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Keeping Pigeons and Doves – Three Gorgeous Tropical Species

Those whose “pigeon experience” is limited to feral rock doves are usually surprised to learn that these ubiquitous city-dwellers are members of a huge (300 + species) family that includes some of the world’s most unusual and sought-after aviary birds.  The Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove (Gallicolumba luzonica), Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria) and Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica) are prime examples.  Let’s see why….

General Considerations

Victoria Crowned PigeonThe pigeons described below consume a fruit-based diet quite unlike that given to the more commonly-kept ring doves.  The diet I provided those under my care contained a wide variety of fruits (varied seasonally), chopped greens, boiled rice, softbill diet, pigeon seed mix and insects.

In general, exotic pigeons need large aviaries, and are best housed outdoors in warm climates.  However, some of the smaller fruit doves (which I will cover in the future) can be kept indoors.

Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Goura victoria

My reaction upon first seeing this largest of the world’s pigeons was typical – pure awe!  Resembling more a colorful turkey than a pigeon, these magnificent birds stand over 24 inches high, and reach nearly 3 feet in length.  An improbable crest of long, lacey blue feathers crowns the head, giving them a most definite “royal” appearance.

Crowned Pigeons (there are 2 other species) make fairly hardy aviary birds.  They are quite steady and not at all shy (a fact that has contributed to their demise in the wild), and the pair I kept bred regularly.  I was even able to give them outdoor access on mild winter days.

Victoria Crowned Pigeons are found only in northern New Guinea and on some small offshore islands.  They are classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN and are listed on Appendix II of CITES but, fortunately, are well-established in private aviculture and zoos.

Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove, Gallicolumba luzonica

Nicobar PigeonA confirmed ground dweller, this beautiful dove’s name is very fitting – the bright red blotch on its chest actually fades out along the edges, looking very much like a blood stain.  Especially when seen in a densely-planted aviary, the bird gives the appearance of having been gravely injured…more than one zoo visitor has excitedly reported the same to me over the years.

Bleeding Heart Doves are more readily available, and are easier to keep, that the other birds covered here.  They are shy but not nervous in temperament, and make fine pets if some time is put into taming them.

Their natural range is limited to southern Luzon and nearby islands in the Philippines.

Nicobar Pigeon, Caloenas nicobarica

Nicobar PigeonThe color of this bird’s plumage varies dramatically with changing light exposure – indeed, two people rarely provide the same description.  Various shades of green, blue, copper and rust, all somewhat “metallic”, come and go as the bird moves about, and the long feathers trailing from its head grant a most unusual profile.  This species, the only member of its genus, is not common in private collections, but well-worth searching for.

Nicobar Pigeons have an unusual distribution.  They range from Southeast Asia and southern India through Malaysia, but within that area usually occupy only small islands (including, of course, Indonesia’s Nicobar chain!).   Nowhere common, their habits have not been well-studied.

Further Reading

You can read more about the care of Victoria Crowned Pigeons here.

For a look at some smaller, more common doves, please see my article Ring Doves and the others referenced there.


Nicobar Pigeon image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tom Friedel

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