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Nilgiri Woodpigeon Columba elphinstonii
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This pigeon qualifies as Vulnerable owing to its small, declining population; a consequence of the widespread destruction of its forest habitat.

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.

42 cm. Large pigeon with mostly chestnut-maroon upperparts and greyish head and underparts. Prominent black-and-white patterned hindneck. Uniform dark slaty tail. Juveniles have less distinct neck pattern and are duller above with chestnut fringing on mantle and wing-coverts. Similar spp. Mountain Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia lacks hindneck markings and has dark band across base of tail. Voice Loud who, followed by deep 3-4 note who-who-who.

Distribution and population
Columba elphinstonii is endemic to the hill-ranges of the Western Ghats, south-west India, occurring from north-west Maharashtra south, through Karnataka and Goa, to southern Kerala and western Tamil Nadu. It was once considered common and widespread, but has undergone a major decline, which is thought to be continuing owing to on-going forest loss. Most recent records come from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where it still appears to be locally common.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature 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 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals (P. O. Nameer in litt. 2003).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate, based on on-going rates of habitat loss and potential hunting pressure.

It is virtually confined to moist evergreen and semi-evergreen forest, including densely wooded ravines and hollows ("sholas"), chiefly in foothills and mountains up to c.2,250 m, but there have been an increasing number of records in the lowlands down to 50 m (J. Praveen in litt. 2007). Breeding has been exclusively recorded from natural forest but it does forage in 'Wattle' plantations and occasionally visits moist deciduous forest, Pinus and Eucalyptus plantations to roost and preen (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2006). It is absent from tea and Acacia plantations. Most breeding takes place in montane temperate (shola) forests above 2,000 m and in very low densities in evergreen forests in mid-altitudes at 900 to 1,800 m (L. Vijayan in litt. 2007). It appears to make some nomadic movements in response to food availability and perhaps colder weather suggesting that its dispersal range is much larger than for most other species in the Western Ghats (J. Praveen in litt. 2007). A study of its diet using direct observations and faecal sampling indicated that it feeds on the fruits of at least 39 plant species, the seeds of 11 species, flowers and leaf buds of four species and some ground-dwelling invertebrates (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2010). The same study found that fruits of species in the family Lauraceae were the most preferred. The species forages mainly by gleaning, predominantly at the edges of the upper and middle canopy, and the frequency of fruit consumption is correlated with fruit abundance (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2010). It generally breeds in March-July but has been recorded starting in November-December (Subramanya 2005).

Historically, it was hunted for food and sport, which probably contributed to its decline. Currently, the loss, degradation and increasing fragmentation of forest are a greater concern. In Maharashtra, forest cover is declining because of shifting cultivation and collection of timber for fuel and building. A massive 47% of evergreen/semi-evergreen forest was lost in the Kerala portion of the Western Ghats between 1961 and 1988, principally as a result of conversion to plantations, cash-crops, and clearance for human settlements and development projects. This apparently continued with c.25% of forest cover lost within its range during the 20 years prior to 1997 (S. Somasundaram in litt.), and forest loss continues to date (L. Vijayan in litt. 2007). In certain portions of its range (e.g. Goa) hunting is still considered a threat.

Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in India and occurs in at least 16 protected areas, most in Kerala, including three national parks, 10 wildlife sanctuaries, one tiger reserve and two reserve forests. A remote sensing project is planned to attempt to delimit the range and assess rates of forest loss (L. Vijayan in litt. 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct research into seasonal movements and identify key sites. Establish protected areas where necessary, ensure these sites are effectively safeguarded, and promote sustainable exploitation of forests throughout the Western Ghats. Encourage the protection of all habitat types used by the species (Somasundaram and Vijayan 2010). Conserve and propagate preferred fruiting trees (Subramanya in litt. 2012). Campaign for significant reductions in the conversion of natural forest to plantation. Promote community-based conservation initiatives focusing on alternatives to deforestation and restoration of disturbed natural habitats within its range.

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

Somasundaram, S.; Vijayan, L. 2006. Impact of habitat alteration on the globally threatened Nilgiri Wood Pigeon in the Western Ghats, India. Journal of Ornithology 147(5): 255.

Somasundaram, S.; Vijayan, L. 2010. Foraging ecology of the globally threatened Nilgiri Wood Pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) in the Western Ghats, India. Chinese Birds 1(1): 9-21.

Subramanya, S. 2005. Nesting of Nilgiri Wood-pigeon Columba elphinstonii at Nandi Hills, Karnataka, India. Indian Birds: 36-37.

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., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Peet, N., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Allinson, T

Praveen, J., Somasundaram, S., Vijayan, L., Subramanya, S., Vinod, U.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Columba elphinstonii. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Columbidae (Pigeons, Doves)
Species name author (Sykes, 1833)
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 133,000 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species