Vanuatu Imperial-pigeon Ducula bakeri


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of an estimated small population which is fragmented and suspected to be declining through habitat loss and, to a lesser extent, hunting. More surveys are required to better ascertain its range, numbers and status. Should the population (or largest subpopulation) be found to be larger than currently thought, or no longer declining, the species would warrant downlisting to a lower category of threat.

Population justification
The population is estimated to be in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals in total, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. Its population structure is poorly-known but it is precautionarily assessed as having separate subpopulations on each of the main islands, all possibly numbering <1000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
There are no data on population trends; however, it is thought to be in moderate decline owing to habitat loss and hunting.

Distribution and population

Ducula bakeri is endemic to Vanuatu, where it occurs on some of the larger northern islands: Ureparapara, Vanua Lava and Santa Maria (= Gaua) (all in the Banks group), Espiritu Santo, Maewo, Aoba (=Ambae), Pentecost and Ambrym (Diamond and Marshall 1977, Bregulla 1992). There are recent records from Santo (where it was recorded as present between 500 and 1,400 m asl, and common between 800 and 1,200 m in the West Santo mountains [S. Totterman pers. obs. 2010]), Vanua Lava (Vureas Bay [c. 100 m]), Langletak (c. 50 m and heard from the mountain near Sola), Gaua (Lake Letas [412 ma), Maewo (Mt Tagutgagaro summit [812 m]), Pentecost (Mt Vetmar summit [887 m]) and Ambrym (Mt Tovuo upper flanks [c. 800 m]) (S. Totterman in litt. 2007). It appears to be rare on Ambae (none seen or heard in several days birdwatching in the montane forest [S. Totterman in litt. 2007]).


It is a locally nomadic frugivore. It has been thought to replace the more widespread D. pacifica in mid-mountain and montane forests (Diamond and Marshall 1977, Bregulla 1992), although this may be only true on Santo (and perhaps Ambrym) as both imperial-pigeons have been recorded in the same forest on other islands (S. Totterman in litt. 2007). On Santo, it occurs above 500 m but is much more common at higher altitudes (between 800 and 1,200 m (S. Totterman in litt. 2010). On Vanua Lava it can be heard at sea level (S. Totterman in litt. 2007). Maewo, Pentecost and Ambrym have small areas of montane forest and this bird is found only on the peaks (S. Totterman in litt. 2007).  Has been found at mid elevation levels in disturbed forest, and higher elevations in primary forest (Barré et al. 2006).


A significant area of mid-montane forest has been cleared for cultivation, including for kava Piper methysticum, for domestic and export markets (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998). Pentecost is a big kava producer with a sizeable human population (S. Totterman in litt. 2007). In addition, lowland forest (although not a major habitat for D. bakeri) is being extensively degraded by logging and for cattle-ranching (G. Dutson pers.obs. 1998). As one of the largest edible birds on Vanuatu, it is a favoured hunting target for hill villagers (Bregulla 1992). However, its montane haunts and wary nature serve to lessen the impact of this threat.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected by law and may be hunted only between 1 April and 30 June.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey other islands within its range. Survey other areas of Santo to ascertain its distribution and abundance. Determine habitat and altitudinal requirements. Determine tolerance of logged forest. Assess hunting levels and population trends based on discussions with local hunters. Advocate creation of forest reserves on each major island. Investigate hunting control measures through community discussion and awareness programmes.


40 cm. Large, maroon and grey imperial-pigeon. Upperparts dark grey with paler blue-grey head. Neck and breast purplish-maroon, becoming chestnut on belly. In flight, chestnut underwing-coverts contrast against paler flight feathers. Similar spp. Pacific Imperial-pigeon D. pacifica has swollen black cere, paler grey head and underparts, chestnut only on vent and green-glossed dark grey upperparts. White-throated Pigeon Columba vitiensis has white throat-patch and green iridescence on otherwise black plumage. Voice Two to five deep booms. Hints Call is loud, far-carrying and unmistakeable. Look over mid-montane forest from vantage points. Usually seen singly or in pairs but groups of up to six have been seen in a fruiting tree.


Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Ekstrom, J., Mahood, S. & North, A.

Diamond, J., Dutson, G., Toone, W., Totterman, S. & O'Brien, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Ducula bakeri. Downloaded from on 03/12/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/12/2021.