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Polynesian Imperial-pigeon


Photo Fred Jacq


20 inches. Both sexes are identical in appearance but the female is slightly smaller. The head, neck, chest and the front of the belly are grey, almost white. The back, wings and tail are dark grey-blue with green highlights. The belly pulls towards blue grey on the back and coverts are green. The mouthpiece is black, has a bulge at its base, called wax. The legs are red burgundy. The grey areas in the adult plumage is brown green when it is young.

Order: Columbiformes

Family: Columbidae

Category: Endemic Birds


Makatea Islands and Tahiti. Its survival in Tahiti remains uncertain. A convincing testimony was recorded in the Vaihiria Valley after several unsuccessful attempts to revisit this species have been made in recent years. This pigeon has disappeared from Moorea and Huahine in the last century but also from Pitcairn and Cook Islands where fossil remains have been discovered.


On Makatea (raised atoll), they live in the middle of the island (5-110 meters). There are frequent in coral forests and gradually re-colonize former zones of phosphate extraction. In Tahiti, it was fond of the forest areas of medium altitude (1000-1500 meters).

Barks like a dog, but faster and more powerful, repeated 4-6 times.

To listen the Polynesian Imperial-pigeon:

On Makatea it likes the pulp of the fruit tafano (Guettarda speciosa) and goes down in the shrub layer to eat the fruits of toroea (Cyclophyllum barbatum). Residents report that it is fond of fruit vine Tatahi (Coccoloba uvifera) and False pistachio (Syzygium cumini). In Tahiti, he consumed the fleshy fruit of ora (Ficus prolixa) tuava (Psidium guajava), fei (Musa troglodytarum) ieie (Freycinetia impavida).

It seems that sexual activity takes place from August to September at least.

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



Scientific Name: Ducula aurorae (Peale, 1848)

Polynesian Names:
Rupe (Tahiti – Makatea)

  • Society : Tahiti (probably EXTINCT)
  • Tuamotu : Makatea


Due to its low numbers and few islands where it is still present, the species is endangered. It has become so rare in Tahiti that it can be considered as extinct or nearly extinct on this island. Hunting and deforestation has affected the colony presents on Makatea. The main danger now lies in the introduction or the spontaneous arrival of Harrier Gould (Circus approximans) in this island. This predator is probably responsible for the reduction or even extinction of Tahiti and Moorea’s rupe.  Makatea is only 240 km away.

It is therefore likely to be spontaneously colonized by these strong flier birds. Faced with this possibility, the vigilance of the villagers is crucial. Any intrusion of this predator in the sky of Makatea should be reported promptly to the competent authorities and organizations (Direction of Environment, SOP) and the animal removed quickly. Moreover, the arrival of the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), or other species, potential vector of avian disease could also, and quickly decimate this last population. According to our estimations (2001), there are only 250 individuals (180-400) on the island of rupe Makatea.

The species is listed in category A of the list of species protected by the territorial regulations of French Polynesia. It is classified as “Endangered” (EN) on the IUCN Red List and “Vulnérable” (VU) on the France and Polynesia 2015 Red List.