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Rare sighting of near-threatened Nicobar Pigeon on Green Island

10th of November 2023
Rare sighting of near-threatened Nicobar Pigeon on Green Island

A rare sighting of the near-threatened Nicobar Pigeon, a living relative of the extinct Dodo bird, on Green Island is causing some excitement among island visitors and bird watchers, and also bears cultural significance to the Gurrugulu Gunghandji and Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji communities.

The Nicobar pigeon, Caloenas nicobarica, is nomadic and named for India’s Nicobar Islands with a typical habitat on isolated Southeast Asian islands. 

Green Island Resort General Manager, Sue O'Donnell said the bird was first sighted around 1 November and has been affectionately named “Emerald” by the resort staff because of its distinctive iridescent green plumage.

The bird was identified by a Wunyami Cultural Tour guide; a wonderful and unexpected experience while conducting a tour of the island’s traditional and cultural history.

GudjuGudju Fourmile (Gurrugulu Gunghandji and Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji Elder) said, "Regarding the Nicobar Pigeon, currently spotted in Wunyami, the elders of both the Gurrugulu Gunghandji and Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji communities are delighted by its reappearance. 

“This majestic bird holds a significant place in our shared cultural narrative, and its return serves as a meaningful symbol that we anticipate above-average temperatures in the near future".

About the Nicobar Pigeon

The closest living relative to the extinct Dodo, the Nicobar is a large pigeon measuring up to 40 cm in length. The head and chest is grey, which turns into green and copper hackles from the neck to give it its distinct look. The tail is short and white. The rest of its plumage is metallic green. 

They will mate for life. The male chooses the nest site and brings twigs and other plant material to the female who builds the nest. One egg is produced per clutch and they usually clutch twice per year. Both parents incubate the egg which hatches after about 30 days. In the wild, the Nicobar has a lifespan of 8-12 years, and up to 15 years in captivity. Nicobar pigeons are classified as near threatened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). They are known to fall victim to the pet trade, logging on islands and trapped for food. 

Photograph credit to Whitney Zelenitsky: “Emerald” Nicobar pigeon at Green Island resort grounds

The Wunyami Cultural Walking Tour brings traditional stories to life and a new perspective to Green island’s cultural history. Launched in 2022, the Wunyami (Green Island’s traditional name) Tours are owned and operated by traditional owners, sharing the stories of the GuruGulu Gungganji (Yarrabah) and Gimuy Yidinji (Cairns) people. Guides have special permission from their elders to share the stories of the island and the Great Barrier Reef with all who come on this tour. Along the way, participants learn about traditional food and medicinal uses of the rainforest plants, participate in traditional fire lighting techniques and can learn about the cultural importance of clay painting.  The tour takes approximately one hour and is available to be pre-booked with Great Adventures Green Island Cruises or on the island at the Black Seahorse shop.