Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas imperial-pigeon

Ducula whartoni

Photo by Jeff Blincow (Christmas Island Wildlife)

Common name:
Christmas imperial-pigeon (en); pombo-imperial-de-Natal (pt); carpophage de Wharton (fr); dúcula de la Navidad (es); weihnachtsfruchttaube (de)

Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae

This species is endemic to Christmas island, in the Indian Ocean.

These birds are 39-45 cm long and weigh 450-700 g.

The Christmas imperial-pigeon is mostly found in rainforests and, to some extent, in secondary regrowth dominated by the introduced Japanese cherry Muntingia calabura.

They feed on on native and exotic fruits, as well as buds and leaves.

Christmas imperial-pigeons breed in August-February. They nest in a loose platform made of twigs, placed near the top of a tall rainforest tree. The female lays 1 egg which is incubated by both parents for 25-30 days. The chicks fledge 3-4 weeks after hatching.

IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population of 10.000-20.000 individuals. Although there is no reliable data on population trend, the species adapts well to secondary habitats and is thus now suspected to have a relatively stable population. The Christmas imperial-pigeon is mostly threatened by forest clearing for phosphate mining. Hunting was also a problem in the past, but is now believed to be less prevalent. The introduction of the yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes to Christmas island could also have a negative impact as these ants can prey on young birds, and have further negative consequences for the overall ecological balance of the island.

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