Wetar ground dove -- 韦岛鸡鸠 (Gallicolumba hoedtii)

Wetar ground dove in the hands of a scientist
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Wetar ground dove fact file

Wetar ground dove description

GenusGallicolumba (1)

With no official sightings for over a hundred years on the island after which it was named, the Wetar ground-dove has been considered one of the world’s least known birds (3). The male has a light blue-grey head becoming whiter on the throat. The hindneck is reddish-brown, fading on the sides of the neck to a cream breast. The underparts are dark brown-grey to dull black and the chestnut upperparts are characterised by a narrow, iridescent purple band on the sides of the breast (2). The somewhat duller female is much more uniform in colour, with a light rusty-chestnut head, neck and breast, and olive-brown belly and upperparts (4). The typical call of the Wetar ground-dove is a short and soft, yet penetrating, two-note whu-wup or du-wup, occasionally followed by a brief guttural trrr (5).

Length: 27 cm (2)

Wetar ground dove biology

The little-known Wetar ground-dove occurs mostly in pairs and small groups (7), although a large gathering of at least 40 birds has been recorded feeding on fallen or low-hanging fruit from a fig tree (6) (8). Like other ground-doves, this species always forages on the ground for food, but it appears to nest and call in the canopy (4). It has been suggested that its du-wup trrr call may be territorial (5). Areas associated with permanent water probably serve as important breeding habitats, as breeding is thought to take place in the dry season (5).


Wetar ground dove range

The Wetar ground-dove is found only on the islands of Wetar (Indonesia), Redong (a small island off the coast of Wetar), and Timor (Indonesia and Timor-Leste) in Southeast Asia (5).


Wetar ground dove habitat

The Wetar ground-dove inhabits monsoon forest and possibly woodland, up to 950 metres above sea level (4). Recent observations in both Wetar and Timor suggest that the Wetar ground-dove is most commonly found below 250 metres in narrow strips of tropical forest alongside wide streams (5) (6).


Wetar ground dove status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Wetar ground dove threats

The Wetar ground-dove population is estimated to be in the low thousands on Wetar and its tame nature and specialised habitat use places it under threat (6). Wetar is regarded as one of the most biologically intact islands in Indonesia, but there is a strong push for development from both the Indonesian government and local inhabitants (6). Habitat loss from gold mining, road construction, timber logging and agricultural expansion represents a major threat, in addition to hunting in lowland forest and climate change (6) (8).

The Wetar ground-dove population on Timor is believed to be much smaller due to extensive deforestation and hunting. Small areas of monsoon forest remain in three Important Bird Areas in East Timor, while forest patches in West Timor are fast-declining due to intensive grazing and burning (4).


Wetar ground dove conservation

Wetar has some of the most intact monsoon forest in Asia and is consequently home to large populations of a number of endemic bird species, making conservation of this forest crucial. The Bekau Huhun Nature Reserve currently covers a large area in central-west Wetar; however, the boundary does not yet extend to the Naumatang Gorge area, where the Wetar ground-dove is locally common (6). In Timor, there is a WWF initiative to extend the Gunung Mutis protected area in West Timor and designate the area a National Park, and further areas important for the islands’ endemic bird species have been identified (4).Several reserves have also been proposed in Timor-Leste to protect some of the remaining forest (8).

Further surveys have been recommended, to determine the population status and distribution of the Wetar ground-dove. This species would also benefit from further studies into its biology, with assessments on the main threats to its survival. Furthermore, mapping vegetation and water courses will reveal critical habitats and help to identify key sites that support Wetar ground-dove populations for future protection (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn about the conservation of doves and pigeons see:

To find out about wildlife conservation in Indonesia see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



Authenticated (20/08/10) by Colin Trainor, Charles Darwin University.

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Important Bird Areas
Key sites for conservation, chosen by the bird conservation charity BirdLife International, based on the occurrence of bird species threatened with extinction.
Monsoon forest
A tropical forest occurring in regions where there is a marked dry season followed by torrential rains.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Columbidae Conservation (2008) Endangered Wetar ground-dove “rediscovered” on Wetar Island, Indonesia. Columbidae Conservation News, 21(4):1.
  4. BirdLife International (May, 2010)
  5. Lambert, F.R., Trainor, C.R. and Xavier, A.F. (2006) Observations of Wetar ground-dove Gallicolumba hoedtii from Timor-Leste (East Timor). Forktail, 22: 165-170.
  6. Trainor, C.R, Imanuddin, F.A. and Walker, J.S. (2009) The Status and Conservation of the Endangered Wetar Ground-Dove (Gallicolumba hoedtii) and other Wildlife on Wetar Island, Indonesia, 2008. Technical Report No. 1. Columbidae Conservation, Manchester, UK.
  7. Trainor, C.R. (2010) Pers. comm.
  8. Trainor, C.R., Imanuddin, Firmann, A., Verbelen, P. and Walker, J.S. (2009) The birds of Wetar, Banda Sea: one of Indonesia’s forgotten islands. BirdingASIA, 12: 78-93.
  9. Trainor, C.R., Santana, F., Pinto, P., Xavier, A.F., Safford, R. and Grimmett, R. (2008) Birds, birding and conservation in Timor-Leste. BirdingASIA, 9: 16-45.

Image credit

Wetar ground dove in the hands of a scientist  
Wetar ground dove in the hands of a scientist

© Colin Trainor / Charles Darwin University

Colin Trainor


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