Pied Imperial-Pigeon

Did you know?

The Pied Imperial-Pigeon appears to be the first Australian bird referred to by Europeans. Diego de Prado, on Luis Vaez de Torres' voyage which passed through Torres Strait, recorded seeing there "plenty of very large pigeons all white". This was in 1606.

Calls
A variety of calls, including a loud, low-pitched moaning "coo-woo", "moo-oop", or "up-oooo"; and a display call, used in courtship and aggression, described as a loud, bellowing low-pitched "coo-hoo-hoo" or "oom-oom-oom".
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
38cm
Maximum Size: 
44cm
Average size: 
41cm
Average weight: 
475g
Breeding season: 
August to January
Clutch Size: 
1-3
Incubation: 
27 days
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
26
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Pied Imperial-Pigeon is a large distinctive black and white pigeon, mostly white but with black on the outerparts of its wings and on its tail tip  and black bars on the underside of its tail. The beak is yellow or yellow-green and legs and feet are blue-grey. This bird is also known as  the Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Torres Strait Pigeon, White Nutmeg-Pigeon, Nutmeg Pigeon, Spice Pigeon, or Australian Pied Imperial-Pigeon.

Similar species: 

None.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Pied Imperial-Pigeon is found from the western Bay of Bengal eastward to the Philippines and south through Indonesia and New Guinea to northern Australia. In northern Australia it is found in the Kimberleys area, in the Top End of the Northern Territory, across Cape York Peninsula and along the east Queensland coast from Torres Strait south to about Rockhampton. Some authors treat the birds found in Australia as a separate species compared to those found at the western end of its range.

Habitat: 

This pigeon is found on offshore islands and the mainland of northern and north-eastern Australia. It is found in a variety of wooded habitats, such as mangroves, rain forest and in forests of Eucalyptus and Melaleuca. It avoids the more arid parts of the Top End but does penetrate inland along major rivers.

Seasonal movements: 

The populations of Pied Imperial-Pigeon in Queensland and the Northern Territory migrate northwards to non-breeding areas, mostly in southern New Guinea, in late summer and autumn. They usually return from August to October. The population in the Kimberleys appears to be non-migratory, but in the dry season the birds tend to disperse from forests to offshore islands, riverside vegetation or eucalyptus woodland.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

Pied Imperial-Pigeons are fruit eaters, eating from tropical trees, palms, vines and bushes. They feed in the dense canopies of trees but occasionally near the ground in shrubs or small trees. The birds that breed or roost on islands usually fly to the mainland to feed, travelling  in flocks which disperse to feed on reaching land. They usually stay near the coast. On the mainland they normally forage in singly in pairs or in groups up to 20 birds.

Breeding: 

In Queensland Pied Imperial-Pigeons nest in small to large colonies (up to tens of thousands) on offshore islands and sometimes on the mainland. Elsewhere, including mainland Queensland their nests are solitary. The birds nest in mangroves, forest or scrub, sometimes even on rocks or bare ground. The nest itself can be a loosely woven platform of sticks or a large dense platform with a central depression made of small twigs. The nest material is collected from vegetation near the nest. When nesting on the ground they do not build a nest but gradually encircle the nesting site with mounds of  excreted seeds from fruit they have eaten. Pied Imperial-Pigeons lay up to three clutches of eggs per season. Both male and female incubate the eggs on alternate days and both brood and feed the chicks, again on alternate days.

Living with us

In some areas of eastern Queensland population sizes have decreased, perhaps due to habitat loss, shooting and other human disturbances. However some populations have recovered to some extent. Pied Imperial-Pigeons used to be shot in large numbers, at breeding sites, but they have been protected since 1902. Nesting birds are easily disturbed by human activities.

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