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Unlocking the Secrets of the Beautiful Superb Fruit-Dove: Behaviors Diet and Conservation Efforts

The Superb Fruit-Dove is a strikingly beautiful bird that is found in the tropical rainforests of Australia’s eastern coast and nearby islands. In this article, we will learn more about this fascinating bird, including how to identify it, its plumages, and molts.


The Superb Fruit-Dove is a small bird, measuring about 22-24 cm in length. It has a distinctive, rounded body shape, short tail, and small, rounded head.

The male has a beautiful purple head and neck, with a bright green back and wings. The female, on the other hand, has a greenish-yellow head and neck, with a duller green back and wings.



One of the easiest ways to identify the Superb Fruit-Dove is by its call. Its distinctive whistle-like call is often heard in the rainforest and can help birdwatchers locate this elusive bird.

Its foraging habits also make it easy to identify. The Superb Fruit-Dove feeds on native fruits and berries, often perching at the edge of the forest canopy to do so.

Similar Species

One of its closest relatives is the Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, which has a similar body shape and foraging habits. However, the Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove has a rose-pink head rather than the purple head of the Superb Fruit-Dove.

Another similar species is the Wompoo Fruit-Dove, which has a larger body size and a louder, deeper call.


The Superb Fruit-Dove has two plumages: the adult breeding plumage and the non-breeding or immature plumage. The adult breeding plumage is the more striking of the two, with bright colors that make it stand out in the rainforest.

The male’s head and neck turn from a dull green to a bright purple during breeding season, while the female’s greenish-yellow head becomes slightly brighter. The wings and back remain a vibrant green in both sexes.


The Superb Fruit-Dove undergoes a complete molt at least once a year. During this time, it sheds its old feathers and grows new ones.

The timing of the molt varies depending on the individual bird and can be influenced by factors such as age, sex, and breeding condition. Some birds may also undergo a partial molt, where they replace some of their feathers while retaining others.

In conclusion, the Superb Fruit-Dove is a fascinating bird with striking plumages and unique foraging habits. Its distinctive call and body shape make it easy to identify in the rainforest.

By understanding the Superb Fruit-Dove’s plumages and molts, bird enthusiasts can gain a deeper appreciation for this marvelous bird.

Systematics History

The history of the Superb Fruit-Dove’s classification begins with ornithologist John Gould, who first described the species in 1838. However, its scientific name has undergone several revisions over the years since its original classification.

The bird is classified under the order Columbiformes and the family Columbidae, which includes all doves and pigeons.

Geographic Variation

The Superb Fruit-Dove is known for its significant geographic variation in appearance, with variations in coloration and size between populations across its range. This variation is most likely due to a combination of genetic drift, isolation, and adaptation to local environmental conditions.


Currently, there are nine recognized subspecies of the Superb Fruit-Dove, each with its own unique characteristics and distribution:

1. P.

s. superbus – The nominate subspecies is found on the New Guinea mainland.

2. P.

s. becki – This subspecies is found on the Aru Islands and in the western parts of the Papuan Peninsula.

It is generally smaller and brighter in coloration than the nominate subspecies. 3.

P. s.

johnstonei – Found in the Northern Territory and northeastern Queensland in Australia, this subspecies is smaller with darker plumage. 4.

P. s.

temminckii – Found in the southern parts of the Papuan Peninsula and nearby northeastern Queensland, this subspecies has a darker green plumage. 5.

P. s.

ornatus – This subspecies is found on the Kai and Tanimbar Islands, with a slightly longer bill and brighter green plumage. 6.

P. s.

viridinotus – Found in the eastern parts of the Papuan Peninsula, Cape York Peninsula, and some nearby islands, this subspecies has a brighter green coloration with more yellow undertones. 7.

P. s.

insularis – This subspecies is found on the islands of the Torres Strait, with a more yellow-green coloration. 8.

P. s.

enigma – Found on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea, this subspecies has a paler plumage and less distinct markings. 9.

P. s.

degeneratus – The most recently recognized subspecies, degeneratus is found on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. It is smaller and has a greener plumage compared to other subspecies.

Related Species

The Superb Fruit-Dove is part of the genus Ptilinopus, which includes other fruit-dove species found throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Some of the most closely related species include the Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove (P.

iozonus), the Purple-bellied Fruit-Dove (P. purpuratus), and the Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove (P.


Historical Changes to Distribution

The historical distribution of the Superb Fruit-Dove has changed significantly due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by deforestation and farming. In the past, these birds were widespread across the eastern coast of Australia and throughout Papua New Guinea.

However, over time their range has become restricted and fragmented due to human disturbance. In Australia, the bird is now only found in a few isolated pockets along the northeastern coast, including the Atherton Tablelands, Mission Beach, and the famous Iron Range National Park.

