Sunday, 7 April 2013

Victoria Crown Pigeon

order : Columbiformes      Genus & Species : Columbidae     Family : Goura victoria

The azure feathers of the Victoria crowned pigeon fan out along its head, making it one of the most spectacular tropical birds in the forest.Traveling in small flocks, the colorful Victoria crowned pigeon makes a dazzling sight as the birds search their forest habitat for food that has fallen from the trees.They found in north New Guinea from the Siriwo River to Astrolobe Bay; also in Yapen and Biak Islands in Geelvink Bay as well as Japan (Jobi) Island and Bink Island, where it may have been introduced. 

Habitat : The Victoria crowned pigeon lives in the lush rain forests, which are rich in fruit trees for the birds to feed on.The pigeon also occupies muddy lowland flats in swamps and sago palm forests, as well as drier forest in the tropics of New Guinea. Some populations have been found in the Jimi Valley, at elevations between 1,500–2,300'. This sedentary bird nests close to rivers and swamps where vegetation is dense, and in virgin forests, far away from the crush of human civilization.
Food & Feeding : Feeding mainly on fallen fruits, berries and seeds, the crowned pigeon often forages on the forest floor in groups of 2–10.The pigeon scoops up fruits and berries and will crack the seeds with its sharp, hooked beak. Unlike other birds, pigeons immerse their bill in water and are then able to swallow without raising their heads.
Behavior : Little is known of the habits of the three species of crowned pigeons, other than what has been observed in zoos and among collectors of the birds. The Victoria crowned pigeon travels in small groups that spend most of their day searching for fallen fruits and berries; the pigeon remains near its food source and perches on branches. After preening its feathers, the pigeon bathes in pools of water among the fallen leaves of the forest. Virtually defenseless against hunters and feather collectors, the pigeon flies noisily up into the trees when alarmed or disturbed.
Breeding : The loud, booming call of the male Victoria crowned pigeon resounds throughout the rain forest during the bird’s fall breeding season. He also displays his feathery, colorful crest to the female by nodding his lowered head. Continuing with the elaborate courtship ritual, the male makes his unique call as he fans his tail up and down vigorously. The female pigeon responds by spreading her wings and raising them up as she runs alongside the male with slightly bent legs, hissing along the way. Before mating, the male and female crowned pigeon will preen each other carefully while perched on the fork of a tree branch. The breeding pair builds its nest up to 50' above the ground, usually in a rain forest tree.The nest is a neat, solid, compact mass of tightly woven palm leaves, sticks and stems, in which the female lays one large white egg. Both parents will take turns incubating the single egg for approximately 30 days. Once the lone chick hatches, the parents feed it crop milk; this nutritious food is produced by both sexes in the crop, which is an extension of the esophagus. The thick milk has the same consistency as cottage cheese. Fed on this milk, the young crowned pigeon grows fast. In fact, by 4 weeks the chick is ready to fly from the nest. However, the young bird is still fed by the protective parents until it is about 13 weeks old. 

Bill : The pigeon uses its sharp, hooked bill to crack open seeds; the bird can also immerse its bill in water and swallow without raising its head.
Feet & Legs : Legs have a tough skin with a tiled effect. Three toes on the front and one in the back enable the bird to climb trees or grip perches.
Plumage : The pigeon’s colorful plumage is gray-blue with a purplish-red breast; the wing is blue with a purple edge.
Crest Feathers : The white-tipped crest feathers are long, with slightly separated barbs at the ends, giving them a lacy appearance. Feathers are composed of mostly dead cells, like the hair of humans.
In Flight : Though heavy, the crowned pigeon is a strong flier. It remains close to the ground, but will fly high up into the trees when alarmed.

Weight : Up to 6 lbs.
Length : 23-29"
Sexual Maturity : 17 months
Breeding Season : August– September

The Victoria crowned pigeon apparently has no natural predators in the forest other than man, who hunts the colorfully plumed pigeon for its beautiful feathers and meat, which is considered quite a delicacy by some cultures.

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