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Papuan Mountain Pigeon

Gymnophaps albertisii

The Papuan mountain pigeon, Gymnophaps albertisii, presents a medium-sized form, measuring 33–36 cm in length and tipping the scales at an average of 259 grams. This species boasts a slender build, accentuated by elongated wings and tail. The adult male is adorned with slate-grey upperparts and a chestnut-maroon throat and belly, complemented by a whitish breast and a pale grey terminal tail band. A striking feature is the bright red lores and orbital region. Females share a similar plumage, though they may exhibit greyish breasts and grey-edged throat feathers.

Identification Tips

To distinguish the Papuan mountain pigeon, look for the adult male's slate-grey and chestnut-maroon coloration, the bright red around the eyes, and the pale grey tail band. Females may be identified by their greyish breasts. Juveniles appear duller, with brown or grey breasts and pale rufous underparts. The species can be confused with the Pinon's imperial pigeon, but the latter is larger, more robust, and lacks the red orbital skin extending to the lores.

Habitat

This pigeon favors primary forests within hilly and mountainous terrains, though it may occasionally venture into adjacent lowlands. It is typically found at elevations ranging from sea level to 3,350 meters, with the subspecies G. a. exsul inhabiting montane forests between 900 and 1,500 meters.

Distribution

The Papuan mountain pigeon graces the landscapes of New Guinea, the Bacan Islands, the D'Entrecasteaux Islands, and the Bismarck Archipelago. It is known to undertake partial migrations, with large flocks descending to beech forests during the rainy season.

Behaviour

A gregarious bird, the Papuan mountain pigeon is often seen in flocks of 10 to 40, and occasionally up to 80 individuals. It roosts at high elevations and performs a distinctive morning descent, creating a whooshing sound as it dives through the air.

Song & Calls

Typically silent, the Papuan mountain pigeon emits a muted, low-pitched wooooooo or woom during the breeding season, along with soft whistles.

Breeding

Breeding occurs from October to March in the Schrader Range, though it may happen year-round across its range. Nests are constructed from sticks and twigs in trees or on the ground in short dry grass, with a single white egg laid per breeding attempt.

Similar Species

The juvenile Papuan mountain pigeon may be mistaken for the Pinon's imperial pigeon, but differences in size, build, bill color, and the extent of red orbital skin can aid in correct identification.

Diet and Feeding

The species is frugivorous, favoring figs and drupes, and has been observed feeding on fruits from various trees. It is an important seed disperser for some species and has been seen consuming soil, possibly for mineral intake.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Papuan mountain pigeon as Least Concern, with a stable population across a broad range. While common in New Guinea, its abundance varies locally, and it is considered uncommon on New Britain and New Ireland. The subspecies G. a. exsul is thought to be uncommon, with an unknown current status.

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