In Papua New Guinea, the bird’s population has also declined in certain areas due to hunting and trapping by the local population. Efforts are underway to conserve the bird’s habitat and protect its population.

Conservationists work with local communities to promote sustainable farming practices and reduce deforestation. Captive breeding programs have also been established to help bolster the bird’s population in areas where it has become locally extinct.

In conclusion, the Superb Fruit-Dove’s extensive variation in appearance across its range and numerous subspecies make it a fascinating bird to study. While the bird’s population has declined in many areas, conservation efforts offer hope for the future of this important species.

Understanding its history and changes to distribution can help us better protect and conserve this beautiful bird.


The Superb Fruit-Dove’s habitat is in the tropical lowland and foothill rainforests, mangroves, and secondary growth in northeastern Australia and the surrounding islands, including Papua New Guinea and some islands in Indonesia. These birds are distributed in a variety of environments, including dense forest canopies, tree edges, and mangrove swamps.

The habitat requirements of this bird include a supply of fruit trees and dense forest cover, which provide foraging opportunities and shelter.

Movements and Migration

The Superb Fruit-Dove is a mostly sedentary species and is not known to undertake long-distance migrations. However, it is known to make seasonal movements and to travel relatively short distances in response to changing environmental conditions such as food availability or breeding.

In Australia, the Superb Fruit-Dove is known to move to lower elevations during the winter months, where food supplies are more abundant. Conversely, during the breeding season, it is found at higher elevations, particularly in the wet tropics of northeastern Queensland, where fruits are abundant in the rainforest.

In New Guinea, the Superb Fruit-Dove lives in the high-density rainforest and lower elevation forests, making its seasonal movements, moving across the width of the island when needed. During the breeding season, it shows more fidelity to a particular area where it nests.


The Superb Fruit-Dove is a very secretive and elusive bird, generally foraging in the dense forest canopy where it is difficult to observe. These birds are notoriously difficult to observe because they move in a slow, methodical manner and are rarely out in the open.

During the breeding season, the male birds display to attract females by fanning their tails and flapping their wings while calling.

Diet and Nutrition

As its name suggests, the Superb Fruit-Dove feeds mainly on fruit, particularly figs, as well as fruits of other plant species. These birds are important contributors to seed dispersal of various plant species in the rainforest ecosystem.

Seed dispersal of plants by the frugivorous Superb Fruit-Dove has been found to be crucial for maintaining diversity in the rainforest ecosystem. The Superb Fruit-Dove’s diet is often supplemented by small insects, including ants, which it picks up while feeding on fruits.

It is also known to consume nectar from flowers, particularly during the non-breeding season.


The Superb Fruit-Dove’s breeding season varies across its wide range, falling sometime between October and January. During this season, males make elaborate display flights to attract females, often making a whistling call while displaying their colorful plumage.

The nest is usually a platform of twigs, vines, and grasses, constructed in a fork of a tree or a dense bush. The female lays a single white egg, and both the male and female share incubation duties.

The chicks hatch after approximately 16 days and are fed regurgitated fruit by both parents. The young fledglings usually leave the nest after around two weeks but remain dependent on their parents for several more weeks.

Breeding success of this bird is often linked to plantation forest edges, especially in areas where forests have been fragmented by human activities. In conclusion, the Superb Fruit-Dove’s habitat, movements, and breeding patterns are closely linked to the rainforest ecosystems where it is found.

As a frugivorous bird, it plays an essential role in seed dispersal, contributing to maintenance of plant diversity and helping to maintain the rainforest ecosystem in balance. While efforts are being made to conserve the bird’s habitat, further research is necessary to fully understand the behavior of this species and to develop strategies for its protection in the face of ongoing habitat destruction.

Diet and Foraging


The Superb Fruit-Dove spends most of its daytime hours feeding. It is highly arboreal, rarely descending to the ground, and feeds mostly on fruit.

The bird prefers to feed alone, but when food resources are abundant, it may join other individuals in a feeding frenzy, where a group of birds competes for a scarce food resource. The bird’s foraging methods include gleaning, where it observes a branch for some time while moving its head steadily side to side to locate prey, plucking fruits on the fly, and sometimes hovering in front of flowers to collect nectar.


The Superb Fruit-Dove has a highly specialized diet consisting mainly of a variety of fruits, particularly of figs. Figs play a primary role in the fruit-dove’s diet throughout its range.

It feeds on both ripe and unripe figs, even before the fruits mature. While most of the bird’s diet is comprised of fruit, insects form a small but significant component of its diet, especially ants.

