Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Geophaps scripta scripta (Squatter Pigeon (southern)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008agp) [Conservation Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008adh) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzp) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzq) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Squatter Pigeon -Profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005ew) [Internet].
NSW:Squatter Pigeon Threatened Species Information (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 1999be) [Information Sheet].
    Documents and Websites
Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland 2003-2008 (Boyes, B., 2004).
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Endangered* (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list)
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
Scientific name Geophaps scripta scripta [64440]
Family Columbidae:Columbiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Temminck, 1821)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

New South Wales: At the species level, Gephaps scripta is listed as Endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Scientific name: Geophaps scripta scripta.

Common name: Squatter Pigeon (southern).

Other names: At the species level, the Squatter Pigeon, Geophaps scripta, has also been known as the Partridge Bronzewing, Partridge Squatter and Partridge Pigeon (Higgins & Davies 1996).

There is some contention about the treatment of the genera Geophaps, Ocyphaps and Petrophassa. Some authors have combined Geophaps and Ocyphaps (Schodde 1982) or Geophaps and Petrophassa (Condon 1975), and others have suggested that all three genera could be merged (Christidis & Boles 1994). However, it is conventionally accepted that there are two subspecies of the Squatter Pigeon, G. s. scripta and G. s. peninsulae, the northern subspecies (Crome 1976b; Higgins & Davies 1996; Schodde & Mason 1997; Storr 1984c).

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) is a medium-sized, ground-dwelling pigeon that measures approximately 30 cm in length and weighs about 190-250 g. The adults are predominantly grey-brown, but have black and white stripes on the face and throat, blue-grey skin around the eyes, dark-brown (and some patches of iridescent green or violet) on the upper surfaces of the wings, blue-grey on the lower breast and belly, white on the lower region, flanks of the belly and extending onto the under surfaces of the wings, and a blackish-brown band along the trailing edge of the tail. They have black bills, dark-brown irises, and dull-purple legs and feet. The sexes are similar in appearance (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Juvenile Squatter Pigeons (southern) can be distinguished from the adults by their duller colouring, the patchy, less distinctive appearance of their black and white facial stripes, and the paler colouring (buff to pale-yellow) of the facial skin (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The southern and northern subspecies of the Squatter Pigeon are virtually identical except the southern subspecies tends to be slightly larger in the body, and the skin around the eyes is predominantly blue-grey compared to yellowy-orange to orange-red in the northern subspecies (Crome 1976b; Ford 1986; Higgins & Davies 1996; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).


Evidence suggests that the southern and northern subspecies of the Squatter Pigeon cross-breed where their distributions overlap (Ford 1986; Schodde and Mason in prep.). However, the physical trait that was used to identify the hybrid forms (a combination of blue and red facial skin) (Crome 1976b; Ford 1986) has subsequently been found to be very common (but less conspicuous) among the southern subspecies (Higgins & Davies 1996). Further investigation is required before facial colouration can be accepted as an accurate indicator of hybrid forms (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Known distribution

The known distribution of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) extends south from the Burdekin-Lynd divide in the southern region of Cape York Peninsula to the Border Rivers region of northern NSW, and from the east coast to Hughenden, Longreach and Charleville, Queensland (ALA - OEH 1999, 2006; Cooper et al. in prep.; Frith 1982b; Ford 1986; Higgins & Davies 1996; Schodde & Mason 1997, in prep.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011; Storr 1984c). Overall, the subspecies' known distribution is estimated to occur within the latitudes, 17° to 30° S, and the longitudes, 141° to 153° 30' E (Cooper et al. in prep.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The subspecies' is known to occur within the following natural resource management regions (ALA - OEH 1999, 2006; Cooper et al. in prep.; TSSC 2008agp):

  • Desert Channels
  • Burdekin
  • Mackay Whitsunday
  • Fitzroy
  • Burnett Mary
  • South East Queensland
  • Condamine
  • Border Rivers and Maranoa-Balonne
  • South West Queensland, and
  • Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority region in NSW.

