email a friend
printable version
Shy Ground-dove Alopecoenas stairi
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has been extirpated throughout much of its range, and the small and fragmented population that remains is suspected to be declining. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

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.

Taxonomic note
Alopecoenas stairi (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Gallicolumba.

Gallicolumba stairi (Gray, 1856)

26 cm. Medium-sized, apparently dark brown terrestrial dove. Overall colour warm rufous-brown, males with greyish nape and crown, both sexes with variable iridescence-lustre on the upperparts. Male always has pinkish breast shield bordered with white. Females are dimorphic in Fiji and Tonga, some bearing a similar breast shield to the male. Similar spp. White-throated Pigeon Columba vitiensis is much larger and less timid, also grey-black and has distinct white throat (except immatures). Also rarely, if ever, seen on the ground in forest. Voice Resonant, mournful coo-a-coo, monotonously repeated. Displaying males perch on branches while cooing.

Distribution and population
Gallicolumba stairi has a discontinuous and poorly-documented distribution in central Polynesia including Fiji, where it is described as scarce on the four larger islands, but common on small offshore islands such as Makodroga and Namenalala (Watling 2000, V. Masibalavu in litt. 2012); Tonga, where a healthy population survives on the isolated and largely undisturbed island of Late (Baptista et al. 1997) with others on Fonualei (D. Watling in litt. 2007), a few smaller islands in Vava'u, and formerly, or perhaps still, on a few islands in the Ha'apai and Nomuka groups; Samoa, where in recent years it has only been seen breeding on the tiny islands of Nu'utele, where the population numbered at least 26 individuals in 2009 (Baptista et al. 1997, A. Tye in litt. 2012), and Nu'ulua, where the population numbered at least 6 individuals in the same year (H. Roberts in litt. 2009, A. Tye in litt. 2012), with one injured bird recovered from the main island of Upolu in 2006 (A. Tye in litt. 2012); American Samoa, where there was a sighting in 1993 on the island of Ofu (Baptista et al. 1997) and another in 1996 on Olosega (H. Freifeld in litt. 1999), and on the islands of Wallis and Futuna (to France). In 1995, the only population found in a study on Vava'u was six birds in a large forest remnant on Uta Vava'u, but this area was being logged and the species is therefore unlikely to survive there (Steadman and Freifeld 1998). Recent surveys have found this species to be widespread but patchy and at low population densities on the larger Fijian islands, recording an average of 0.11 birds/hour equating to c.1 bird/km2, mostly calling males. The species was recorded at about 50% of the sites surveyed (16/34 sites), which were selected to be the densest old-growth rainforest (G. Dutson in litt. 2005). Unlike on Samoa and Tonga, there is no evidence that the species is declining on Fiji faster than the rate of forest loss or degradation which is estimated at 0.5-0.8%/year (Claasen 1991, G. Dutson in litt. 2005). The species remains very rare in American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga and Wallis and Futuna.

Population justification
Recent surveys have found this species to be widespread but patchy and at low population densities on the larger Fijian islands. Surveys recorded an average of 0.11 birds / hour (a total of 54 birds). Estimating an average pace 1 km / hour and an effective detection distance of 50 m each side of the trail suggests that about 1 bird was detected per km2, mostly calling males. There are a number of likely errors in this estimate, especially the number of silent birds overlooked. The species was recorded at about 50% of the sites surveyed (16/34 sites) which were pre-selected to be the densest old-growth rainforest. If it assumed to occur in 50% of the forest, which covers about 40% of the species' Fijian EOO of about 17,500 km2, the total population is estimated to be 2,500-9,999 birds (G. Dutson in litt. 2005). This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
On Fiji the species is declining in line with habitat loss, and probably the affects of introduced mongooses; elsewhere hunting is an additional threat. The species's global population is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate.

It is found in both scrubby bush and bamboo thickets on smaller islands and lowland and montane forest on larger ones. It feeds on seeds, fruit, buds, young leaves, snails, insects and caterpillars on the forest floor and in the undergrowth (Watling 1982, Clunie 1984).

It appears particularly sensitive to disturbance, usually leaving areas with logging or planting activities within days of occurrence, and not re-inhabiting even five years after the cessation of human activity (J. S. Kretzschmar in litt. 2000). The reasons for this may relate to changes in forest characteristics (e.g. leaf-litter, food-resources), structure (e.g. openness) or invasion by ground predators, especially mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus, which are present on both the two larger islands in Fiji (J. S. Kretzschmar in litt. 2000, V. Masibalavu in litt. 2007). The major threat to the small Samoan population is predation by Polynesian rat Rattus exulans (H. Roberts in litt. 2009).

Conservation Actions Underway
This species occurs in a number of protected areas, including Sovi Basin and Taveuni reserves on Fiji, and the Aleipata Islands on Samoa (G. Dutson in litt. 2005). The Aleipata Project was implemented in May 2009 which involved the transfer of the birds from Samoa (Nu'utele and Nu'ulua) to a captive holding and breeding facility on another island. Twenty-three doves are currently being held. After removal, rat poison was broadcast via helicopter over both islands. After rat eradication has been determined successful the birds will be repatriated to the islands (H. Roberts in litt. 2009). This process has been delayed with the re-establishment of rats on Nu'utele, but Nu'ulua may be rat-free (A. Tye in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys throughout its range to assess its distribution, population numbers and conservation requirements. Consider setting aside an area of protected forest. Assess the feasibility of controlling the mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus.

Baptista, L. F.; Trail, P. W.; Horblit, H. M. 1997. Family Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world v.4, pp. 60-243. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Beichle, U. 1991. Status and acoustical demarcation of pigeons of Western Samoa. Notornis 38: 81-86.

Beichle, U. and Baumann, S. 2003. Die Landvoegel der Samoa-Inseln. TenDenZen 1-2: 1-156.

Claasen, D. R. 1991. Deforestation in Fiji: National environment management plan report 2.

Clunie, F. 1984. Birds of the Fiji bush. Fiji Museum, Suva.

Freifeld, H. B.; Steadman, D. W.; Sailer, J. K. 2001. Birds on offshore islands in Samoa. Journal of Field Ornithology 72: 72-85.

Steadman, D. W.; Freifeld, H. B. 1998. Distribution, relative abundance, and habitat relationships of landbirds in the Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga. Condor 100: 609-628.

Watling, D. 1982. The birds of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Millwood Press, Wellington, New Zealand.

Watling, D. 2000. Conservation status of Fijian birds. Technical Group 2 Report - Fiji Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A., Temple, H., Khwaja, N.

Dutson, G., Freifeld, H., Kretzschmar, J., Masibalavu, V., Roberts, H., Solek, C., Watling, D., Tye, A.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Alopecoenas stairi. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 Vulnerable
Family Columbidae (Pigeons, Doves)
Species name author (Gray, 1856)
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,400 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species