The species is also known to feed on flowers occasionally.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Superb Fruit-Dove has a unique metabolism that allows it to extract nutrients from its fruit-only diet effectively. It has a very high metabolic rate, which means it can process food extremely quickly, allowing it to survive on a high-fruit diet.

To maintain its high metabolic rate, the bird must regulate its temperature efficiently. During the hottest part of the day, the bird will perch in the shade with its wings spread wide to stay cool.

At night, it seeks shelter in dense vegetation to conserve body heat. Sounds and Vocal



The Superb Fruit-Dove produces a variety of soft, cooing sounds, with the most common being a deep and gentle “whuup” sound. The male birds are known to make numerous vocalizations during the breeding season to attract females, including a series of expressive coos and soft calls.

The birds also produce a distinctive whistle-like call that is often heard in the rainforest, making it easier to spot. The bird’s vocalizations are an essential part of its behavior and play an important role in communication, particularly during the breeding season.

The different calls made by the bird are used to indicate its location, to attract a mate, and to warn other birds of potential predators. Overall, the Superb Fruit-Dove is a fascinating bird, with unique foraging methods and a highly specialized diet of fruit.

Its unusual metabolism and temperature regulation allow it to extract the nutrients it needs from its diet and maintain its high metabolic rate. The species’ vocalizations are also unique, and its wide range of calls serve different purposes in communication.

Understanding these characteristics can deepen our appreciation of this remarkable bird and its role in the ecosystem.


The Superb Fruit-Dove has a fascinating range of behaviors, including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior.


The Superb Fruit-Dove is a highly active bird and is one of the most agile and nimble birds found in the rainforest. Its wings are relatively short and round, which makes the bird well-suited for quick takeoff and tight turns while navigating through and over the roots and vines of the rainforest canopy.


Self-maintenance behaviors among Superb Fruit-Doves include a range of activities that help the bird maintain its health and hygiene. These activities include preening, which involves the bird cleaning and oiling its feathers, stretching, and sunbathing.



The Superb Fruit-Dove is highly territorial and can become aggressive towards other birds of its species. The bird communicates its territorial status by making a series of vocalizations and physical displays, whereby the male will fan out its wings and tail and extend its neck while maintaining direct eye contact with other males in its immediate vicinity.

This aggressive behavior helps the bird to establish and maintain its territory. Sexual


Males become sexually active at about one year of age and compete for females during the breeding season. The bird’s sexual behavior includes an elaborate courtship ritual where the male displays his colorful plumage and calls out melodiously to attract a mate.

Females choose their mate based on the male’s display and the health of his plumage.


Breeding among Superb Fruit-Doves typically takes place during the wet season. The nest is usually built high in the canopy of the rainforest, supported by the crook of a branch, and is constructed out of twigs, vines, and leaves.

The female lays a single egg, which is incubated by both parents for a period of around two weeks. Once hatched, the chick is fed regurgitated food by both parents until it fledges around two weeks later.

After fledging, the chick remains with the parents for a further period of several weeks, where it learns foraging and other necessary survival skills.

Demography and Populations

The Superb Fruit-Dove is widespread throughout its range but is rare in certain areas due to habitat destruction and poaching. Populations have been declining due to hunting for food and habitat loss.

An increase in the conversion of rainforest into agricultural land is the primary reason for the loss of its habitat. Conservation efforts have been put in place to ensure the survival of the species, such as the creation of protected areas covering its habitat and the promotion of sustainable forest management.

Captive breeding programs have also been established to boost numbers in areas where populations have declined. The demographic structure of Superb Fruit-Doves is poorly understood, and little information exists on the species’ population ecology, which could offer valuable insight into the threats facing the bird.

Thus, future research should focus on the species demography and population ecology, which could be used to develop more effective conservation strategies. In conclusion, Superb Fruit-Doves are remarkable birds with a fascinating range of behaviors.

Their high level of activity and agile locomotion enable them to move freely through the rainforest and forage for fruit, while their elaborate courtship rituals and territorial behavior add to their unique character. However, the species is under threat from habitat loss and poaching, and effective conservation measures are urgently needed to ensure the survival of these beautiful birds.

The Superb Fruit-Dove is a magnificent bird that has a fascinating range of behaviors and characteristics, including its highly specialized diet, its impressive agility and movement, and its distinctive vocalizations and courtship rituals. This remarkable bird plays an essential role in the rainforest ecosystem, contributing to seed dispersal and helping to maintain plant diversity.

However, its population is under threat from habitat loss and poaching, making conservation efforts imperative. Further research should be conducted to better understand the demography and populations of the species, which could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

By protecting the Superb Fruit-Dove and its habitat, we can help ensure the survival of this beautiful bird and the crucial role it plays in the health of our ecosystem.

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