Potential distribution

The potential distribution of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) extends southwards from the Burdekin-Lynd divide to south-east Queensland, south-west to Stanthorpe, near the Queensland-NSW border, south along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range to the area around Glen Innes, NSW, west through the Gwydir River region to Bellata, and north-westwards through Goondiwindi and the Brigalow Belt in Queensland to Charleville (Cooper et al. in prep.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Subspecies intergrade zone

The known distribution of the southern subspecies overlaps with the known distribution of the northern subspecies, Geophaps scripta peninsulae. Squatter Pigeons bearing the facial colourings that typify each subspecies, as well as hybrids exhibiting a mix of these colourations, have been observed in an intergrade zone extending from the Delta Downs area of south-western Cape York, east to the Chillagoe region, south-east to Halifax Bay and along the eastern coast to just north of Mackay, and west to Hughenden (Crome 1976b; Ford 1986; Higgins & Davies 1996; Schodde & Mason 1997, in prep.). The north-westerly extension of the known intergrade zone is based on a specimen and a photograph (Ford 1986; Schodde and Mason in prep.). Reports of Squatter Pigeons bearing the blue-grey facial colouring, which typifies the southern subspecies (Crome 1976b; Ford 1986; Higgins & Davies 1996), occurring in the Chillagoe area (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011), Georgetown and Princess Hill in northern Queensland (Higgins and Davies 1996) may indicate that hybrids occur in those areas as well. For the purposes of the EPBC Act, hybrids are not considered to be Geophaps scripta scripta (Schodde and Mason in prep.).

Extent of occurrence

The extent of occurrence of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) in both Queensland and NSW declined during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Subsequently, the subspecies became scarce in NSW (Barnard 1925; Blakers et al. 1984; Campbell 1924; Frith 1982b; Lord 1956; Morris et al. 1981; North 1913-14). The Squatter Pigeon (southern) was formerly widespread and relatively abundant west of the Great Dividing Range in NSW. Its distribution once extended south to 34°S in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin (Blakers et al. 1984; Frith 1982; Morris et al. 1981; North 1913-14).

The total extent of the known occurrence of the subspecies was estimated in 2000 to be 440 000 km². This estimate, which was based on published maps, was considered to be of medium reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Whilst Garnett and colleagues (2011) consider there has been no recent decline in the total population of the Squatter Pigeon (southern), there have been noticeable disappearances of the subspecies in southern Queensland in northern NSW in recent decades (Cooper et al. in prep.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Until 1999, there had been no confirmed records of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) in NSW since 1978 (Cooper et al. in prep.). In 1999, the subspecies was sighted approximately 27 km east of Ashford, (ALA - OEH 1999) and, in 2001 (Cooper et al. in prep.) and 2006 (ALA - OEH 2006), the subspecies was recorded in Bebo State Forest just north of Yetman, NSW.

Area of occupancy

The area of occupancy of the subspecies was estimated in 2000 to be 10 000 km². This estimate was considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Population fragmentation

Populations in the southern parts of the subspecies' distribution (i.e. south of Injune and Tin Can Bay, Queensland) are largely fragmented, but there is potential habitat connecting the Nandewar-New England Tablelands bioregions and the Carnarvon Ranges in the Brigalow Belt South bioregion (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). The degree of fragmentation of the overall population and the effect this has upon the subspecies' long-term persistence and recovery in the region, especially with regards to the capacity of the subspecies to disperse and exchange its genetic material is unknown (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Porter 2006 pers. comm.).

Historically, the Squatter Pigeon (southern) population declined markedly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Barnard 1925, 1927; Campbell 1924; Frith 1982b; Lord 1956; Morris et al. 1981; North 1913-14). Garnett & Crowley (2000) determined that the historic decline in numbers had slowed and the subspecies remained locally abundant at some sites at the northern limits of its distribution. In 2010, Garnett and colleagues (2011) assessed the conservation status of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) as Near Threatened because there was no evidence of decline in the total population and the subspecies persisted at numerous sites across a broad distribution.

The subspecies remains common north of the Carnarvon Ranges in Central Queensland and is considered to be distributed as a single, continuous (i.e. inter-breeding) sub-population (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). Numerous, recent records of the subspecies in the region between Injune and the Carnarvon Ranges (QLD DEHP 2012) suggest that Squatter Pigeons (southern) found in this region are also part of the northern, continuous sub-population. South of Augathella, Injune and Tin Can Bay, Queensland, the subspecies' population has been fragmented due to the removal of woodlands and forests for agriculture (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). While potential habitat connectivity still occurs between the Carnarvon Ranges and the Nandewar and southern Brigalow Belt bioregions in southern Queensland and northern NSW, only small, isolated and sparsely distributed sub-populations of the subspecies occur in this part of its range (Cooper et al. in prep.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The total population size of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) was estimated at 40 000 breeding birds in 2000. This estimate was considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Important populations

The southern boundary of the known distribution of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is contracting northwards. Therefore, all of the relatively small, isolated and sparsely distributed sub-populations occurring south of the Carnarvon Ranges in Central Queensland are considered to be important sub-populations of the subspecies (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). This includes, but is not limited to (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011):

  • populations occurring in the Condamine River catchment and Darling Downs of southern Queensland
  • the populations known to occur in the Warwick-Inglewood-Texas region of southern Queensland, and
  • any populations potentially occurring in northern NSW.

