Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National Multi-species Recovery Plan for the Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii smithii, Crested Shrike-tit, Falcunculus frontatus whitei, Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae kimberli and Masked Owl Tiwi Islands Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis 2004-2009 (Woinarski, J.C.Z, 2004) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species Information Sheet: Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii smithii (Woinarski, J., 2006d) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NT: Listed as Vulnerable* (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
WA: Listed as P4 (Priority Flora and Priority Fauna List (Western Australia): April 2014 list)
NGO: Listed as Vulnerable (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Geophaps smithii smithii [64441]
Family Columbidae:Columbiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Jardine & Selby, 1830)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Northern Territory: At the species level, Geophaps smithii is listed as Vulnerable under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000.

Scientific name: Geophaps smithii smithii

Common name: Partridge Pigeon (eastern)

There are two subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon. The eastern subspecies Geophaps smithii smithii occurs in the Top End of the Northern Territory. The western subspecies (G. s. blaauwi) is confined to the Kimberley Division of Western Australia. These subspecies differ in colour of the bare facial skin around the eye which is red in G. s. smithii and yellow in G. s. blaauwi. The two subspecies are allopatric (they do not overlap in range) (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Partridge Pigeons are squat, dull brown birds, standing between 25-28 cm high. The head pattern is distinctive, with a heavy black bill, white eye, prominant red facial skin outlined in white. The breast is pinkish brown with prominant white sides, forming a large V shape (Pizzey & Knight 1999).

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon is usually seen in pairs or small flocks, but it has been recorded in flocks of a hundred or more birds late in the dry season (Frith 1982b; Higgins & Davies 1996).

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon occurs only in sub-coastal areas of the northern Northern Territory. Most records are in Kakadu National Park and between Katherine and Darwin, but this may be because these are the most accessible parts of its range. The Partridge Pigeon (eastern) is known to occur in the Litchfield National Park (NRETA 2006) and has been recorded at several locations along the Litchfield Park Road to the northeast of a proposed tailings storage facility associated with the approved Browns Oxide Project (BOP). It has also been recorded within the BOP mineral lease area (Compass Resources NL 2007: Referral 2007/3558). The subspecies occurs on the Tiwi Islands, near the McKinley River, the Daly River, Finniss River and west of Katherine (Garnett & Crowley 2000). There has been a single sighting of it near Kununurra (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

The range of the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon has contracted by more than 50% since the late 1800s (Franklin 1999a; Fraser 2001; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Higgins & Davies 1996). In the past, its range extended to the Keep River drainage basin in the southwest, and to the Borroloola area in the southeast, but contracted severely from the western, eastern and southern parts of its former distribution, mainly during the early part of the 20th century (Higgins & Davies 1996; Schodde & Mason 1997). This range contraction is possibly continuing (Franklin 1999a).

There are no reliable estimates of the size of the population of the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon. Garnett & Crowley (2000) gave an estimate of 15 000 breeding birds, but stated that the reliability of that estimate was low. A survey in an area of Kakadu National Park where they are considered locally abundant found an average of one Partridge Pigeon per 5 ha of habitat surveyed (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

Franklin (1999a) documented a decline in abundance of the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon within the current distribution.

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon lives primarily in open forest and woodland dominated by Darwin Stringybark Eucalyptus tetrodonta and Darwin Woollybutt E. miniata that has a structurally diverse understorey (Braithwaite 1985; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Higgins & Davies 1996).

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon nests on the ground, usually where there is plenty of vegetation cover (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.; Frith 1982b). It prefers to forage where the ground layer is open, or on bare ground in recently burnt areas (Fraser 2001; Frith 1982b; Higgins & Davies 1996). It drinks at freshwater springs, pools and waterholes, sometimes among rocks or in creek beds containing pools of water (Frith 1982b; Higgins & Davies 1996). It usually roosts on the ground among thick ground cover (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.; Higgins & Davies 1996).

