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Topknot Pigeon

Lopholaimus antarcticus

By Alicia Carter

The Topknot Pigeon is a large and very unique bird now flocking in large numbers in our region. It is much bigger than the Crested Pigeon which is often mistaken for.  The Topknot pigeons have an unmistakable crest on their head which resembles a large lock of dusty red hair that it uses in its mating displays. The male and female are very similar in description and are approximately 41cm long.  The Topknot pigeon spends its days high in the top of the rainforest canopy eating small native fruits, berries and seeds such as Native figs, Lillypillies, Bangalow Palms, Blueberry ash and the list goes on.  We would therefore class these pigeons as frugivores as they are clearly fruit eating pigeons. 

Currently in the area we have several different flocks of pigeons that have come along the coast feeding on seasonal berries.  Of a morning and again in the evening you may see flocks heading for their favorite food and roost trees. Recent flock numbers I counted were Topknot pigeons (22), 2 different groups of White-headed pigeons (15 & 20) and the Imperial dove (40).

These nomadic flock pigeons roam our sub tropical land in search of food.  When early settlers arrived the land was cleared and these birds were hunted for food. This led to a rapid decline in pigeon numbers. In recent times, regrowth of Camphor provided a substitute diet, albeit, perhaps a toxic one. However, scientific studies, on the purpose of flock pigeons as seed depositors, with regards to revegetating; showed that on abandoned agricultural land where such things as camphor still existed, there was the opportunity for the pigeons to feed and then spread the seeds from other rainforest areas. These studies also indicated that the native plant species have as a result, started to outweighed the exotic species when nomadic flock pigeons visited the regeneration site.  This natural method of seed dispersal between rainforest remnants encourages new growth and diversity all the way up and down the coast

There are several other rainforest species of pigeon that live in this area who are not found in large flocks.  They live in middle layers and ground layers of the rainforest eco-system.
  The Bar-shouldered Dove, with its dark bar and maroon spots, is a small rainforest floor pigeon who mostly eats fallen berries and seeds.

  The Wonga Pigeon with its distinct (even monotonous) 'whoo whoo whoo whoo' also eats from the floor. The Wonga is a large, plump, beautifully marked pigeon with a white V on its chest.

 The Emerald Dove also feeds this way and has shimmering green wings.

  The Brown Cuckoo Dove does feeds off the rainforest floor however it also feeds in the middle of the eco-system where it lives on bleeding-heart and Blueberry ash just to name a few. 

In this region we also have the endangered Rose-crowned Fruit Dove and the Wompoo Fruit Dove. The Wompoo is brilliantly colored and is the largest pigeon in our region. The Rose -crowned Fruit Dove is much smaller and also beautifully colored.

The most commonly seen locally are the Crested Pigeon and the Spotted Turtle Dove as well as the feral pigeon.  All of these pigeon species rely on a constant supply of native fruits, berries and seed to survive.  So if you are planning to do some planting keep the pigeons in mind, and plant only native plants.

Sharon McGrigor

Image by Sharon McGrigor
Image by Sharon McGrigor
Image by Sharon McGrigor
Image by Melanie Barsony


Updated March 2021  

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