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Amboyna Cuckoo-Dove - BirdForum Opus

Probable Macropygia amboinensis kerstingi
Photo © by Mehd Halaouate
Taja, Papua, Indonesia, September 2004
Macropygia amboinensis


34–37 cm, 13.4-14.6 inches, 107–179 g


  • Dark orangey brown forehead and face
  • Reddish brown crown
  • Orangey brown sides and back of neck
  • Silver green or silver pink iridescence to edges of neck feathers
  • Orangey brown mantle with blackish speckles
  • Mainly reddish brown upperparts
  • Blackish wing coverts with reddish tips
  • Brownish black primaries and secondaries with outer webs having narrow brownish orange or light brown edges
  • Pale brown throat
  • Golden brown breast with pink tinge with thin black bars and brownish pink tips to feathers, giving breast a mottled look
  • Reddish brown belly and undertail coverts
  • Dark reddish brown central retrices
  • Shorter reddish brown outer retrices with black subterminal band
  • Grey or blue iris with red, yellow or orange outer ring
  • Brown or black beak
  • Red to purple feet


  • Reddish brown forehead and crown with black speckles
  • Lacks iridescent neck feathers
  • Redder and more heavily barred above
  • Blackish wing coverts with broad orangey brown or red brown edges
  • Reddish brown hind neck and upper mantle with fine dark vermiculations
  • Pale streak beneath the eye


  • Similar to female
  • Hindneck, mantle and uppertail covert feathers with black subterminal bars and orangey brown edges
  • Redder underparts that are more closely barred than adults

Similar Species

  • The smaller Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove in New Guinea has a smaller, thicker beak, a reddish brown head, darker underparts, black barring on tail, but no black barring on breast
  • The Mackinlay's Cuckoo-Dove in the Bismarck Archipeligo is also smaller, uniformly more reddish brown, with paler head and underparts
  • The White-faced Cuckoo-Dove in Sulawesi and it's satellites is sooty black with a conspicuous white face
  • The Great Cuckoo-Dove in the Moluccas and New Guinea is much larger and longer tailed, has purplish, reddish brown upperparts and creamy white head and underparts in Moluccas
  • The Pied Cuckoo-Dove in the Bismarck Archipeligo is also larger, shorter tailed with whitish head and underparts, blackish upperparts and tail.

    For subspecies descriptions see Taxonomy


Southern Moluccas to New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, D'Entrecasteaux Archipelago and Louisiade Archipelago.


Formerly treated as conspecific with Brown Cuckoo-Dove from Australia and Sultan's Cuckoo-Dove and the combined species was frequently called Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove.


There are 12 subspecies[1]:

  • M. a. amboinensis:
  • Southern Moluccas (Buru, Seram, Ambon and Seram Laut)
  • M. a. admiralitatis: Have entirely barred underparts
  • Manus (and possibly Mussau), (Admirality Islands)
  • M. a. carteretia: Similar to kerstingi but lighter with more yellow brown on forehead and face of male, light pink breast and light brown underparts. Female is spotted with light yellowish brown on throat and breast (wing 166 mm), but birds from Feni Island are smaller (wing 158 mm), with cold brown upperparts and reduced warmer edges to wing coverts
  • New Hanover (Bismarck Archipelago)
  • M. a. hueskeri: Similar to carteretia, but has darker upperparts and tail, more rufous wing coverts, finely blackishbarred breast. Female has pale streak on ear coverts (wing 165 mm).
  • Bismarck Archipelago (except New Hanover) and Lihir Island
  • M. a. keyensis: Male has paler forehead than nominate, grey crown and nape, strongly and extensively barred underparts. Female has strongly barred hindcrown and mantle, broad reddish brown edges to wing coverts and lacks barring on breast and belly (wing 178 mm);
  • Kai Islands (south-eastern Moluccas)
  • M. a. maforensis: Male has slate grey crown and nape with green iridescence to hindneck, differing from male doreya by lacking conspicuous wine red suffusion to breast and whitish forehead. Female has feathers of smallest wing coverts and rump edged yellowish brown, and throat whitish (wing 165 mm)
  • Numfor Island (Geelvink Bay off northern New Guinea)
  • M. a. griseinucha: Male differs from male doreya by lacking dark barring to underparts, whiter forehead and throat, greyish wine red breast, with lighter undertail coverts and underwing coverts (wing 174 mm)
  • Meos Num Island (Geelvink Bay off northern New Guinea)
  • M. a. meeki: Male is closest to maforensis, but has darker upperparts, more wine red breast, less rusty yellow abdomen and less reddish brown tail. Female is like doreya, but colder brown, with paler yellowish brown forecrown and underparts (wing 158–165 mm)
  • Manam Island (off north-eastern New Guinea)
  • M. a. cinereiceps: Male closest to kerstingi, but has warmer yellowish brown face and forehead, browner crown and more narrowly barred below. Female is very close to kerstingi (wing 168 mm)
  • D'Entrecasteaux Archipelago
  • M. a. kerstingi: Male weaker barring below than doreya, paler face and forehead, and pinker breast, crown and nape have strong blue tinge, rest of upperparts are like sanghirensis. Female is very similar to doreya (wing 171 mm)
  • Northern New Guinea (Mamberano to Astrolabe Bay) and Yapen Island
  • M. a. goldiei:
  • Coastal southern New Guinea (Merauke region to Milne Bay)
  • M. a. cunctata: Like cinereiceps, but has more barred breast, longer wing (170–176 mm), metallic green hindneck, greyish white foreneck, slate grey crown and bright reddish brown undertail coverts
  • Louisiade Archipelago


Primary and secondary forest, forest edge in gallery woodland, isolated groups of trees in grassland and gardens. In mainland New Guinea, occurs up to 1800 m, locally to 2100 m, in New Britain and New Ireland mainly inhabits lowlands and foothills up to 900 m, with occasional records above this, up to 1200 m. Normally single or in pairs, but sometimes in groups of 8–20 strong.



Small fruits, seeds and nuts. Gizzard contents show that grass seeds are also taken. In primary forest, it is found feeding in middle storey to canopy. In other habitats it visits it feeds mostly on low trees and shrubs. Feeds and takes grit from ground on occasion.


Little data available on seasonal trends, but thought to breed year round. A pair observed displaying in November on Buru; in New Guinea breeding has been reported from March to June and August to October. Display flight starts on low perch, the male flying sharply upwards to canopy on loudly clapping wings and with partially spread tail, before descending in a semicircular flight, with wings held stiffly downwards and tail fully spread.
A large nest is made of twigs and sticks, as well as leaf and fern fragments and is 9 cm deep, 25–30 cm across and 0.8–6 m above ground, built in thick vines and ferns, on a large Pandanus leaf, or in branches near the top of a small tree, close to the trunk. One white or yellowish-white egg. Incubation by both sexes.


In Papua New Guinea, New Britain and on Manus Island, a repeated monotonous “whop-whop-whop-whop...” that often rises in pitch, at rate of 2–2.5 seconds for 2–12 seconds. Calls mainly higher pitched and less vibrant than those of sympatric Ptilinopus fruit doves and faster and higher pitched than those of Stephan's Dove.


Not known


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2016. IOC World Bird Names (version 6.2). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  3. Avibase
  4. Baptista, L. F., P. W. Trail, H. M. Horblit, G. M. Kirwan, and E. F. J. Garcia (2020). Amboyna Cuckoo-Dove (Macropygia amboinensis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.sbcdov1.01

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