The difference between a Crested Pigeon and Topknot Pigeon

Differences between the Crested Pigeon and the Topknot Pigeon

Funky BirdS Distinguishing Between the Crested Pigeon and Topknot Pigeon

In the diverse world of Australian avian fauna, two pigeons often cause confusion among bird enthusiasts and casual observers alike because of their common names: the Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes) and the Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus). Despite sharing some similarities, these two species have distinct characteristics that set them apart.


At first glance, the Crested Pigeon and the Topknot Pigeon may seem similar, but a closer look reveals several distinguishing features.

Crested Pigeon (The Punk Pigeon)

  • Size: The Crested Pigeon is a small pigeon, measuring around 30-35 cm in length.
  • Head: The most distinctive feature of the Crested Pigeon is the black, spiky crest on the top of its head, resembling a punk hairstyle.
  • Eye: The Crested Pigeon has a bright red eye, which is a shared characteristic with the Topknot Pigeon.
  • Plumage: The overall plumage of the Crested Pigeon is greyish-brown, with a bronzy-green sheen on the wings.

Topknot Pigeon (The Rockabilly Pigeon)

  • Size: The Topknot Pigeon is a large pigeon, measuring around 40-45 cm in length, significantly larger than the Crested Pigeon.
  • Head: Instead of a spiky crest, the Topknot Pigeon sports a unique “quiff” or crest that sweeps back behind its head, resembling an Elvis-style rockabilly hairdo.
  • Eye: Like the Crested Pigeon, the Topknot Pigeon has a red eye.
  • Plumage: The Topknot Pigeon has a dark grey to blackish back, which is noticeably darker than the Crested Pigeon’s greyish-brown plumage.

Habitat and Distribution

Another key difference between the Crested Pigeon and the Topknot Pigeon lies in their habitat preferences and distribution.

Crested Pigeon

  • Distribution: The Crested Pigeon is found throughout most of Australia, making it a common sight in many regions.
  • Habitat: This pigeon is a ground-dwelling bird, often seen in open areas such as ovals, golf courses, nature strips, and parks.

Topknot Pigeon

  • Distribution: The Topknot Pigeon is primarily found along the east coast of Australia, where it inhabits rainforests and adjacent areas.
  • Habitat: Unlike the ground-dwelling Crested Pigeon, the Topknot Pigeon is usually seen feeding in tall trees, particularly those bearing fruit such as figs or lilly pillies.

Behavior and Habits

The Crested Pigeon and the Topknot Pigeon also exhibit different behaviors and habits that can help in their identification.

Crested Pigeon

  • Feeding: Crested Pigeons are often seen foraging on the ground, picking up seeds and other food items.
  • Flight: When startled, the Crested Pigeon takes off with a distinctive whistling sound produced by its wings.

Topknot Pigeon

  • Feeding: Topknot Pigeons are primarily fruit-eaters, and they are often observed feeding in the canopy of tall trees.
  • Flocking: These pigeons are known to form large flocks, especially when food is abundant.

While the Crested Pigeon and the Topknot Pigeon may be confused due to their shared red eyes and somewhat similar names, they are quite distinct in terms of appearance, habitat preferences, and behavior. By keeping in mind the Crested Pigeon’s punk-like crest and ground-dwelling habits, and the Topknot Pigeon’s larger size, dark back, and preference for tall, fruiting trees, bird enthusiasts can easily distinguish between these two fascinating species.

So, the next time you spot a pigeon with a red eye, take a closer look at its head and surroundings to determine whether you’ve encountered the punk pigeon (Crested Pigeon) or the rockabilly pigeon (Topknot Pigeon).