Friday, July 23, 2010

Victoria Crowned Pigeon

I know I wrote about another pigeon just last week, but I read about these guys in a book yesterday and just had to learn more about them. Pigeon the size of a turkey you say? To the internet!

Image from MDH
The Victoria Crowned Pigeon is the largest living species of pigeon. They can stand over 70cm tall, and weigh up to 5lbs, with the males being slightly larger than the females. They are actually not the largest pigeons of all time, however. The extinct Dodo was a member of the pigeon family, and weighed over 40lbs! Victoria Crowned Pigeons sport beautiful blue and purple plumage, including a crest that the top of their head. Both the males and females display these dazzling colors and crests. They are named for both their crest, and for Britain's Queen Victoria. They are found in the dense forests of New Guinea and other small, surrounding islands.

Like many bird species, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon mates for life. A nest is built from twigs and leaves, and in it is laid one egg. Both parents incubate it until hatching after 4 weeks. The chick is naked and helpless, and is fed crop milk by both parents for the first few days before switching over to a regurgitated diet. They fledge after about a month, but will continue to stay with their parents for a few weeks longer. As mentioned in the Rock Pigeon post, Pigeons (and Flamingos) are unique birds in that they produce the aforementioned crop milk, which is a secretion not all that different from mammals milk, but is produced in a part of their throat.

Unfortunately, the Victoria Crowned Pigeons beautiful plumage has attracted unwanted human attention. They have been poached for their feathers, and have been snatched out of the wild for the illegal pet trade. Deforestation and hunting has also hurt their numbers, and they are now considered a vulnerable species.


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