Populations in conservation reserves

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) occurs in 12 conservation reserves or state/resource reserves in Queensland (Blakers et al 1984) and one conservation reserve in NSW (ALA - OEH 2006; Cooper et al. in prep.):

  • Carnarvon National Park (NP)
  • Blackbraes Resource Reserve (RR)
  • Moorrinya NP
  • Homevale RR
  • Expedition NP
  • Blackdown Tableland NP
  • Chesterton Range NP
  • Epping Forest NP
  • Taunton NP, and
  • Dthinna Dthinnawan NP (ex-Bebo State Forest) in NSW. 

Squatter Pigeon (southern) habitat is generally defined as open-forests to sparse, open-woodlands and scrub that are (Baldwin 1975; Beruldsen 1972; Cooper et al. in prep.; EPA 2006; Frith 1982b; Leach 1988; North 1913-14; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011):

  • mostly dominated in the overstorey by Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Acacia or Callitris species
  • remnant, regrowth or partly modified vegetation communities, and
  • within 3 km of water bodies or courses.

In New South Wales, the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is thought to have formerly occurred in woodlands dominated in the overstorey by Eucalyptus species, intersected with patches of Acacia species and stands of Cypress Pine (Callitris columellaris) and which have a groundcover of grasses and herbs (Frith 1982b).

Foraging and breeding habitat

Soil landscapes are good indicators of where natural, foraging and breeding habitats for the Squatter Pigeon (southern) occur (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). Well-draining, gravelly, sandy or loamy soils support the open-forest to woodland communities with patchy, tussock-grassy understories that support the subspecies' foraging and breeding requirements. Given that the subspecies nests in shallow depressions in the ground, it requires well-draining soils. The subspecies also prefers to forage and dust-bathe on bare ground under an open canopy of trees (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Natural foraging habitat for the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is any remnant or regrowth open-forest to sparse, open-woodland or scrub dominated by Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Acacia or Callitris species, on sandy or gravelly soils, within 3 km of a suitable, permanent or seasonal waterbody (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Breeding habitat occurs on stony rises occurring on sandy or gravelly soils, within 1 km of a suitable, permanent waterbody (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Typically, the ground covering vegetation layer in foraging and breeding habitat is considerably patchy consisting of native, perennial tussock grasses or a mix of perennial tussock grasses and low shrubs or forbs. This patchy, ground layer of vegetation rarely exceeds 33% of the ground area. The remaining ground surface consisting of bare patches of gravelly or dusty soil and areas lightly covered in leaf litter and coarse, woody debris (e.g. fallen trees, logs and smaller debris). The patchiness of the ground layer vegetation in patches of foraging and breeding habitats tends to be variable over a given area (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

In Queensland, Squatter Pigeon (southern) foraging and breeding habitat is known to occur on well-draining, sandy or loamy soils on low, gently sloping, flat to undulating plains and foothills (i.e. Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 5), and lateritic (duplex) soils on low 'jump-ups' and escarpments (i.e. Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 7) (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

In New South Wales, the subspecies' foraging and breeding habitat occurs on the same soil types as occur in Queensland, and may occur in open-forests and woodlands on black clay soils in the more temperate regions of the subspecies' range in NSW (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Water resources

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) is known to access suitable waterbodies to drink on a daily basis. Waterbodies suitable for the subspecies include permanent or seasonal rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds and waterholes, and artificial dams. The subspecies prefers to drink where there is gently sloping, bare ground on which to approach and stand at the water's edge. While patchy to moderate ground covering vegetation may occur along the banks of suitable water bodies, a small patch (less than a square metre) of bare ground at the water's edge is all that the bird requires (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Dispersal habitat

Squatter Pigeon (southern) dispersal habitat is any forest or woodland occurring between patches of foraging or breeding habitat, and suitable waterbodies. Such patches of vegetation tend not to be suitable for the subspecies' foraging or breeding, but facilitate the local movement of the subspecies between patches of foraging habitat, breeding habitat and/or waterbodies, or the wider dispersal of individuals in search of reliable water sources during the dry season or during droughts (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Clay soils usually support denser vegetation types which the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is unlikely to use as foraging or breeding habitat. However, given that clay soil types tend to form in lower lying areas where the drainage and storage of water naturally occurs in the landscape, the subspecies is known to utilise forests or woodlands occurring on these soils to move between patches of foraging or breeding habitat and suitable waterbodies (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) is only likely to occur in vegetation on non-alluvial clays (equivalent to Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 4) where the ground covering vegetation layer has been thinned through current land-use practices in a way that suits the subspecies, for example through a light cattle grazing regime (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) has been recorded in sown pastures with scattered remnant trees (Leach 1988; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). The subspecies often moves into adjacent natural grasslands and highly modified or degraded habitats, such as pastures, stockyards, road reserves, railway easements and settlements, to forage for seed on the ground, drink from stock troughs or dams with gently sloping banks, and dust-bathe on bare, dusty ground (Longmore 1976; Lord 1956; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The subspecies is unlikely to move far from woodland trees which provide protection from predatory birds (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). Where scattered trees still occur, and the distance of cleared land between remnant trees or patches of habitat does not exceed 100 m, individuals may be found foraging in, or moving across modified or degraded environments (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

