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Wompoo Fruit-Dove 

Ptilinopus magnificus

Family: Columbidae
Order: Columbiformes

Conservation status

Federal - Secure
NSW – Vulnerable. In June 2010 The NSW Scientific Committee determined that the Wompoo Fruit-dove be listed as Vulnerable under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995


Average weight: 156 g
Breeding season: July to January- dependant on weather conditions
Clutch size: 1

Native Distribution
Australia, New Guinea & (Indonesia?)


Species Description:

The Wompoo Fruit-dove is the largest Australian Fruit-dove measuring 35-45cm in length. It is perhaps the most beautiful of all the doves found in Australia, and both sexes are similar in plumage. The back and wings are green with a prominent yellow wing-bar. The species has rich purple plumage under its neck and on the chest and upper belly. The lower belly is yellow. The head is pale grey, the bill is orange-red with yellow tip and the iris is red-orange. Legs and feet are yellow green.Both sexes have similar plumage. Young birds are duller and greener than adults.
The most characteristic calls are a deep ‘wollack-wa-hoo, or a quieter ‘wompoo’ .

Taxonomy:

Seven subspecies of Wompoo Fruit-dove are recognised; four in New Guinea and three in Australia. The subspecies in Australia are separated geographically and each is restricted to one of the three main blocks of rainforest habitat along the east coast. Ptilinopus m. magnifica occurs from central eastern New South Wales to central eastern Queensland; P. m. keri, in north-eastern Queensland; and P. m. assimilis, in northern Cape York Peninsula.


Distribution of populations:


Historically in Australia, the Wompoo Fruit-dove was found from the Illawarra district in NSW to the tip of Cape York Peninsula, however the most southerly populations have now disappeared, most likely due to habitat clearance. Currently in NSW, the species is distributed along the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range from the Queensland border south to the Hunter River

Breeding of the Wompoo Fruit-dove in NSW is mainly confined to the area from the Queensland border south to Coffs Harbour and the Dorrigo Plateau. The core breeding range occurs at mid to high elevation sites around the Mt Warning and Focal Peak shield volcanoes, although important breeding areas also occur in the Washpool- Chaelundi area and Dorrigo Plateau. In far north NSW, breeding extends to lower elevations.


Breeding biology

Breeding of the Wompoo Fruit-dove takes place from late winter to mid-summer; varying in response to suitable weather conditions.
Both sexes share in the construction of the nest which is a small, sturdy, flat platform made from forked twigs and is usually positioned low in the tree, between 2-10 m from the ground. A single white egg is laid, and both sexes share the incubation and care of the chick. Only one chick is raised in a season, but birds may breed a second time if the first attempt fails.

Key habitat requirements

In NSW, the Wompoo Fruit-dove occurs in patches of subtropical rainforest and adjoining wet
sclerophyll habitats but has also been recorded using single trees in farmland. They appear to be most abundant in warmer, mature rainforests dominated by Ficus and less common in fragments.
In 2004 Moran classified the Wompoo Fruit-dove as a ‘decreaser’ on the basis that it was significantly more common in extensive rainforest (2.65 birds per count) than in remnants (1.00 bird per count) or regrowth (0 birds per count).
Much of the habitat of the Wompoo Fruit-dove has now been heavily modified. Unlike the Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, the Wompoo Fruit-dove does not appear to have altered its behaviour to exploit weedy exotic vegetation and therefore does not seem to greatly benefit from the proliferation in northern NSW of species such as Camphor Laurel. The Wompoo Fruit-dove makes a significant contribution to ecological functioning in rainforests through their dispersal of the seeds of rainforest plants. Due to their relatively large gape, Wompoo Fruit-doves are particularly important to the dispersal of trees bearing fruit too large to be taken by other frugivorous species.


