Nukuhiva Imperial-pigeon Ducula galeata


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small population, on two tiny islands, and owes its survival to the existence of several areas which are difficult to access by hunters and introduced grazers, and are resistant to colonisation by rats. However, as a direct result of conservation action on Nuku Hiva and the translocation of birds to Ua Huka, the population is increasing slowly overall, but the species still qualifies as Endangered.

Population justification
The population on Nuku Hiva was estimated at about 200 individuals in recent surveys and is probably increasing: it is easy to locate in place where it was absent before, including near habitations. The recently established population on Ua Huka has already increased to 46 individuals but further surveys are needed. The population is estimated as at least 300 individuals, roughly equivalent to 250 mature individuals (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016).

Trend justification
Surveys indicate that the population on Nuka Hiva is stable or increasing slightly. The reintroduced population on Ua Huka is slowly increasing.

Distribution and population

Ducula galeata is endemic to the Marquesas Islands and until 2000 was only known from Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia, where it was now restricted to valleys in the west and north of the island, although there have been recent observations of the species in the central south of the island (Anon 2011) and near human inhabitations. In 1998, a maximum of 85 birds were seen and the population was estimated at c.250 (Evva 1998). Surveys in 2004, 2006 2006 established the persistence of 200 ± 100
birds in Nuku Hiva (Gouni et al. 2006, Gouni et al. 2008, Gouni et al. 2011). There is a late 18th century record from Tahiti in the Society Islands, and fossil evidence indicates that it once occurred on a further four islands in the Society and Marquesas Islands, and also in the Southern Cook Islands and Henderson in the Pitcairn Islands (Steadman 1989), though this may be subject to revision: the bones attributed to this species may come from a different species at least on Henderson (P. Raust in litt. 2007). A translocation programme began in 2000 to establish a second population on Ua Huka Island (Blanvillain et al. 2001), with a carrying capacity estimated at 200-300 individuals (A. Gouni in litt. 2012). This translocated population increased by 28% in the 2005-2006 season and reached 46 individuals in 2008 (Gouni et al. 2008, Gouni et al. 2011). Visits to the island in 2010 and 2012 reported a number of individuals and several nests (Champeau 2010).


It is an arboreal species found in remote wooded valleys from 250-1,300 m and is also seen in secondary forest and at the edge of banana and orange plantations (Holyoak and Thibault 1984). It feeds on fruit from trees and shrubs, including large quantities of guava Psidium guajava (Pratt et al. 1987). It only lays one egg suggesting that it is long lived and any population increases would be slow and unclear for several years (Villard et al. 2000).


Illegal hunting is the main concern (Evva 1998), though following an awareness raising campaign this appears to have been reduced. Nevertheless poaching has the potential to rapidly reduce the small population and remains a potential threat (Gouni 2006). Habitat has been modified and degraded by introduced vegetation and grazing by feral stock (Seitre and Seitre 1991, 1992, Evva 1998). However, cattle have been eradicated, and goats and pigs are decreasing (Evva 1998). New roads and tunnels could result in habitat loss and facilitate access and considerable disturbance, although there is currently little traffic (Evva 1998). The habitat quality is affected by two introduced plant species: Miconia calvescens (not a threat currently but may became a major problem in few years because of its high potential of rapid habitat degradation) and pines Pinus sp. that are progressively invading the forest, and regular fires. Introduced cats Felis catus, pigs Sus scrofa, goats Capra hircus, cattle Bos taurus and possibly rats Rattus spp. are all common on Nuku Hiva and likely constitute a threat (Seitre and Seitre 1991, 1992, Blanvillain and Thorsen 2003). The parasite Plasmodium relictum is present, and might be dispersed by exotic bird species (C. Blanvillain in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The bird is revered in local culture and hunting is forbidden (although it continues) (Evva 1998). Following recommendations of translocations (SPREP 1999), five birds were released on Ua Huka. At least four of the five introduced birds had survived into June (Blanvillain et al. 2000), and in 2003, five more birds were released to augment the population. Following a 28% increase in this population during the 2005/6 season, the population reached 46 individuals in 2008 (Gouni et al. 2008, Blanvillain et al. 2011). A visit to the island in 2010 reported a number of individuals and several nests (Champeau 2010). In 2012, 26 birds were relocated to two uninhabited valleys (Blanvillain et al. 2012). Monitoring is continuing and, if deemed successful, further translocation will occur to increase the genetic base and further establish the population (Blanvillain et al. 2000). An awareness raising campaign focused initially on local school children has met with success and it has now been expanded to the general public. As a result hunting pressure appears to have been reduced (Gouni 2006) but persists. Thanks to lobbying by Manu the road development project was amended and the new road and tunnel project cancelled - only rehabilitation of the actual road was carried out (A. Gouni in litt. 2007). Nuku Hiva islanders are trying to reduce the Miconia calvescens invasion but eradication seems unlikely.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey the current population and distribution on Ua Huka. Continue to control Miconia calvescens and Pinus. Research depredation by cats and rats and, depending on the results, set up some control measures (Evva 1998, Villard et al. 2000). Promote public awareness through publicity materials and schools, especially in relation to legal protection (Evva 1998) and accidental fire. Ensure that game is not reintroduced into the wild (which would increase hunting generally) and prevent further accidental introductions of exotic species (Evva 1998). Try to eradicate Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) if still present since its introduction in 2002. Investigate the impacts of Plasmodium relictum. Ensure that road development takes account of the species's requirements (Evva 1998). Investigate the possibility of reintroducing the species to other islands in the Marquesas.


55 cm. Very large, broad-winged pigeon with expanded cere flattened dorso-ventrally, making bill look duck-like at distance. Mostly dark slate-grey with bronze-green reflections on upperparts. Rufous-chestnut undertail-coverts. White eyes. Voice Deep bellow waah-waah, like the mooing of a cow.


Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., O'Brien, A., Safford, R., Shutes, S. & Stattersfield, A.

Gouni, A. & Raust, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Ducula galeata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/10/2021.