Marquesan ground-dove -- 灰头鸡鸠 (Gallicolumba rubescens)

Marquesan ground-dove perched, side view
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Marquesan ground-dove fact file

Marquesan ground-dove description

GenusGallicolumba (1)

The Marquesan ground-dove is a little known ground-dwelling bird restricted to two small islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. The head and chest of this small species is ashy grey, while the rest of the body is mostly black, except for variable patches of white on the wings and tail, and reddish-purple feathers on the shoulders and upper back. Females tend to have a slightly darker sooty-grey head and chest, and less white on the wings and tail, while the duller juveniles have very little white (2) (3). The call of the Marquesan ground dove is a raspy snarl (3).

Also known as
Marquesan ground dove.
Length: 20 cm (2)

Marquesan ground-dove biology

Owing to its remote location, very little is known about the natural history of the Marquesan ground-dove. Being a weak and reluctant flier, this bird spends much of its time on the ground and often walks with its wings drooped, such that that the white wing patches are visible (2) (4). In the wild, it is reported to feed primarily on seeds, with almost all foraging occurring on the ground (2) (3). There is no information on its breeding behaviour in the wild, but captive birds build a typical pigeon nest in which two eggs are laid and then incubated for 13 to 15 days (2) (4).


Marquesan ground-dove range

The Marquesan ground-dove is only found on two uninhabited islands, Fatu Huku and Hatuta`a, in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Partially fossilised remains from three other islands indicate that this species was probably originally distributed throughout the entire archipelago (2) (3).


Marquesan ground-dove habitat

Inhabits wooded regions, Pisonia groves and shrubby vegetation (3).


Marquesan ground-dove status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Marquesan ground-dove threats

The greatest threat to the Marquesan ground-dove is the introduction of predators, especially cats, to the two small islands it inhabits. Indeed, the extirpation of this species from the other islands in the archipelago is thought likely to be attributable to predation by cats (2) (3). Until recently, the total population size was thought to be in the low hundreds, but surveys conducted in 2007 revealed that the species is considerably more abundant, with approximately 1,000 individuals on Hatuta`a (3). Following the release of the new data, the Marquesan ground-dove was down-listed in 2008 from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (1) (3).


Marquesan ground-dove conservation

Although the island of Hatuta`a, home to the most significant population of Marquesan ground-doves, is officially a protected area, there is currently no active management on the island. The population on both islands need to be monitored regularly and measures need to be implemented to ensure the islands remain cat-free. The possibility of starting a new population via translocation to the nearby island of Mohotani has also been suggested, provided cats can be eradicated (3).

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

Find out more

To find out more about the Marquesan ground-dove, see:



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The act of keeping eggs warm so that development is possible.


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2008)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World – Sandgrouse To Cuckoos. Vol. 4. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2009)
  4. Gifford, E.W. (1925) The Gray-hooded Quail Dove (Gallicolurmba rubescens) of the Marquesas Islands, in captivity. Auk, 42: 388-396.

Image credit

Marquesan ground-dove perched, side view  
Marquesan ground-dove perched, side view

© Philippe Raust

Philippe Raust
Société d'Ornithologie de la Polynésie


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