Victoria crowned-pigeon (Goura victoria)
|Also known as:||Victoria goura|
|Spanish:||Paloma Crestada Victoria|
|Size||Size: 74 cm (2)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU A2bcd+3bcd) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). Two subspecies are recognised: G. v. victoria and G. v. beccarii (4).
Crowned-pigeons are the largest pigeons in the world (5), immediately distinguished by the spectacular crest of lacy feathers on their heads, for which they earn their common name (6) (7). Widely regarded as ranking amongst some of the most handsome of all pigeons, the Victoria crowned-pigeon is a large steely blue-grey bird with deep maroon plumage below (5) (7), a pale grey wing patch and striking red eyes (4). However, the true splendour of this bird comes from the magnificent adornment of its white-tipped, fan-shaped crest (2), so large and beautiful that it has sadly attracted widespread hunting of the species (7).
Found on the Island and surrounding isles of New Guinea, which is divided up into West Irian Jaya and Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) in the west, which belong to Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea in the east (1) (6). The species occurs on Biak and Yapen islands, Indonesia, and across northern New Guinea from Geelvink Bay, Papua (Indonesia), to Astrolabe Bay and an isolated area around Collingwood Bay in easternmost Papua New guinea (2) (3).
Occupies swamp and sago palm forests, as well as drier forests, usually in the extreme lowlands, but sometimes to 600 m above sea level (4).
This gregarious pigeon forages on the forest floor in groups of two to ten individuals, and roosts in shrubs and trees at night (2) (4). Diet consists of fallen fruit, berries and seeds (4), as well as the occasional snail (6).
Crowned pigeons are monogamous and tend to mate for life (6). Male Victoria crowned-pigeons display courtship behaviour involving bowing of the head and tail movements (8), with captive birds observed to start breeding from 15 months old (2). The female usually lays a single egg per clutch, which both the male and female incubate for around 30 days (7). Juveniles fledge at four weeks, but parents continue to feed them until around 13 weeks old (8). Pigeons, together only with flamingos, have an unusual ability among birds to produce milk. Termed ‘crop milk’, this secretion is produced by both sexes and forms the complete diet of nestlings during their first few days of life (7).
These beautiful birds have suffered rapid population declines as a result of habitat destruction and hunting (8). Prized by poachers, Victoria crowned-pigeons are hunted for their meat, while nestlings are collected and reared for food (5). Their beautiful feathers and crest are also coveted, with the bird popular in the illegal pet trade and their feathers occasionally used by local people for head-dresses (4) (8). Sadly, poaching continues despite the bird being protected in many areas (8). Victoria crowned-pigeons are easily shot or taken by hunters because of their large size, tame and gregarious nature, and the fact that they fly only to low perches when scared, making them easy targets (1) (5). In addition, rainforest destruction continues at an alarming rate, with lowland forests threatened by logging and the associated logging roads facilitating greater access for hunters (2) (8). Thus, these beautiful, large birds have become threatened in all areas populated and accessible to man, and are now absent from large tracts of forest (3).
The Victoria crowned-pigeon is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates its import and export across borders, but this does not control domestic trade (3). The species is also protected by law in Papua New Guinea, although enforcement currently appears to be inadequate (2). Significant numbers of this bird are kept in zoos across Southeast Asia and the rest of the world, with captive breeding programmes existing in several of these facilities (2) (4). The suggested focus for conservation efforts for the future include enforcing protection in reserve areas, launching public awareness programmes to reduce hunting of this species, and even promoting this beautiful bird as a flagship species in ecotourism ventures (2). In essence, the Victoria crowned-pigeon’s handsome appearance and spectacular plumage should be exploited in ways that advance its conservation and survival, and not its hunting.
For more information on the Victoria crowned-pigeon see:
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the birds of the world, Volume 4 - Sandgrouse to cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
National Capital Botanical Gardens, Papua New Guinea:
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- Gregarious: tending to form a group with others of the same species by habitually living or moving in flocks or herds rather than alone.
- Monogamous: mating with a single partner.
IUCN Red List (July, 2014)