No specific information is available on the age of sexual maturity, life expectancy or natural mortality of the Squatter Pigeon (southern). However, at the species level, captive Squatter Pigeons can breed at one year of age (Stewart 1982). The generation length is estimated to be five years. However, this estimate is of low reliability due to a lack of reliable life history data (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) can breed throughout most of the year if conditions are good, however, optimal conditions for breeding success are likely to be regulated by the abundance of food resources (North 1913-14). The subspecies' peak breeding period is not fixed, but is likely to coincide with the dry season (April to October), when their primary source of food, grass seed, is most abundant (EPA 2006; Frith 1982b; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

A study by Crome (1976b) on the breeding, moulting and feeding behaviour of the Squatter Pigeon (Geophaps scripta) in the Mareeba district of North Queensland, revealed that males had an annual cycle of high sperm production (measured by the weight of the testes of 71 males collected). The period of high sperm production from April to August, together with the annual appearance of juveniles and females with viducal eggs, indicated a peak of breeding in the early to mid dry season (May to June). Crome (1976b) also determined that the moulting period is prolonged, it peaked from September onwwards following the main breeding period, and could be suppressed to allow further breeding in the later in the year. These results suggest that, at the species level, the period of least breeding occurs through the wet season, or mid-spring to mid-autumn in the temperate southern regions of its range (Frith 1982b).

The Squatter Pigeon (southern) is usually seen in pairs or small groups of  20 or more birds (EPA 2006; Porter 2006 pers. comm.; North 1913-14). It usually breeds in solitary pairs (Porter 2006 pers. comm.). Pairs may produce two broods of young per season (EPA 2006).

The nest is a depression scraped into the ground beneath a tussock of grass (Chisholm 1944; Lord 1956), bush, fallen tree or log (Frith 1982b), and sparsely lined with grass (North 1913-14). The female usually lays two creamy-white eggs (EPA 2006; North 1913-14) that are incubated for a period of about 17 days (EPA 2006). The chicks remain in the nest for approximately two to three weeks (EPA 2006; North 1913-14). The chicks are capable of only short flights when they depart the nest (North 1913-14). After they leave the nest, the young remain dependent on their parents for about four weeks (EPA 2006). No information is available on breeding success.

For species level information on the breeding biology of the Squatter Pigeon, including information on the northern subspecies and captive birds, see Higgins and Davies (1996).

It is estimated that approximately 95% of the Squatter Pigeon's (southern) diet consists of seeds (Chrome 1976b). The subspecies mainly forages on seeds which have fallen to the ground from low vegetation, such as grasses, herbs and shrubs (Chrome 1976b; Chrome and Shields 1992). Crome (1976b) found that the subspecies sometimes eats fallen seeds from Acacia species.

Squatter Pigeons (southern) commonly forage along the sides of roads or along dusty tracks. The subspecies is also commonly seen foraging in and around stockyards, where they also pick seeds and ticks from the droppings of livestock and drink from stock troughs (Chrome 1976b; Chrome and Shields 1992; EPA 2006; Porter 2006 pers. comm.).

Waterbodies that are suitable for the subspecies occur on the lower, gentle slopes and plateaus of sandstone ranges (equivalent to Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 10), alluvial clay soils on river or creek flats (represented by Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 3) or non-alluvial clay soils on flats or plains which are not associated with current alluvial deposits (represented by Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 4). Hence, where natural foraging or breeding habitat occurs (i.e. on Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zones 5 and 7), the Squatter Pigeon (southern) may be found in vegetation types growing on the above soil types.

No other information is available on the diet of the Squatter Pigeon (southern). The diet of the northern subspecies is said to consist of seeds (of a variety of plants including grasses, legumes, herbs, shrubs and trees) and arthropods (mainly insects), and varies according to seasonal cycles in the availability of food items (Crome 1976b; Crome and Shields 1992; Frith 1982b).

