2020

Some Micronesian beauties

A while ago I found this Japanese book about the birds of Micronesia online while searching for I don’t no what, it originally probably included more than these three plates, however, these are the only ones that I could find and I want to share them here because they are so exceedingly beautiful.:

Tokutaro Momiyama: Horyo Nanyo Shoto-san chorui. Tokyo: Nihon Chogakkai: Taisho 11. 1922
(public domain)


I will name the birds with their current names in the order in which they are depicted.


White-throated Ground Dove (Alopecoenas xanthonurus ), female and male 
Caroline Ground Dove (Alopecoenas kubaryi)
White-browed Crake (Amaurornis cinereus)
Pohnpei Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubiginosus)
Purple-capped Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus ponapensis)
Micronesian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula oceanica ssp. monacha)
Kosrae Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus hernsheimi), juvenile
Truk Monarch (Monarcha rugensis), young male, adult male, and female
Yap Olive White-eye (Zosterops oleagineus)
Truk White-eye (Rukia ruki)


edited: 20.10.2019

Prehistoric Gambier Islands

A new paper, that was just published [1], deals with the subfossil remains that had been excavated on the Gambier Islands, far, far in the almost easternmost corner of Polynesia, more easterly are only the Pitcairn Islands and the well known island of Rapa Nui.

The Gambier Islands, for those who don’t know them, are basically a more or less sunken atoll, a so called ‚almost atoll‘ like the better known Aitutaki atoll in the Cook Islands. This ‚almost atoll‘ consists of a larger but still relatively small main island, Mangareva, and several other smaller islets surounding it, all of them of volcanic origin and merely the meager remains of a former large volcano. The whole group of islands is encircled by a fringe of coral islands, which again are formed by lifted coral reefs. There are some other real atolls (only coral islands without remains of former volcanoes) that belong to the Gambier group, these are Maria (East), Marutea (South), Matureivavao, Morane, Temoe, Tenararo, Tenarunga, and Vahanga.


The authors describe one new species, a pigeon, and mention several others, mostly pigeons and of course seabirds, we are on a island group here after all.   😛


The first surprise is Bountyphaps, very likely the same Bountyphaps obsoleta Worthy & Wragg that was originally described from Henderson Island, Pitcairn Islands. Its remains were found on Kamaka Island, one of the numerous small or very small islands within the group. The remains are interpreted as probably having been transported from the Pitcairn Islands to the Gambiers by Polynesian settlers, which indeed are known to have captured and tamed parrots and pigeons, at least in olden times when there still were parrots and pigeons.

The next bird is a newly described pigeon species, Ducula tihonireasini Rigal, Kirch & Worthy, its remains were found on Taravai Island, the second largest of the islands in the group, and it probably was endemic to the Gambier Islands.

Then there are a Ptilinopus sp. which may be identical to the Atoll Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus coralensis Peale), and a Columbidae gen. & sp., probably Macropygia sp., which would extend the distributional area of that genus far to the east and to the south.

There are of course remains of the Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra ssp. sacra (Gmelin)), the most common land bird in whole Polynesia today.

And off we go to the seabirds, here we have the remains of Red- and White-tailed Tropicbirds, a rather small Pseudobulweria sp., apparently also a new species, three unspecified Pterodroma spp., three Puffinus spp., the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, the Polynesian Storm-Petrel, the Great- and the Lesser Frigatebird, the White Tern, and finally another tern, probably the Blue Noddy.


Most of these birds are known to have occurred on the Gambier Islands at least since 2005 when their first remains were found (except for Bountyphaps obsoleta, whose remains were wrongly assigned to another pigeon species, Alopecoenas nui (Steadman)). But only now their subfossil bones were scientifically investigated.



[1] Stanislas Rigal; Patrick V. Kirch; Trevor H. Worthy: New prehistoric avifaunas from the Gambier Group, French Polynesia. Palaeontologia Electronica 21.3.4A 1-35. 2018


edited: 07.12.2018