We are blessed here in the Northern Rivers region, due to it being
one of the few areas in Australia where the Wonga Pigeon is still a
relatively common sight. Being one of the larger members of the pigeon
family, the adult Wonga Pigeon is resplendent with its generally bluish
grey upper body, white face, striking white “V” on its upper
breast, with its lower breast, abdomen, flanks and undertail also white,
with bold black spotty markings.
They live in temperate and sub-tropical rainforests, wet sclerophyll
forests and other eucalypt forests with thick understorey. These pigeons
are ground foragers and are likely to be spotted walking under berry
or seed laden trees looking for food. Wonga Pigeons eat fruits and seeds,
especially Acacia and are often seen in this area feasting on Blue Berry
Ash and Bleeding Heart berries. They also eat invertebrates such as
snails, cockroaches and caterpillars which makes up a large part of
its daily food requirements unlike many other species of pigeons and
You often see them alone or in pairs, as they are solitary animals
and widely disperse themselves within forested areas. Pigeons are generally
very wary animals and will fly away at the slightest inkling of trouble.
During breeding season both parents care for the young and laying two
eggs on a platform of twigs and vines, high in the fork of a tree. The
male and female pigeons and doves feed their chicks pigeon milk made
in their crops, which they regurgitate into the crop of their chick.
Like all pigeons and doves the Wonga’s crop is located in the
chest area. This is where it stores the berries and crushed seed which
is slowly digested into its system. The digestive systems of the Fruit
doves and pigeons removes the fleshy parts from the fruit and pass out
the seeds, thus helping the reproduction of these tree species into
Australia has 22 species of native doves and pigeons and three introduced
species, the Feral Pigeon, and the Spotted and Laughing Turtle-Doves.
Sadly, one of this region’s most beautiful and larger pigeons,
the Topknot Pigeon, with its Elvis Presley styled head plumage, is now
disappearing due to the removal of its food source along our coast.
I am glad to say, that even though the Wonga Pigeon provided a hearty
BBQ snack in the early days, we still have a few floating around in
this area today.
Amazing Facts about Australian Birds - Steve Parish
Rehabilitating Australian Birds Norma - Henderson
Field Guide to the Birds of Australia – Simpson & Day
Image by Jane Donovan
Image by Alicia Carter