The Squatter Pigeon is a resident around the outskirts of Townsville (Wieneke 1992). Palliser (1985) believed the southern subspecies was likely to be a resident at Atkinsons Dam in south-eastern Queensland, where birds were seen on many occasions throughout the year. There appears to be some local movement of the Squatter Pigeon (southern), but there are few details. For example, in the Murphy's Creek district in southern Queensland, single birds and pairs were said to appear occasionally, and, on one occasion, two birds remained in the district for several weeks (Lord 1956).

At the species level, the Squatter Pigeon is considered sedentary (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011) or locally nomadic (Frith 1982b). Given that food resources are likely to be influenced by rainfall patterns from year to year, the southern subspecies is likely to be sedentary where water and food resources are reliable in the local region. However, when these resources are unavailable, the subspecies may disperse along vegetated corridors to access permanent water sources elsewhere in the region (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011). While it is suspected that the Squatter Pigeon (southern) may migrate, there is no evidence for this (Blakers et al. 1984; Frith 1982b; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).


Other than the northern subspecies, the Squatter Pigeon (southern) may be confused with the Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) or, in the northern parts of the Squatter Pigeon's (southern) distribution, the Flock Bronzewing (Phaps histrionica). There are distinct differences, however, which make the Squatter Pigeon (southern) relatively easy to distinguish from the Common Bronzewing and the Flock Bronzewing.

Measuring 28-36 cm in length with a weight range 320-350 g, the Common Bronzewing is a larger, more robust pigeon than the Squatter Pigeon (southern). It has a small, rounded head, broad rounded wings, deep chest and a short, slightly rounded tail. The diagnostic facial pattern consists of a pale forehead and chin, long white strip below the eye and short white strip above which extends from the bill to the rear of the eye. In flight, the orange-red to browny red coloured plumage under the wings may be seen (Higgins and Davies 1996).

Measuring 28-31 cm in length with a weight of approximately 300 g, the Flock Bronzewing is also larger than the Squatter Pigeon (southern). It is a plump, medium-sized pigeon with a short, rounded tail and long pointed wings. Adult females and juveniles typically have sandy-brown plumage over much of the body and wings. The adult male is distinctive with the head, sides of the neck and foreneck mostly black with a white forehead, lores, malar area and the sides of the chin forming a white, disc-shaped face (Higgins and Davies 1996).


The Squatter Pigeon (southern) has a distinctive call (Porter 2006 pers. comm.) and is likely to be readily approachable, at least in some locations (Campbell & Barnard 1917; Higgins & Davies 1996; North 1913-14). However, the subspecies can be wary and difficult to detect at sites where the birds are not accustomed to humans (Magrath et al. 2004). If approached during the non-breeding season, the Squatter Pigeon (southern) usually attempts to flee on foot, rather than by taking flight. However, if approached during the breeding season, pairs often take flight, shelter in nearby trees, or on fallen trees or logs, and remain very still (Porter 2006 pers. comm.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Survey methods

Desktop assessment

Surveys for the Squatter Pigeon (southern) should commence with a desktop assessment of the geographical area in which potential foraging, breeding or dispersal habitat for the subspecies. The desktop assessment of this study area provides the information necessary to locate and design on-ground habitat assessments, opportunistic surveys and targeted surveys for the subspecies. 

A desktop assessment should provide general information about the known distribution of Squatter Pigeons, where potential habitat and habitat connectivity occurs, and where important populations or habitat critical to the survival of the subspecies may occur in relation to the study area. This preliminary assessment should include searches of Squatter Pigeon (southern) records in state and non-government databasesa review of the scientific literature, and a review of current vegetation mapping and aerial photographs of the study area.

Habitat assessment

Habitat assessments must be conducted by suitably qualified botanists or ecologists with demonstrated skill and experience in Squatter Pigeon (southern) habitat assessments.

If any vegetation types, which are indicative of the subspecies' foraging, breeding or dispersal habitat, are identified in the desktop assessment, an on-ground habitat assessment will need to be conducted. The distribution of each vegetation type and the quality of potential habitat areas for squatter pigeon foraging, breeding or dispersal should be assessed, as much as practicable, in each vegetation type. With regards to larger study areas, a reconnaissance of each vegetation type and subsequent stratification of the sampling effort will need to be conducted. It is recommended that opportunistic surveys for the subspecies be conducted during habitat assessments, particularly along dusty roads and other patches of bare ground adjacent to areas of native vegetation identified as suitable for the subspecies' foraging, breeding or dispersal.

Targeted surveys

Targeted surveys for the Squatter Pigeon (southern) are required to detect the subspecies in suitable habitats and to identify how the subspecies may be using those areas of habitat. Surveys must be conducted by suitably qualified zoologists or ecologists with demonstrated skill and experience in conducting Squatter Pigeon (southern) surveys, and must be undertaken in a manner which maximises the chance of detecting the species.