Very little is known of the breeding of the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon in the wild. Its nest consists of a shallow depression lined with grass or leaves (Frith 1982b; Le Souëf 1902). It has been known to lay eggs in all months of the year, although the bulk of nesting occurs in the early to mid dry season (Fraser 2001). From an analysis of its reproductive organs, it reaches the peak of its sexual cycle in the middle of the dry season (Frith 1982b).

Its clutch usually consists of two creamy white eggs (Le Souëf 1902; North 1901-14), and its nest is tightly attended in shifts by both parents (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.). If disturbed, chicks are capable of running from the nest when they are around ten days old (Frith 1982b). In captivity, if eggs are removed from the nest the Partridge Pigeon quickly lays second and third clutches, but it will also regularly abandon the eggs without apparent reason (Dowling 1993).

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon feed on a wide variety of seeds from grasses, legumes, herbs and also shrubs and trees. It rarely consumes insects (Fraser 2001; Frith et al. 1976). Early in the dry season, seed of annual sorghum is preferred where it is available. However, early in the wet season, seed of perennial grasses is crucial. A resource bottleneck occurs in the early wet season as available seed rapidly germinates following rains.

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon appears to rely on perennial grass species which set seed relatively early (e.g. Chrysopogon fallax and Alloteropsis semialata) (Fraser 2001).

The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon feeds on the ground, and forages singly, in pairs or in flocks of between five and 40 birds (Fraser 2001; Higgins & Davies 1996). During the dry season it will walk at least 2 km to water at least every second day, usually in the mid-morning or late afternoon, but it will come to water throughout day (Fraser 2001).

The Partridge Pigeon is relatively sedentary. If there is permanent water nearby, it will occupy the same area throughout the year. Where local water sources are depleted late in the dry season, it will temporarily migrate on foot up to 10 km to the nearest available water. Following the onset of the wet season, it will walk back to its original home range (Fraser 2001).

The Partridge Pigeon has a small seasonal home range (8 to 31 ha, on average 8 ha during the dry season and expanding to over 30 ha when seed becomes scarce in the early wet season) (Fraser 2001).

Detectability
Late in the wet season, before the understorey is broken up by early dry season burns, the Partridge Pigeon is commonly seen on roadsides (Fraser 2001).

Recommended Methods
The eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon can be surveyed using area searches or transect surveys of suitable habitat. It can be detected by flushing it from cover, or by identifying its call. Systematic surveys of the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon have been conducted in areas of Kakadu National Park during the early dry season. The survey method involved a group of people, each separated by 10 m, walking in a front through the savanna and counting Partridge Pigeons flushed from the understorey (Fraser 2001).

Land use activities such as vegetation clearing, overgrazing and particularly the change from patchy fires over time to a late dry season fire regime can result in detrimental changes to the structure and floristic composition of the open forest and woodland habitat occupied by the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

Aboriginal people formerly burnt in a way that produced a spatial diversity of vegetation structures. These appear to be required by the Partridge Pigeon. Although early fires burn some nests, their absence means that late dry season fires promote a uniform vegetation of tall annual sorghum. Fires which are large and intense threaten this subspecies as they remove nesting, shelter and roosting habitat. Hot fires can also destroy seed and perennial grasses (M. Lewis 2002, pers. comm.; Woinarski 1990). Large and hot fires often occur late in the dry season where the savanna has not been broken up by sufficient early dry season burning. Most areas in which this subspecies persists are still under Aboriginal management or a fire regime that promotes a mosaic of fire ages, including wet season burns, which control sorghum (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Grazing by introduced herbivores (e.g. cattle and buffalo) is a threat to the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon as it can diminish the availability and seed abundance of perennial grasses that are important in the early wet season (Fraser 2001; M. Lewis 2002, pers. comm.).

