Last week, Ferrebeekeeper promised pigeons. So this week, let’s start off with the monarch of pigeons—the magnificent Victoria crowned pigeon (Goura victoria). Native to the coastal forests of New Guinea, this splendid bird not only has a magnificent “crown” of lovely ornamental feathers, it is the largest living pigeon in the world. Adult pigeons weigh up to 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds). The plumage of the Victoria crowned pigeon is blue-gray except for the maroon chest, and pale gray wingtips. Their crowns are made up of little gray fans with white fringes. They have blood red eyes which are surrounded by a little black mask of feathers.
The Victoria crowned pigeon is named in honor of Queen Victoria (who was on the throne of England when the bird was discovered by English ornithologists). The Victoria crowned pigeon is a gregarious social bird. Parties of pigeons walk together around the swampy rainforest floor looking for fruit, which is the mainstay of the bird’s diet (although they also sometimes supplement their diet with seeds and arthropods).
Crown pigeons built intricately crafted nests in trees where the females lay a single white egg. Both parents actively tend the egg and the nestling. The vocalizations of Victoria crown pigeons sound like studio audience noises from nineties talk shows. According to Wikipedia “[mating calls consist of a] hoota-hoota-hoota-hoota-hoota sound. When defending their territories, these birds make a resounding whup-up, whup-up, whup-up call. Their contact call is a deep, muffled and rather human-like ummm or hmmm.”
Crown pigeons are not uncommon in the wild but the live birds are collected for the pet trade and the birds are hunted for meat and for their remarkable head feathers. Humans have a weakness for trying to take their beautiful crowns to build into our own headwear.