Optimal conditions

The optimal period of the year to detect the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is during the mid to late dry season from May to the end of October when the subspecies is most actively foraging for grass seed. The optimal period to observe juvenile squatter pigeons, which will indicate the presence of breeding habitat in the area, is in June (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

As a general rule, targeted surveys should not be undertaken during weather conditions which are likely to impair visual detection of the subspecies, such as high windy conditions or during the night. Squatter pigeons are most commonly detected between sunrise and 9 am and between 3:30 pm and sunset. The optimal times of day to detect squatter pigeons are in the first half hour after sunrise and the last half hour before sunset when the birds are most active (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Targeted survey methods

Squatter pigeons are difficult to detect in their natural habitat, but are commonly seen foraging for seed on bare, dusty ground adjacent to natural habitats. The subspecies often occurs around dirt tracks and frequents water bodies or water courses from dawn to the middle of the morning and from the middle of the afternoon to dusk. Close inspection of dirt tracks and waterholes by surveyors tends to increase the chance of detection (Porter 2006 pers. comm.; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Commencing targeted surveys with slow driving surveys along roads and dusty areas is the most efficient way of detecting the subspecies. Driving in a vehicle at a constant speed (approximately 20 km per hour) along these roads is likely to be ‘flush’ squatter pigeons from their positions on the ground, which should allow the detection of the subspecies (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Two driving surveys should be conducted in the following manner (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011):

  • along the same route, in the same manner, on consecutive days
  • adjacent to areas of natural habitat throughout the study area
  • along unsealed roads, tracks and other dusty areas, such as stockyards , and
  • along sealed roads around the perimeter of the study area.

The route to be taken should be designed to (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011):

  • survey all unsealed roads in the study area during the periods, sunrise to 9 am and from 3:30 pm to sunset (i.e. commence the morning route at sunrise and then allow enough time in the afternoon to complete the afternoon survey by sunset), and
  • conduct return surveys along each road (i.e. survey a road then come back along the same road before proceeding to another).

It is recommended that waterbody surveys are conducted on the two consecutive days following the driving surveys. Waterbody surveys should target all natural and artificial waterbodies and watercourses which are suitable for use by the Squatter Pigeon (southern), and be conducted during the periods, sunrise to 9 am and from 3:30 pm to sunset (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Individuals tend to drink at the same, preferred location at the edge of a waterbody. It is recommended that observers position themselves so that they have a clear view of the subspecies' preferred drinking location. The observer must also be as still and quiet as possible to not disturb birds as they approach and drink. Therefore, the observer should be in position at the waterbody before birds are likely to arrive (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

It is also recommended that transect surveys be conducted in areas of native open-forest or woodland identified during habitat assessments, driving surveys and waterbody surveys as potential breeding habitat. These surveys can be conducted simultaneously with habitat assessments and during periods intervening optimal driving and waterbody surveys (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

Additional guidance on conducting surveys for the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is provided on pages 197-8 of the Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened birds

Historic threats

The combined effect of habitat loss and degradation, and predation, is thought to have caused the decline in Squatter Pigeon (Geophaps scripta) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Barnard 1925; Campbell 1924; Frith 1982b; Le Souef 1923; Lord 1956; North 1913-14) and are continuing to threaten the subspecies today (EPA 2006; Garnett 1993; Frith 1982b; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The subspecies was hunted by settlers. Its 'tame' nature made it an easy and susceptible target (Campbell & Barnard 1917; Le Souef 1923; North 1913-14; White 1922e). The nature and extent of the impact that hunting had upon the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is unknown. The species has been fully protected in Queensland since the early 1920s (Chisholm 1922), but some illegal shooting has continued to occur (Crome 1976b; Frith 1982b).

Current threats

The main threats to the Squatter Pigeon (southern) are the loss and fragmentation of habitat due to clearing for agricultural purposes, the degradation of habitat by overgrazing by domesticated herbivores, especially the sheep (Ovis species) and the cow (Bos species), the degradation of habitat by invasive weeds, such as Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), and predation by numerous avian and terrestrial predators (EPA 2006; Frith 1982b; Le Souef 1923; North 1913-14; Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011).

The clearance of woodland habitat continues to fragment the Squatter Pigeon (southern) population (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The overstocking of habitats with livestock remains a major problem (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011), and large areas of the subspecies' habitat is gradually being degraded in Central Queensland by the establishment of the highly invasive, improved pasture species, Buffel Grass, and its associated management practices (such as blade-ploughing) (Porter 2006 pers. comm.).

