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Pacific Imperial Pigeon

Ducula pacifica

The Pacific imperial pigeon, a member of the Columbidae family, is a bird of considerable elegance. It measures 36–41 cm in length and tips the scales at 370–420 grams. Its plumage is a tapestry of nature's finest hues, with a blackish-green adorning its back, tail, and wings, while its head and neck are cloaked in light grey. The breast is painted in a subtle grey with a blush of pink, and the undertail coverts are a rich brown. A distinctive black bill, crowned with a knob, and red iris complete its striking visage. The female, ever so slightly smaller, and the juvenile, lacking the bill's knob and the breast's pink hue, offer subtle variations to this bird's appearance.

Identification Tips

When seeking the Pacific imperial pigeon, look for the blackish-green wings and tail, the light grey head and neck, and the grey breast with a hint of pink. The bill's knob is a key feature, though absent in juveniles. The red iris is a flash of color in the bird's otherwise muted palette.

Habitat

This pigeon prefers the lush embrace of tropical moist lowland forests on smaller isles and the cooler climes of tropical moist montane forests on larger landmasses. It is an intrepid traveler, often crossing the sea to forage on neighboring islands.

Distribution

The Pacific imperial pigeon graces many an island with its presence, from American Samoa to the Cook Islands, the eastern reaches of Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Papua New Guinea's satellite islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and the Wallis and Futuna Islands.

Behaviour

These pigeons are known to congregate in large flocks, particularly in trees heavy with fruit, and are willing to traverse distances in search of sustenance.

Food and Feeding

A frugivorous diet sustains the Pacific imperial pigeon, with a variety of fruits making up the bulk of its intake, supplemented occasionally by leaves and flowers.

Breeding

High in the trees, pairs craft a rather haphazard nest of twigs, hidden from prying eyes. Typically, a single egg is laid, with both parents sharing the incubation duties.

Conservation status

Despite facing threats from habitat loss and hunting, the Pacific imperial pigeon remains widespread and is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, its existence is more precarious on smaller islands. In Niue, known locally as the Lupe, it is considered a delicacy and, despite protective measures, continues to be hunted. The mystery of its breeding grounds in Niue persists, as no nests have been discovered there.

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