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Mackinlay's Cuckoo-Dove - BirdForum Opus

Rufous morph, subspecies M. m. arossi
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Mount Austen, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 19 September 2019

Alternative names: Spot-breasted Cuckoo-Dove; Rufous Brown Cuckoo-Dove; Rufous Cuckoo-Dove; Black-spotted Cuckoo-Dove; Dimorphic Cuckoo-Dove; Rufous Pheasant-Pigeon; Rufous-brown Pheasant-Dove

Macropygia mackinlayi


27-31 cm. A partly Polymorphic Cuckoo-Dove.

Rufous morph male

  • Deep reddish brown plumage, dark on upperparts, paler on head and neck
  • Tawny tinge on underparts
  • Brownish-black outer primaries and secondaries narrowly edged rufous
  • Tail with broad black subterminal band
  • Spotted appearance on breast
  • Yellow, orange to red eye
  • Black bill

Grey morph male

  • Dark grey upperparts with broad pale grey fringes to feathers
  • Pale grey head and underparts
  • Sometimes with pale tawny silver forehead, throat and breast

Rufous morph female

  • Mostly yellow brown with grey suffusion to neck and breast (giving vermiculated appearance)

Grey morph female

  • Similar to grey morph male
  • More conspicuous black bases to breast feathers
  • Buff tinge to underparts

Only the nominate subspecies is polymorphic. The other subspecies resemble the rufous morph nominate, but are richer in colour. arossi is rich chestnut red with purplish tinge on upperparts.


Found on various islands from New Britain east to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Common or locally common in much of its range.


Two subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • M. m. arossi on the Karkar Island (off of northeastern Papua New Guinea); Bismarck Archipelago in the Admiralty Islands (Manus, Rambutyo, Nauna, San Miguel, and Tong), Crown, Long, Tolokiwa, Umboi, Sakar, the Witu Islands, Watom, Mussau, Emirau, the Lihar Islands, and Nissan; and the Solomon Islands (Buka and Bougainville to Rennell and Makira)
  • M. m. mackinlayi on Santa Cruz Islands, Banks Group and Vanuatu

Forms a superspecies with Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove and Little Cuckoo-Dove.


Found in disturbed areas in primary forest, in second growth, clearings and gardens.
A lowland species, most common at 200 to 800 m but also found higher up (1500 on Bougainville, up to 1000m on Karkar).


Usually seen singly, in pairs or in small groups of up to 6 birds.


Feeds on small fruits and seeds, takes also vegetable shoots.
Seen feeding below the canopy in small trees, sometimes also on the ground where it takes food put out for domestic animals.


Breeding season from September to February in Vanuatu. The nest is a saucer-shaped platform, placed 3 to 6 m above the ground in a tree-fern, a palm or a vine-tangle. Usually lays 1 egg.


One sight record from mainland New Guinea suggests some movements. Also suspected to be only a vagrant to New Britain.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Baptista, L.F., Trail, P.W., Horblit, H.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). Mackinlay's Cuckoo-dove (Macropygia mackinlayi). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/54173 on 28 November 2019)
  3. Dutson, G. (2011) Birds of Melanesia, Christopher Helm, London.
  4. Gregory, P. (2017) Birds of New Guinea, Including Bismarck Archipelago and Boughainville. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

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