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Sultan's Cuckoo-Dove - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies albicapilla
Photo © by julienl
Gunung Ambang, Sulawesi, Indonesia, May 2018

Alternative names: Sulawesi Cuckoo-Dove

Macropygia doreya


34–37 cm, (13.4-14.6 inches), 107–179 g


  • forehead and face dark orangey brown
  • overall reddish brown crown
  • sides and back of neck orangey brown
  • edges of neck feathers silver green or silver pink iridescence
  • mantle orangey brown with blackish speckles
  • upperparts mainly reddish brown
  • wing coverts blackish with reddish tips
  • primaries and secondaries brownish black with outer webs having narrow brownish orange or light brown edges
  • throat pale brown
  • breast golden brown with pink tinge with thin black bars and brownish pink tips to feathers, giving breast a mottled look
  • belly and undertail coverts reddish brown
  • central retrices dark reddish brown
  • outer retrices with black subterminal band shorter reddish brown
  • iris grey or blue with red, yellow or orange outer ring
  • beak brown or black
  • feet red to purple


  • forehead and crown reddish brown with black speckles
  • neck feathers not iridescent
  • redder and more heavily barred above than male
  • wing coverts blackish with broad orangey brown or red brown edges
  • hind neck and upper mantle reddish brown with fine dark vermiculations
  • eye with pale streak underneath


  • similar to female
  • hindneck, mantle and uppertail covert feathers with black subterminal bars and orangey brown edges
  • underparts redder and 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


Found from Sulawesi east over Indonesia (including Moluccas) to northwestern New Guinea.


Formerly treated as conspecific with Brown Cuckoo-Dove from Australia and Amboyna Cuckoo-Dove.


There are 7 subspecies[1], formerly split in two species by Gill and Donsker[2]:

  • M. d. sanghirensis: May be included in Sulawesi Cuckoo-Dove. Male has a very light blue grey crown and nape, is more boldly barred on breast, but unbarred on the foreneck, and less reddish brown on undertail coverts. Female is much darker with black mottled crown and relatively large (wing 178 mm)
  • Sangihe, Siau, Tahulandang, Ruang and Talaud islands
  • M. d. albicapilla: May be treated as a different species, Sulawesi Cuckoo-Dove. Male has yellowy white forehead, grey tinged crown, strong breast barring with no pink tinge and upperparts richer reddish brown than in other races. Female is paler than female sanghirensis, particularly on face and underparts, small (wing 161 mm)
  • Sulawesi, Banggai, Tukangbesi and adjacent islands
  • M. d. albiceps: Male has more orangey brown crown and head, paler throat, less iridescence of hindneck, paler upperparts, almost unbarred underparts with extensive pinkish hue to breast. Female has darker crown and darker reddish brown underparts (wing 163 mm). M. d. batchianensis is a synonym[3].
  • M. d. doreya: Has neck and upper breast pale pinkish brown, with or without barring. Female is very similar to female keyensis, but with greenish iridescence to hindneck (wing 160 mm)
  • North-western New Guinea and western Papuan islands
  • M. d. atrata: May be included in Sulawesi Cuckoo-Dove. Like albicapilla, but larger (wing 182 mm), darker and lacks white tips to breast feathers
  • Togian Islands (off east central Sulawesi)
  • M. d. sedecima: May be included in Sulawesi Cuckoo-Dove. Male sedecima very like albicapilla, but crown browner, paler and more cinnamon above, and darker below. Female has more strongly barred hindneck and mantle and has uniform chestnut forecrown, small, (wing 152 mm)
  • Sula
  • M. d. balim: Differs from kerstingi and cinereiceps being larger, much lighter coloration on the breast and abdomen and duller upperparts. Females have these characteristics enhanced (wing 175–182 mm)
  • Balim Valley (West Papua)


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 and up to 2000 m in Sulawesi. Usually found up to 1500 m in Wallacea, occuring above 1600 m in disturbed habitat only. 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.. On Sulawesi, known to feed on 15 different species of fruit (96·1%) and flowers (3·9%). 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. Nest with egg in late August on Halmahera; 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.


On the Vogelkop Peninsula and Halmahera a slower, disyllabic “hu-woot, hu-woot, hu-woot...”, or rising “wu-up” is reported. On Togian Island, the call is higher pitched with the emphasis on the second note, at a rate of 0.7 notes per second and repeated 3–5 or more times. Also has a growling “crOOOuw” associated with a bowing display. 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., P. C. Rasmussen, T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, A. Spencer, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2023. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2023. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2024. IOC World Bird List (v 14.1). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.14.1. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Avibase
  4. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved January 2016)

Recommended Citation

External Links

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