Australian Pigeons and Doves

Exploring the Diverse World of Australian Pigeons and Doves

Australia boasts an impressive diversity of native pigeons and doves, with 25 endemic species out of the 29 total species found in the country. The most common pigeon encountered in Australia is the introduced Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), also known as the Domestic Pigeon, which has adapted well to urban environments. There are several native species that may be mistaken for pigeons due to their similar appearance, such as the Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes), a greyish bird with a thin crest and bronze patches on its wings.

The largest native pigeon in Australia is the Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus), a sizeable grey pigeon with a distinctive dark, floppy crest. Australasia is considered the global center of pigeon diversity, with Australia’s 29 species belonging to the Columbidae family. These stout-bodied birds have short necks and slender bills adapted to their diet of seeds and fruit. Pigeons are known for their rapid flight, characterized by clipped wing beats. While the introduced species have become widespread, Australia’s native pigeons and doves play a vital role in the country’s ecosystems and contribute to its unique avian diversity.

Urban Dwellers

Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia)

The Domestic Pigeon, also known as the Rock Dove, is a common sight in cities worldwide, including those in Australia. These birds are typically blue-grey in color and have adapted well to urban environments.

Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)

Another urban dweller, the Spotted Turtle-Dove, is a light brown bird with a black collar adorned with white spots. Juveniles have a similar appearance but lack the spotted collar.

Rainforest Gems

Superb Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus superbus)

The Superb Fruit-Dove is a striking bird found in the rainforests of Australia. Males have a vibrant purple crown, chestnut-orange neck, and a blue-black breast band separating the grey chest from the white belly. Females have a smaller purple patch on the crown and lack the breast band.

Rose-crowned Pigeon (Ptilinopus regina)

Another beautiful rainforest species, the Rose-crowned Pigeon, is bright green above with a pink crown. The chest is grey, and the belly is yellow. Females are similar but have duller colors, while juveniles are mostly green with yellow on the wings and pale undersides.

Wompoo Pigeon (Ptilinopus magnificus)

The Wompoo Pigeon is another stunning rainforest inhabitant, known for its vibrant plumage.

Woodland and Grassland Species

Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera)

The Common Bronzewing is a medium-sized pigeon with metallic green, blue, and red patches on its wings. It has a white line above and below the eye, and males have a pale yellowish-white forehead and pink breast.

Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes)

The Crested Pigeon is a greyish bird with a thin crest, making it the only grey Australian pigeon with this distinctive feature. Its wings have bronze patches, adding to its unique appearance.

Spinifex Pigeon (Geophaps plumifera)

The Spinifex Pigeon has a distinctive tall, pointed crest on its head. It is rufous-brown in color with dark barring on the back and wings. A black and white bar runs across its chest, and the belly is whitish.

Fruit Pigeons

Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus)

The Topknot Pigeon is a large grey pigeon with a prominent, dark, floppy crest. These birds are known for their unique appearance and are often found in forested areas.

White-headed Pigeon (Columba leucomela)

The White-headed Pigeon has a distinctive white head and breast, contrasting with its dark back and tail.

Conservation and Threats

Habitat Loss

Many Australian pigeon and dove species face threats from habitat loss due to deforestation, urbanization, and agricultural expansion. Protecting and preserving their natural habitats is crucial for their long-term survival.

Invasive Species

Introduced predators, such as feral cats and foxes, pose a significant threat to ground-dwelling pigeon and dove species. Controlling these invasive populations is essential for the conservation of native birds.

Climate Change

As with many other bird species, Australian pigeons and doves may be affected by the impacts of climate change, such as altered rainfall patterns and increased frequency of extreme weather events. Monitoring and mitigating these effects is an ongoing challenge.

Australian pigeons and doves are a diverse and fascinating group of birds, ranging from the urban-adapted Domestic Pigeon to the colorful rainforest species like the Purple-crowned Pigeon. By understanding and appreciating these birds’ unique characteristics and the challenges they face, we can work towards ensuring their conservation and the protection of their habitats for future generations to enjoy.