Animal of the Month
October 2016

Name: Southern Crowned-Pigeon (AKA Scheepmaker’s Crowned-Pigeon)
Scientific Name: Goura scheepmakeri

Classification: Bird
Class: Aves
Order: Columbifromes
Family: Colymbidae
Genus: Goura
Number of Species: 2
Goura scheepmakeri sclateri
Goura scheepmakeri scheepmakeri
Size: Males about 26.7-29 inches long, females about 25.9-27.5 inches long
Weight: About 5.5 lbs

Small round head with extravagant feather crown and thin beak, plump plumage, long feathered tail. G.s. scheepmakeri is slightly larger with a fluffier crown, while G. s. sclateri is slightly smaller and plumper with a somewhat less fluffy crown.
Color(s): Grey head and body with red, grey or black belly. Wings grey, red and white. Crown feathers bluish. White legs with orange feet. Black “mask” around the eyes.
Behavior: Lives on the ground by day and in the trees by night.Preferred Habitat: Tropicalrainforests Range: The southern lowlands of New Guinea
Diet: Fruit
Lifespan: N/A

Status: Vulnerable

Pigeons are a common sight in urban areas. For some cities like New York, it has become a stereotype for the streets to be patrolled by dimwitted pigeons. There are many different kinds of wild and domestic pigeons, but you may be surprised to learn that one of the biggest and prettiest pigeon species lives in New Guinea! The southern crowned-pigeon lives in the dry and flooded forests of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

The southern crowned-pigeon is marked by its beautiful red and blue-gray feathers. Its most striking feature is its fluffy crown of feathers on its head. There are two subspecies of southern crowned-pigeons. Goura scheepmakeri scheepmakeri is slightly larger and thinner than its counterpart Goura scheepmakeri sclateri. These birds do not exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females do not appear to be different.

Southern crowned-pigeons spend the daytime searching the forest floor for fallen tree fruit. They also eat seeds and small river crabs. During the hottest part of the day they hide in dense shrubs to cool off and at night they roost in trees. They are social creatures and usually live in groups of three-to-seven, though they have been reported to flock in groups of up to thirty!

The breeding season occurs between September and Early November, though it is believed that the season is actually longer than this. The females build nests of dead palms and sticks in tree branches four to fifteen meters above the ground. Females lay a single egg at a time. Southern crowned-pigeons possess a crop—a muscular patch in their throats that temporally stores food. Females feed their young by regurgitating crop-milk, a nutritious substance produced from the lining of the crop!

The southern crowned-pigeon was once quite common. Unfortunately, it has been hunted to extinction through much of its range. Today it survives in areas far from human settlements and is currently classed as vulnerable by the ICUN. These birds are heavily hunted for their meat. Their feathers are prized by collectors as well as people who use them in traditional ceremonies. They are also abducted as adults or chicks for the pet or aviary trade. What’s more, the habitat of these creatures is subject to deforestation. Suffice it to say the southern crowned-pigeon is under serious pressure.

Fortunately, action is being taken to preserve these wonderful birds. In Papua New Guinea they are protected by law, and the nation’s Department of Environment and Conservation is working to educate local residents on forest management, among other projects. The southern crowned-pigeon is also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means that the international trade of these animals is closely monitored. These initiatives will help to turn the tide in safeguarding the southern crowned-pigeon and other animals that reside in the forests of New Guinea.

To learn more about what is being done to help these wild pigeons, check out these awesome resources:

ARKive, Southern Crowned-Pigeon Page—ARKive seeks to foster conservation of biodiversity through wildlife photography. Here they document the southern crowned-pigeon, its threats and conservation initiatives.

BirdLife International, Southern Crowned-Pigeon Page—BirdLife is formed through a coalition of 119 autonomous BirdLife partner organizations across the world, dedicated to preserve animals, ecosystems, eradicating invasive species and empowering people at the local level.


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