Wetar Ground-dove Alopecoenas hoedtii


Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Endangered because it is thought to have suffered a very rapid population decline which is expected to continue as a result of severe lowland habitat loss and hunting. It appears that a healthy population survives on Wetar, but further surveys are required to establish its overall status.

Population justification
There are estimated to be fewer than 10,000 individuals, possibly even fewer than 3,000, on Wetar. The species appears to be rare on Timor, therefore the global population is conservatively placed in the band for 1,500-7,000 mature individuals. This equates to 2, 500-9,999 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Rapid population declines are suspected to be occurring in line with high rates of habitat loss, as well as pressure from wild bird trappers, within the species's range.

Distribution and population

Alopecoenas hoedtii occurs in West Timor and Wetar, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste. On Wetar, it was previously known from fewer than 20 specimens collected at unspecified localities around 1900, with eight birds collected in five days in 1902. No records were made during a very brief visit to the island in 1990 (K. D. Bishop in litt. 2007, Trainor et al. undated), but visits in 2008 and 2009 produced numerous records (and photographs of the species), with perhaps more than 100 birds along the Naumatang Gorge. A flock of at least 40 birds was observed and a total population of possibly over 100 estimated for Redong Island (Trainor et al. 2009a,b). It has been recorded at only three localities in West Timor (including only one record during a nine-week survey in 1993), where it is presumably rare, although possibly overlooked. In 2004, a male bird was confiscated from a bird trapper in Dili (Lambert et al. 2006). The trapper claimed to have caught his birds on the south coast of Timor-Leste, in the Natarbora region (Manututo District) (Lambert et al. 2006). Subsequent surveys in 2005 close to the border with Indonesia, in the vicinity of Desa Foho Lulik (Tilomar sub-district), found at least four, and perhaps five, calling birds (Lambert et al. 2006).


It inhabits lowland monsoon-forest, and possibly woodland, up to 950 m, but was only recorded below 250 m on Wetar during searches in 2008 and 2009 (Trainor et al. 2009a,b). In West Timor, two of the three records have been from forest near a clearing and fairly undisturbed hill forest. Its habitat receives highly seasonal rainfall, but it is not known whether it makes any dispersive movements, e.g. in response to bamboo seeding events, as in several of its congeners (K. D. Bishop in litt. 2007). It is possible that this species is associated with bamboo (though this is speculative), and thus partly nomadic (Lambert et al. 2006).  On Redong island the species has been seen foraging on fig Ficus fruits (C. Trainor in litt. 2016). Birds found in Timor-Leste were only found within gallery forest and remnant trees bordering a wide stream, suggesting that wet forest - possibly only that associated with flowing water - is important breeding habitat (Lambert et al. 2006). Likewise, records from Wetar in 2008 and 2009 were mostly from wide stream channels and gorges in gallery forest (Trainor et al. 2009b). It appears to call from, and nest in, the canopy and seems to be a dry-season breeder (Lambert et al. 2006). Birds on Redong Island were observed to alight on the ground to feed on fallen figs (Trainor et al. 2009b).


Habitat destruction in West and Timor-Leste has been very extensive, and is presumably the primary threat. Three recently identified IBAs contain much of the remaining tropical monsoon-forest in Timor-Leste (approximately 652 km2) (Trainor 2002). Tropical forests now only cover an estimated 4% of West Timor, scattered in seven unprotected patches that are continually declining in size due to intensive grazing and burning. Forest cover in Timor-Leste declined by 14% between 1989 and 1999 (Bouma and Kobryn 2004). Plans to increase tourist infrastructure in Timor-Leste (ETAN 2008) may have serious impacts on suitable habitat for the species. In addition, pigeons are apparently hunted extensively on Timor, a factor that must have contributed to the decline of this species. The species's habits of remaining on the ground for prolonged periods and only flying short distances when flushed may make it particularly susceptible to hunting in easy to access lowland areas, although hunting pressure has been noted to be low on Wetar, perhaps because much of the island is inaccessible without climbing ropes (Trainor et al. 2009b, C. Trainor in litt. 2016). Extensive forest remained on Wetar until at least 1990 (K. D. Bishop in litt. 2007), but illegal logging and the development of gold mines may threaten the remaining population. The species seems restricted mostly to lowland gallery forest on Wetar (0-250m), which now covers only c.15% of the island's area (R. Fisher via Colin Trainor in litt. 2016). The clearance of forest for cultivation, especially plantations of cash crops, is likely to increase as a threat (Trainor et al. 2009a), although the island's rugged terrain means that most of its land area is difficult to access and unsuitable for agriculture (C. Trainor in litt. 2008). Mining activities on Wetar have had a limited impact so far, but are expected to expand, and this matched with corruption of mining companies poses an increasing threat (C. Trainor in litt. 2016). Road-building projects, including a planned ring-road, also poses a significant threat to forest (Trainor et al. 2009a,b).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species probably occurs in Bekau Huhun Nature Reserve on Wetar, but the boundaries have only been remotely delineated and the reserve is unlikely to harbour a substantial population as it excludes extensive high quality forest (Trainor et al. 2009a). Several protected areas have been proposed in West Timor and another (Gunung Arnau) on Wetar. Recent surveys have identified four further areas in West Timor to be of importance to the islands' endemic avifauna, one of which (Soe) is a known locality for A. hoedtii. Another site, Gunung Timau, is currently subject to an initiative to include it within the Gunung Mutis protected area. One of the main motivations of a successful 13-week field research project on Wetar in late 2008 was to establish whether the species was extant there (Trainor et al. 2009a).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys in suitable remaining forest on Wetar, West Timor, and Timor-Leste to establish its current distribution, population status, seasonal movements (if any), ecological constraints and main threats. Propose key sites supporting populations of this, and other threatened species, for establishment as strict protected areas. Strongly support initiatives to protect Gunung Timau. Extend the boundaries of Bekau Huhun Nature Reserve (Trainor et al. 2009a).


27 cm. Medium-small, terrestrial dove. Male has light blue-grey head becoming greyish-white on throat. Reddish-brown hindneck, paler on sides of neck and fading to pale cream on breast, strongly demarcated from blackish belly. Narrow band of shining purple on breast-sides and carpals. Chestnut upperparts. Female much more uniform, with light rusty-chestnut head, neck and breast, and olive-brown upperparts and belly. Similar spp. Juvenile Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica has some green on wings and mantle and pale belly and forehead. Voice A short, soft, but quite penetrating two-note whu-wup, sometimes changed into a three-note call by the addition of a brief guttural trrr (C. Trainor in litt 2007).


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J., North, A., Martin, R

Bishop, K., Trainor, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Alopecoenas hoedtii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/05/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/05/2020.