• Scientific Name: Alopecoenas erythropterus (Gmelin, 1789)
  • Polynesian Names: U’uaira’o (Society), u’u airao, amaho (Tahiti), tutururu (Tuamotu), itikoe (Mangareva)
  • Order: Columbiformes
  • Family: Columbidae
  • Category: Endemic birds

Apearance and identification

10 inches. In eastern Tuamotu and Rangiroa, the males have white heads with grey feathers on the crown and nape extending to the cheeks. The throat and chest are white. The front part of the back and the wing coverts are light brown with pink highlights on the shoulders. The rest of the plumage is slate grey. In the West and Central Tuamotu, males have fully white head. The plumage of the female is brown with lighter brown throat and chest. The legs are high and robust. They are slate grey as well as the beak. Juveniles have brown and white feathers appear gradually on the head, neck and chest of the males. Although it is able to fly, this bird spends most of its time on the ground.

Video

Voice

No media

Characteristics

Once present in at least twenty-four islands and atolls of the Society archipelago (including Tahiti and Moorea) and Tuamotu-Gambier, the species only exists in four remote and rarely visited atolls. Three of them have populations below 10 individuals.

Without knowledge on the matter, its mode of reproduction is unknown. During various missions in the islands of the Acteon Group, the authors observed juveniles in October 1999 and July 2001 but not in November 2000 or in October 2002. This suggests that the reproduction of the Polynesian ground dove is not seasonal or even continuous over the year but would depend on intrinsic factors (weight of the females, etc …), climate and environmental aspects (the maturation of certain fruits or insect nesting) that would trigger breeding peaks at varying periods from one year to the next.

Wooded areas of the atolls, ocean and lagoon borders. It particularly likes the woods with finely granular soil, lagoon slopes and hoa where it gleans food.

Heard only during social interactions. Males emit a unique “cooo” or “caaa” very loud and soft cooing to attract females. Group of birds make some faintly audible chuckles.

Aerofai seeds (Achyranthes aspera), poker (Portulaca lutea), grass (Lepturus repens), axillary buttons: ngatae (Pisonia grandis), berry taratara moa (Lantana camara) nuna nuna and (Boheravia tetrandra), fragments ripe fruit of tafano (Guettarda speciosa), caterpillars present on tohonu (Tournefortia argentea) and probably also small insects. We have seen digging the basis of Lepturus repent to eat small white cocoons probably containing spider larvae.

Location

Once present in at least twenty-four islands and atolls of the Society archipelago (including Tahiti and Moorea) and Tuamotu-Gambier, the species only exists in four remote and rarely visited atolls. Three of them have populations below 10 individuals.

Breeding

Without knowledge on the matter, its mode of reproduction is unknown. During various missions in the islands of the Acteon Group, the authors observed juveniles in October 1999 and July 2001 but not in November 2000 or in October 2002. This suggests that the reproduction of the Polynesian ground dove is not seasonal or even continuous over the year but would depend on intrinsic factors (weight of the females, etc …), climate and environmental aspects (the maturation of certain fruits or insect nesting) that would trigger breeding peaks at varying periods from one year to the next.

Habitat

Wooded areas of the atolls, ocean and lagoon borders. It particularly likes the woods with finely granular soil, lagoon slopes and hoa where it gleans food.

Voice

Heard only during social interactions. Males emit a unique “cooo” or “caaa” very loud and soft cooing to attract females. Group of birds make some faintly audible chuckles.

Food

Aerofai seeds (Achyranthes aspera), poker (Portulaca lutea), grass (Lepturus repens), axillary buttons: ngatae (Pisonia grandis), berry taratara moa (Lantana camara) nuna nuna and (Boheravia tetrandra), fragments ripe fruit of tafano (Guettarda speciosa), caterpillars present on tohonu (Tournefortia argentea) and probably also small insects. We have seen digging the basis of Lepturus repent to eat small white cocoons probably containing spider larvae.

Status and protection

The species is critically endangered. As the bird moves substantially on the ground, any introduction of cats and rats is fatal. Even the presence of the small Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), long considered harmless to birds, seem to have contributed to the disappearance of the latter from the Tuamotu atolls. Species numbers are very low. In 2012, three of the last four known population represent less than ten individuals and the only “viable” colony amounted to only 50-75 individuals in 2003. These populations are found on islands that have no predators and are uninhabited and unexploited. Any observation of this bird in the Tuamotu must be reported to the SOP that centralizes information to better organize its backup. The subspecies present in the centre of the Tuamotu, G. e. pectoralis (whose male has a fully white head) seems to have disappeared.

The species is listed in category A of the list of species protected by the territorial regulations of French Polynesia.
It is classified as “Critically endangered” (CR) on the IUCN Red List.

Original text by Caroline BLANVILLAIN – Supplements and update by various members of the SOP Manu.