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Victoria crowned pigeon

Scientific name: Goura victoria

Country: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea

Continent: Asia

Diet: Fruits - frugivore, seeds - granivore,

Food & feeding: Omnivore

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Habitats: Tropical rainforest

Relatives: Mauritius pink pigeon, dodo

Description: This bird is very different from the pigeon we see in towns and cities. The crowned pigeon is quite spectacular, being blue in colour and as tall as a turkey (74 cm). It has a large crest of feathers on its head that can be raised - hence its name. It is the largest of all living pigeons and is found in the wild only in New Guinea and some smaller offshore islands nearby.

Lifestyle: These beautiful birds forage the forest floor for fruit, seeds and snails. They seem to spend time in small flocks. Very little is known about them in the wild as they live in dense forest.

Keeping in touch: The sounds that these birds make are unusual. Their contact call sounds a bit like the sound created by blowing over the top of a milk bottle, whilst their display call is a dramatic 'boom-pa!'

Growing up: Crowned pigeons are monogamous and mate for life. Each year, a single large white egg is laid and incubated by both adults for about 28 days, after which a naked, helpless chick emerges. These birds are altricial, meaning that the young require attentive parental care and feeding for the first few weeks. At about 30 days, the chick resembles an adult but is about one third of the size. It is at this stage that it learns to fly and leaves the nest. Pigeons together with flamingos, are unusual among birds in that they produce a milk to feed to their chicks which has a chemical composition similar to that produced by mammals. Pigeon or crop milk is a secretion from crop of both adults, which forms the complete diet of nestlings for the first few days of life. 

The victoria crowned pigeon is the largest living pigeon, but the extinct dodo - also a member of the pigeon family - was much larger, weighing around 14 kg. Like the crowned pigeon, the dodo fed on the forest floor, and with no predators on its island home of Mauritius and so not needing to fly, it evolved shorter wings and became flightless.

Conservation news: They are hunted for food and sport and collected alive for illegal sale. There are also forestry and mining activities that threaten the forest they live in. They have largely disappeared from areas of human habitation but are thought to be fairly common in the wilder jungles of New Guinea.

Crowned pigeons are part of a European Endangered Species Programme.