Land use activities which reduce the availability of permanent water sources (e.g. springs and soaks) may also threaten populations of the Partridge Pigeon which rely on these water sources during the late dry season (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

Degradation of waterholes by cattle and traditional hunting were considered to be possible threats in Garnett (1993), but are now considered to be insignificant (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Nothing is known of the impact of predation by feral cats on the Partridge Pigeon (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

The Partridge Pigeon prefers to feed in recently burnt areas, but shelter, roost and nest in vegetated areas. Therefore, fire practices which result in a structurally patchy understorey at a small spatial scale are probably important (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

A fire regime which results in a fine-scale patchwork of burnt and unburnt areas is recommended for the eastern subspecies of the Partridge Pigeon. Small-scale burning, beginning early in the dry season, are recommended to open up areas for foraging and also leave patches of denser vegetation intact for nesting, roosting and shelter from predators. However, leaving some areas unburnt for one to two years is recommended to promote perennial grasses. These provide seed early in the wet season, and continue to produce abundant seed later in the year. Preventing overgrazing of important perennial grasses by cattle or buffalo, particularly during the early wet season when they are producing seed, is also recommended (F.J. Fraser 2002, pers. comm.).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Geophaps smithii smithii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ke) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Geophaps smithii smithii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ke) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Bubalus bubalis (Water Buffalo, Swamp Buffalo) Geophaps smithii smithii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ke) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Geophaps smithii smithii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ke) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Geophaps smithii smithii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ke) [Internet].

Braithwaite, R.W. (1985). The Kakadu fauna survey: an ecological survey of Kakadu National Park. Canberra: Australian National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Compass Resources, N.L. (2007). Referral of Proposed Action: Browns Oxide Project - New Tailings Storage Facility. Referral 2007/3558. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Dowling, D. (1993). Partridge Pigeon. Australian Aviculture. 47:229-30.

Franklin, D.C. (1999a). Evidence of disarray amongst granivorous bird assemblages in the savannas of northern Australia, a region of sparse human settlement. Biological Conservation. 90:53-68.

Fraser, F.J. (2001). The impacts of fire and grazing on the Partridge Pigeon: the ecological requirements of a declining tropical granivore. Ph.D. Thesis. Aust. National University, Canberra.

Fraser, F.J. (2002). Personal communication.

Frith, H.J. (1982b). Pigeons and Doves of Australia. Melbourne: Rigby.

Frith, H.J., F.H.J. Crome & T.O. Wolfe (1976). Food of fruit-pigeons in New Guinea. Emu. 76:49-58.

Garnett, S.T., ed. (1993). Threatened and Extinct Birds of Australia. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Report 82 2nd (corrected) Edition. Melbourne: Royal Australian Ornithology Union and Canberra: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Le Souëf, D. (1903). Descriptions of birds eggs from Port Darwin District, Northern Australia. Emu. 2:85-96.

Lewis, M. (2002). Personal communication.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

North, A.J. (1901-1914). Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum.

Pizzey, G. & F. Knight (1999). The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Pymble, Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1997). Aves (Columbidae to Coracidae). In: Houston, W.W.K. & A. Wells, eds. Zoological Catologue of Australia. 37.2. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing.

Woinarski, J. (2006d). Threatened Species Information Sheet: Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii smithii. [Online]. Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts. Available from: http://lrm.nt.gov.au/plants-and-animals/threatened-species/specieslist.

Woinarski, J.C.Z (2004). National Multi-species Recovery Plan for the Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii smithii, Crested Shrike-tit, Falcunculus frontatus whitei, Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae kimberli and Masked Owl Tiwi Islands Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis 2004-2009. [Online]. Darwin: Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure Planning and Environment. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/smithii-whitei-kimberli-melvillensis/index.html.

Woinarski, J.C.Z. (1990). Effects of fire on the bird communities of tropical woodlands and open forests in northern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology. 15:1--22.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Geophaps smithii smithii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sun, 21 Sep 2014 13:11:42 +1000.