Known predators include birds of prey, snakes, the dingo (Canis lupus dingo), the fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the cat (Felis catus). Feral cats and foxes are likely to be having the greatest impact upon the Squatter Pigeon (southern) population (Ayers et al. 1996; EPA 2006). For example, cats were implicated in the decline of Squatter Pigeon (southern) sub-populations in the Duaringa and Murphy's Creek districts in south-eastern Queensland (Barnard 1925; Campbell 1924; Lord 1956) and most declines in sub-populations have occurred in areas where foxes are highly abundant (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Porter 2006 pers. comm.).

Catastrophic threats

It has been suggested that drought and bushfires may exacerbate the impacts of other threatening processes and contribute to, or accelerate, some population declines as a result (Frith 1982; North 1913-14). For example, there was a rapid decline in Squatter Pigeon (southern) numbers in eastern Central Queensland following a severe drought in 1901-02 (Barnard 1927; Barnard 1925). Barnard (1925, 1927) attributed the cause of this decline to predation by cats, but it has since been speculated that the decline may have been due to the combined impacts of habitat loss, over-grazing by cattle and the impact of the drought (Frith 1982b).

The long-term survival and recovery of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) depends on (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011):

  • the protection of habitat critical to the survival of the subspecies throughout its range
  • the restoration of habitat which is potentially critical to the survival of the subspecies, especially in northern NSW and southern Queensland where there is a greater threat of a further contraction in the subspecies' range
  • the alleviation of mortality caused by predators, particularly cats and foxes, and 
  • the development of a greater understanding of the subspecies' ecology and use of modified landscapes for foraging, breeding and dispersal.

The federal environment minister has declared that that a national recovery plan for the Squatter Pigeon (southern) is not required. However, the following actions have been recommended (EPA 2006; Garnett & Crowley 2000):

  • Determine the population size and distribution of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) in southern Queensland and New South Wales, and assess the pigeon's conservation status and requirements.
  • Undertake studies in North and Central Queensland to determine the relationship between pigeon abundance, tree density and stocking rates.
  • Establish sites for sub-population monitoring. If possible, these sites should be established with the cooperation of local land-owners and/or conservation organisations.
  • Develop and implement public education programs and community based tree planting schemes to revegetate favoured habitat types.
  • Establish control measures for predators (especially cats and foxes) at important sites.
  • Establish conservation measures to protect grassy woodlands and forests.

Research priorities

Research priorities that would inform future regional and local priority actions include (Squatter Pigeon Workshop 2011; TSSC 2008agp):

  • extensive surveys across the southern part of the subspecies’ range;
  • studying the breeding behaviours of the subspecies and the vegetation types that characterise the subspecies' breeding habitat;
  • assessing the subspecies' reproductive success and the factors that affect this;
  • studying the subspecies’ movement dynamics and the drivers behind these movements (including seasonal and longer term movements);
  • studying home ranges, patch sizes and the relationship of these with habitat quality;
  • studying the subspecies' diet and identifying preferred food plants;
  • studying the extent to which the Squatter Pigeon (southern) utilises modified or degraded habitats for foraging, breeding or dispersal;
  • studying the ability of the subspecies to utilise introduced plant species as food resources;
  • studying the responses of food plant species to fire and grazing regimes, and
  • refining survey techniques.

Regional priority actions

Priority recovery and threat abatement actions, which can be implemented regionally to support the recovery of the Squatter Pigeon (southern), are listed as follows (TSSC 2008agp):

Habitat loss, degradation and modification

  • Monitor known sub-populations to identify key threats.
  • Monitor the progress of recovery, including the effectiveness of management actions and the need to adapt them, if necessary.
  • Identify sub-populations of high conservation priority.
  • Manage threats to areas of vegetation that support important sub-populations of the Squatter Pigeon (southern).
  • Protect sub-populations of the subspecies through the development of covenants and conservation agreements, or by including them in reserve tenure.

Stock and feral herbivore grazing

  • Develop and implement time controlled grazing regimes for key sites.
  • Develop and implement a management plan, or nominate an existing plan to be implemented, for the control and eradication of feral herbivores in areas inhabited by the Squatter Pigeon (southern).


  • Implement the appropriate recommendations outlined in the Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats and the Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (see links at the start of this profile) in areas inhabited by the Squatter Pigeon (southern).

Conservation information

  • Raise awareness of the Squatter Pigeon (southern) within the local community, particularly among land managers.

Management documents relevant to the Squatter Pigeon (southern) can be found at the start of the profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Land clearance (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001w) [Listing Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Illegal hunting/harvesting and collection Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006kc) [Internet].

