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The Wonga Pigeon
Leucosarcia melanoleuca

Image above by Alex Wilson

Information by Alicia Carter

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 doves.

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 other areas.

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.

Reference:

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

Updated January 11, 2017  

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