email a friend
printable version
Black Cuckoo-dove Turacoena modesta
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species is classified as Near Threatened because, although recent surveys in Timor-Leste have shown it to be more abundant than once feared and to inhabit a wider range of habitats, it is still suspected to be declining moderately rapidly owing to hunting and habitat loss.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

38.5 cm. Medium-sized, dark, slender dove. Dark bluish-slate, paler on head and underparts and almost black on long wings and tail. Greenish iridescence on crown, nape, neck, breast and upper mantle. Yellow orbital skin. Similar spp. White-throated Pigeon Columba vitiensis metallica is more stocky and shorter-tailed, has red legs, red-and-yellow bill and is highly glossed with purple and green. Voice Six-second, accelerating series of medium-pitched, upslurred, disyllabic hoo-wuk notes.

Distribution and population
Turacoena modesta is restricted to Timor-Leste, West Timor and Wetar, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, where it is generally uncommon or rare. Historical records indicate that it was once fairly common, at least locally on Wetar and in West Timor, even near settlements. A paucity of recent records, despite extensive searching, suggests that a marked decline has occurred in West Timor. However, recent survey work in Timor-Leste revealed it to be frequent in a wide range of habitats, and surveys of Wetar in 2008 showed it to be "widespread and fairly common" at all tropical forest sites (Trainor et al. 2004, 2009).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Based on recent observations in Timor-Leste, there is no evidence of a decline of more than 30% over ten years (C. Trainor in litt. 2005).

It inhabits primary and tall secondary monsoon-forest, often where this habitat is drier or more open, and also vine thickets, thickly vegetated gullies and eucalyptus woodland with dense understorey, from sea-level to 1,770 m (Mauro 2003, C. Trainor in litt. 2005). As it has been found in "more or less open areas near villages", it probably has a degree of tolerance to habitat degradation, and in Timor-Leste appears to be more common in patchy landscapes: forest edge, secondary forest, woodland with scattered figs, Eucalyptus savanna or non-Eucalyptus woodlands with tropical forest trees in gullies or on scattered rock outcrops (C. Trainor in litt. 2005). Singles or pairs forage in the lower-middle storey, with groups congregating at fruiting trees (C. Trainor in litt. 2005), and it probably moves seasonally in response to fruiting patterns.

Loss of monsoon-forest has been severe in its range, with an estimated 50% decline in Timor-Leste's remaining montane forest cover during Indonesian rule (1975-1999). Monsoon forests now cover an estimated 4% of West Timor, scattered in about seven unprotected patches that are continually declining in size owing to excessive grazing and burning. On Wetar, while much forest is inaccessible, that near the coast is under continuing pressure from agriculture and logging. Mining and road building are also potential threats on the island, although their impacts have been limited to date (Trainor et al. 2009). However, habitat loss may not be a severe threat as the species is highly mobile and presumably able to access necessary fruit resources over a large area (C. Trainor in litt. 2005). Pigeons are hunted intensively on Timor, and the species allows close approach and concentrates at fruiting trees, rendering it susceptible to hunters; local villagers have stated that 20-30 birds/day could be shot by focusing on fruiting trees (C. Trainor in litt. 2005).

Conservation Actions Underway
Several protected areas have been proposed in West Timor, and one on Wetar. The most important for the species are likely to be Gunung Mutis/Timau, Bipolo and Camplong, on West Timor, and Gunung Arnau on Wetar. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to clarify its current distribution, status, ecological requirements and threats. Propose key sites for establishment as strict protected areas. Support initiatives to establish a protected area encompassing Gunung Mutis and Gunung Timau, West Timor. Initiate conservation awareness programmes to reduce forest loss and hunting.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Mauro, I. 2003. New and significant ornithological records from Asia’s newest country: Timor LesteMauro, I..

Trainor, C. R., Imanuddin, Aldy, F., Verbelen, P. and Walker, J. S. 2009. The birds of Wetar, Banda Sea: one of Indonesia's forgotten islands. BirdingASIA 12: 78-93.

Trainor, C. R.; Santana, F.; Xavier, A.; dos Santos, L.; Xavier, F.; dos Lorenzo, J. 2004. Status of globally threatened, near threatened and restricted-range birds and internationally significant biodiversity sites in Timor-Leste (East Timor) based on participatory surveys.

Trainor, C. R.; Santana, F.; Xavier, A.; Xavier, F.; Da Silva, A. 2004. Status of globally threatened birds and internationally significant sites in East Timor based on rapid participatory biodiversity assessments - with particular reference to the Nino Conis Santana National Park (NCSNP).

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Davidson, P., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., Mahood, S., Taylor, J., Tobias, J.

Trainor, C.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Turacoena modesta. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Columbidae (Pigeons, Doves)
Species name author (Temminck, 1835)
Population size 1500-7000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 31,200 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species