Atlas of Living Australia - New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (ALA - OEH) (1999). Record ID: f4a9dd6d-19dd-4b94-9b73-899a8f92528a.

Atlas of Living Australia - New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (ALA - OEH) (2006). Record ID: 891a4831-6c2e-4acf-8cd9-67fc8fa04f45.

Ayers, D., S. Nash & K. Baggett (Eds) (1996). Threatened Species of Western New South Wales. Hurstville: NSW NPWS.

Baldwin, M. (1975). Birds of the Inverell District, N.S.W. Emu. 75:113-120.

Barnard, C.A. (1925). A review of the birdlife on Coomooboolaroo Station, Duaringa District, Queensland, during the past fifty years. Emu. 24:252-265.

Barnard, H.G. (1927). Effects of droughts on bird-life in central Queensland. Emu. 27:35-37.

Beruldsen, G.R. (1972). Return to Marrapina. Australian Bird Watcher. 4:144-147.

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Campbell, A.J. (1924). Domestic cats gone wild versus bird protection. Emu. 23:175-177.

Campbell, A.J., & H.G. Barnard (1917). Birds of the Rockingham Bay district, north Queensland. Emu. 17:2-38.

Chisholm, A.H. (1922). State secretaries reports. Emu. 22:69--71.

Chisholm, A.H. (1944). Birds of the Gilbert diary. Emu. 44:131-150.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Condon, H.T. (1975). Checklist of the Birds of Australia. Part 1. Non-Passerines. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Cooper, R.M., I.A.W. McAllan and B.R. Curtis (in prep.). The Atlas of the Birds of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Crome, F. & J. Shields (1992). Parrots and Pigeons of Australia. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Crome, F.H.J. (1976b). Breeding, moult and food of the Squatter Pigeon in north-eastern Queensland. Australian Wildlife Research. 3:45-59.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2006). EPA 2006 Database. [Online]. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane. [Accessed: 31-Mar-2006].

Ford, J. (1986). Avian hybridisation and allopatry in the region of the Einasleigh Uplands and Burdekin-Lynd Divide, north-eastern Queensland. Emu. 86:87--110.

Frith, H.J. (1982b). Pigeons and Doves of Australia. Melbourne: Rigby.

Garnett, S., ed. (1993). Threatened and Extinct Birds of Australia. RAOU Report 82. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, and Canberra: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Garnett, S., J. Szabo & G. Dutson (2011). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds. (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. In: Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons 3. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Le Souëf, A.S. (1923). How settlement and other factors are affecting native birds. Emu. 23(2):105-108.

Leach, G.J. (1988). Birds of Narayen Research Station, Mundubbera, south-east Queensland. Sunbird. 18:55-75.

Longmore, N.W. (1976). Squatter Pigeon near West Wyalong, New South Wales. Australian Birds. 11:18.

Lord, E.A.R. (1956). The Birds of the Murphy's Creek District, southern Queensland. Emu. 56:100-128.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Morris, A.K., A.R. McGill & G. Holmes (1981). Handlist of Birds in New South Wales. Sydney: NSW Field Ornithologists Club.

North, A.J. (1913-1914). Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania. In: Special Catalogue 1. 4. Sydney: Australian Museum.

Palliser, T. (1985). The Queensland Ornithological Society Bird Report, 1984. Sunbird. 15:45-70.

Porter, G. (2006). Personal Communication, April 2006.

Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (QLD DEHP) (2012). Wildnet database records.

Schodde, R. (1982). Origin, adaptation and evolution of birds in arid Australia. Barker, W.R., & P.J.M. Greenslade, eds. Evolution of the Flora and Fauna of Arid Australia. Page(s) 191-224. Peacock Press, Adelaide.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1997). Aves (Columbidae to Coracidae). In: Houston, W.W.K. & A. Wells, eds. Zoological Catologue of Australia. 37.2. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (in prep.). The Directory of Australian Birds: Non-passerines. CSIRO.

Squatter Pigeon Workshop (2011). Proceedings from the workshop for the Squatter Pigeon (southern). 14-15 December 2011. Toowoomba Office of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Stewart, D.J. (1982). The Squatter Pigeon. Australian Aviculture. 36:165--169.

Storr, G.M. (1984c). Revised list of Queensland birds. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement. 19:1-189.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2008agp). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Geophaps scripta scripta (Squatter Pigeon (southern)). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:

White, H.L. (1922e). A collecting trip to Cape York Peninsula. Emu. 22:99-116.

Wieneke, J. (1992). Where to Find Birds in North East Queensland. Author, Belgian Gardens, Queensland.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Geophaps scripta scripta in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:19:15 +1000.