Diet

The Wompoo Fruit-dove is an obligate frugivore, feeding on a variety of rainforest fruits. Often fruits are large and eaten whole. Most foraging is done high in the canopy, but the species will also secure food in the lower storeys of the forest or forage on the forest floor. The Wompoo Fruit-dove selectively forages on species that are more common in well-developed rainforest than in regrowth. Fruit is taken from palms (Arecaceae), vines (Vitaceae) and trees in the families Araliaceae, Cunoniaceae, Ebenaceae, Elaeocarpaceae, Lauraceae, Meliaceae, Moraceae, Myrtaceae, Oleaceae, Pennantiaceae, Rutaceae and Sapindaceae . Individual mature paddock trees such as figs may also be visited during fruiting. During cooler months, Wompoo Fruit-doves move from their summer breeding habitat to feed on winter fruiting species such as Melia azedarach (White Cedar) and remnant figs within unreserved farmland and regrowth . Although the species shows a preference away from these more isolated habitats, in times of food scarcity these areas become significant.


Social biology

Wompoo Fruit-doves usually occur singly or in pairs, although sometimes small to large groups congregate at food sources

Territoriality/home range


The Wompoo Fruit-dove does not travel large distances, but rather moves around in small localised areas in response to food availability and nesting requirements. Nevertheless, the species has a seasonal altitudinal migration, spending time in upland forests during summer and moving to lower elevations during winter. Occasionally, particularly during autumn and winter when rainforest fruit is scarce, individuals will move up to 15 km to temporarily occupy more open country.
The species has an estimated home range requirement of approximately 20 ha when breeding. The Wompoo Fruit-dove is usually described as sedentary or locally nomadic, but individuals are known to travel some distances in cooler months in search of food. They are considered to have a ‘high dispersal ability’, however, as the species shows a preference to disperse within continuous habitat it is inferred to be susceptible to habitat fragmentation.


Life Span

 It is thought the life span of the Wompoo Fruit-dove is five years.


Number of mature individuals:


The Wompoo Fruit-dove is considered uncommon in NSW, with highest densities occurring in extensive rainforest patches with mature canopies. In 1995 the NSW population of the Wompoo Fruit-dove was estimated as more than 7 000 birds.


Threats:

The main threat to the Wompoo Fruit-dove is the clearing and fragmentation of subtropical rainforest. Although much of the higher altitude breeding habitat for Wompoo Fruit-doves is now protected within conservation reserves, important patches of non-breeding lowland habitat are currently unreserved and hence remain vulnerable to clearing. The large-scale clearing of subtropical rainforest in NSW early last century destroyed much of the most productive habitat of Wompoo Fruit-doves and current populations are restricted due to the limited area of this resource. The species appears to be declining in northern NSW following this widespread rainforest clearing and fragmentation around the Richmond, Clarence, Tweed, Nymboida and Orara River Valleys.
 It is predicted that there will be further declines of fruit-doves generally if there are further declines in rainforest habitat
 Over the past one to two decades there appears to be no evidence that the Wompoo Fruit-dove has expanded its overall range in NSW (particularly the breeding range) nor has population density increased.


 Severe fragmentation:


As a result of past clearing for urban development and agriculture, the habitat of the Wompoo Fruit-dove is now severely fragmented. Although the species can travel between isolated fragments, it shows preference for movement through continuous habitat and may be at risk of population fragmentation in heavily cleared landscapes.


Other risks include;

  •  Bird strike on windows which appears to be on the increase.
  • The disturbance in rainforest reserves from increased recreation by tourists is also a  potential threat to the species
    The Wompoo Fruit-dove was formerly hunted as game, but has not been hunted since 1948

Compiled by Sharon McGrigor


References
Birds in Backyards website,The NSW Scientific Committee determination of status (June 2010), DEC website

Sharon McGrigor
Sharon McGrigor
Image by Sue Ulyatt
Image by Melanie Barsony
Image by Sue Ulyatt
Image by Sue Ulyatt

 

Updated January 11, 2017  

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