The Topknot Pigeon is a large and very unique bird; it is much bigger than the Crested Pigeon which is often mistaken for. Topknot pigeons have an unmistakable crest on their head which resembles a large lock of dusty red hair that it uses in its mating displays. The male and female are very similar and are approximately 41cm long.
The Topknot pigeon roam our sub-tropical land in search of food, spends its days high in the top of the rainforest canopy eating small native fruits, berries and seeds from Native figs, Lillypillies, Bangalow Palms, Blueberry ash and other rainforest trees.
When early settlers arrived the land was cleared and these birds were hunted for food. This led to a rapid decline in pigeon numbers. In recent times, regrowth of Camphor laurel provided a substitute diet, albeit, perhaps a toxic one. However, scientific studies, on the purpose of flock pigeons as seed depositors, with regards to revegetating; showed that on abandoned agricultural land where camphor still existed, there was the opportunity for the pigeons to feed and then spread the seeds from other rainforest areas. These studies also indicated that the native plant species have as a result, started to outweighed the exotic species when nomadic flock pigeons visited the regeneration site. This natural method of seed dispersal between rainforest remnants encourages new growth and diversity all the way up and down the coast
Some interesting facts:
Captain Cook first mentions Topknot pigeons when the Endeavour was laid up in Cooktown. Early settlers used them for food and reported that flocks of several thousand birds were common. They still occupy their original range wherever the rainforest remains. They are strongly nomadic, concentrating on different fruiting trees.
“It seems that some flocks traverse the full length of the Queensland coast. Some birds have even been seen returning to Cape York Peninsula from the sea, and occasionally a few have turned up in Tasmania. On the other hand the movements of some flocks are small in scale.”
“There is no other obvious relationship between the Topknot pigeon and other well defined groups of pigeons. It is perhaps the sole representative of a group of pigeons that has only survived in Aus.”
(Readers Digest Complete Book of Aus. Birds 1979)