- Metallic Pigeon
 - Metallic Pigeon
 - Metallic Pigeon (Metallic)
 - Metallic Pigeon

Metallic Pigeon Columba vitiensis Scientific name definitions

Luis F. Baptista, Pepper W. Trail, H. M. Horblit, and Guy M. Kirwan
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated November 3, 2016

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Editor's Note: This is a shorter format account, originally published in HBW Alive. Please consider contributing your expertise to update and expand this account.


37–41 cm; male 345–430 g, female 268–511 g. A large, dark, heavily built pigeon; back , wings and tail dark grey with variable amounts of greenish to purplish iridescence; chin, throat and cheeks pure white; forehead , crown, neck and underparts deep chestnut with a purple-pink gloss, to slaty brown with purple or green gloss; iris orange or red; feet and legs purplish red; orbital skin maroon; bill purplish red, or red with pale yellow tip. Sexes alike or nearly so, with female typically slightly duller than male. Juvenile similar to adult but duller, with little or no iridescence to underparts. Races differ most notably in amount of iridescence, most prominent in metallica and <em>halmaheira</em> , least so in castaneiceps and anthracina may lack purple in underparts, mantle and wings, has sooty-grey throat patch, and is smaller; also throat more grey than white in griseogularis and metallica.

Systematics History

Editor's Note: This article requires further editing work to merge existing content into the appropriate Subspecies sections. Please bear with us while this update takes place.

Belongs to a group of dark-coloured, iridescent Asian and Australasian forms, including C. janthina, †C. versicolor, †C. jouyi and C. leucomela; C. pallidiceps may also be related. Two of the geographically extreme taxa, metallica of the Lesser Sundas and castaneiceps of Samoa, appear the most distinctive: metallica by its dull mid-grey not white or pale grey throat (but anthracina of Palawan is similar, so no score), and dull darkish-grey belly to vent (3), castaneiceps by its distinctly brownish crown (3), and slaty-grey underparts (2); vocal evidence in both cases is needed. Race castaneiceps has recently been proposed as a full species, on account both to plumage and voice (1). Validity of race †godmanae uncertain, as no specimen exists, the description being based on a painting. Proposed race mendeni (Taliabu, Sula Is) no longer regarded as valid. Eight extant subspecies recognized.



Metallic Pigeon (Metallic) Columba vitiensis [vitiensis Group]


Columba vitiensis griseogularis Scientific name definitions

Philippines, Sulu Archipelago, and islands off N Borneo.


Columba vitiensis anthracina Scientific name definitions

Palawan, probably Calauit, and possibly also some islands off N Borneo.


Columba vitiensis metallica Scientific name definitions

Lesser Sundas.


Columba vitiensis halmaheira Scientific name definitions

Banggai and Sula Is through Moluccas and W Papuan Is to New Guinea, and Bismarck Archipelago then on to Louisiade Archipelago and Solomon Is.


Columba vitiensis leopoldi Scientific name definitions



Columba vitiensis hypoenochroa Scientific name definitions

New Caledonia, I of Pines and Loyalty Is.


Columba vitiensis vitiensis Scientific name definitions



Metallic Pigeon (Samoan) Columba vitiensis castaneiceps Scientific name definitions

Samoa, on Savaii, Apolima, Manono and Upolu.


Editor's Note: Additional distribution information for this taxon can be found in the 'Subspecies' article above. In the future we will develop a range-wide distribution article.


Occurs in a wide variety of forest types, from lowlands to cloud forest, reaching 2750 m in Papua New Guinea. Occurs principally in lowlands in Wallacea, but recorded to 1610 m on Seram (2). In many areas, adapts to disturbed habitats and is encountered in young secondary forest, agroforest, clearings and village gardens.


Apparently somewhat nomadic, undertaking irregular local movements in search of food. Some evidence of inter-island movements, e.g. to and from Sipadau I (off NE Borneo). Flight strong and direct, with steady flapping wingbeats.

Diet and Foraging

Fruits, buds, and seeds; also reported to take caterpillars and snails. Typically forages in bushes and trees , but sometimes feeds on the ground. Wild chilis (Capsicum) and the berries of Solanum (both Solanaceae) are reported to be favourite foods. Occurs singly, in pairs or in small groups of up to 30 birds, and has been reported forming mixed-species roosting flocks with other pigeon species e.g. Ducula mindorensis and D. poliocephala. One flock observed feeding on piles of dried, ground coconut flesh at a coconut-oil factory on Vanua Levu, Fiji; also reported to feed on cultivated rice in Fiji, if other foods unavailable.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Rarely heard, but considered to be most vocal in the early morning (2). Two or three very slow, low-pitched notes, rendered “WOOM woom”, the first louder, higher-pitched and upslurred, the second much quieter and slightly lower-pitched (3, 2). Rather different in Samoan race (castaneiceps): a series of low "coos", reminiscent of the hooting songs of fruit-doves Ptilinopus spp. (1).


Little information on season except from Vanuatu, where species breeds Sept–Feb, occasionally Jul–Aug; a nestling taken in May on Batan, N Philippines; and a female in breeding condition on Flores in late Jun. Flimsy platform of bare twigs, usually 3–8 m up in trees, but sometimes on the ground in thick vegetation. Usually 1 pure white egg, but at E edge of range 2 eggs sometimes reported. In captivity: incubation 17–19 days; fledging 21 days, at which time the young can fly strongly.

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Apparently relatively uncommon or rare throughout much of its range, e.g. only 1 record from E Highlands of New Guinea, but no evidence of serious declines amongst extant races. Race godmanae was formerly abundant and tame on Lord Howe I, but was slaughtered by human settlers and sailors using guns, sticks and stones, until finally extirpated in 1853. Species is common and conspicuous in Fiji; local and generally uncommon in Western Samoa; locally common on islands of Tiga, Mantanani and Maratua, off Borneo; common on Wetar I, Banda Sea, Indonesia (race metallica) (4). Partly protected by law in Vanuatu, where can be legally hunted Apr–Jun inclusive.

Distribution of the Metallic Pigeon
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Metallic Pigeon

Recommended Citation

Baptista, L. F., P. W. Trail, H. M. Horblit, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Metallic Pigeon (Columba vitiensis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.metpig1.01