Common Crowned Pigeon and chick

David Clarke

Joined March 2009

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The Common Crowned Pigeon is one of three crowned pigeons that come from the dense jungles of New Guinea. They are the largest of pigeons, almost turkey-like in size and they are beautiful. The sexes are similar so this could be either the male or female feeding this young chick.
This photo was taken some years ago on colour negative film (Kodak Portra 160NC), using a Canon EOS3 with a Canon 300mm L IS lens and a x2 extender. The negative was scanned on a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED scanner.
The location was the Hong Kong Park Aviary, a huge structure where you can walk around on an elevated boardwalk and view the many birds housed living there. The parents of this chick had built a nest on an artificial tree at a perfect camera height from the boardwalk!. The nest was a scruffy affair and looked like it would tumble to the ground at any moment.
When I took this and several other shots, the conditions were poor – in was pouring with rain and the light wasn’t good. My daughter held a large umbrella over me, and more importantly the camera and tripod while I snapped away. The vertical streaks on the picture are rain, as are the droplets on the feathers. Regardless of whether this is the male or female, this bird reminds me very much of Marj Simpson!

Uploaded 19 May 2009
Number of views on 10 July 2011: 223

The Common Crowned Pigeons are fascinating in others ways, in particular the production of a milk in their crops, and I’ve copied a short article from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park site – to complete the story:

The Common-crowned Pigeon is one of the largest species of pigeon in the world. These lovely blue-grey birds approach the size of a small turkey. The feathers of the back are tinged with purple to create a maroon wash across the upperparts. There is a small white patch on each wing formed by upper wing coverts. There is a terminal lighter blue-grey band on the tail feathers. A narrow band of darker blue feathers runs from the base of the bill through the eye. The eyes are red, the bill black, and the legs a deep maroon. The most noticeable anatomical feature is the elegant erect lacy crest formed by specialized feathers on the top of the head.

Distribution and Habitat
Common-crowned Pigeons are native to the moist lowland forests of eastern New Guinea and several adjacent smaller islands. They are found from sea level up to 600 meters in elevation. Groups of two to ten birds forage on the forest floor and flush into the tree tops when alarmed.

In the wild they are believed to feed on fallen fruits, seeds, berries, insects, and other invertebrates. The National Zoo feeds its pigeons a diet of papaya, Bird of Paradise pellets, avian maintenance pellets, mealworms, and corn grubs.

Little is known about the breeding behavior of wild crowned pigeons. Captive birds reach sexual maturity in their second year. Nesting birds construct a platform of sticks and twigs in the branches of trees, up to 15 meters off the ground. Both parents incubate the single large white egg for 28 to 30 days. When the chick hatches its eyes are closed and it is nearly featherless.

Common-crowned Pigeons, like all other pigeons and doves, produce a substance known as “crop milk”. Shortly before the chick is due to hatch, the lining of the parent bird’s crop begins to thicken. This lining sloughs off to form a cheesy material which the parents regurgitate to feed the chick until it is three to ten days old. Crop milk is similar in nutritional content to mammalian milk. Even after they have ceased to produce crop milk the parents continue to regurgitate the partially digested contents of their crops to nourish the young. The chick develops slowly and requires constant feeding and brooding for an extended period. Parents continue to feed the young bird even after it has left the nest at approximately one month of age.

The Common-crowned Pigeon is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Despite this legal protection they remain under heavy pressure from illegal hunting and the demands of the southeast Asian pet trade. Their highly palatable flesh and unfortunate habit of landing on exposed perches to gawk at intruders has not helped them avoid illegal shooting. They are now common only in the wilder and more remote portions of their original range.

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