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Spinifex Pigeon
Geophaps plumifera


Length: 20-22 cm; Weight: 68-98 g

Spinifex Pigeon is endemic to Australia. It is a small, plump, terrestrial species. 

Adult male has cinnamon to rufous upperparts, barred with black, particularly on wings. This barred pattern is formed by subterminal dark colour and buffy fringes. It is also conspicuous on breast sides where grey feathers show subterminal darker bands. Scapulars are grey with blackish subterminal bands and orange-rufous tips. Uppertail central feathers are earthy-brown, and outer rectrices are blackish, visible when the birds fans its tail.

Underparts show various colours. In “plumifera” group, we can see black chin and centre of upper throat. Foreneck and neck sides are black. Breast is orange-rufous with narrow white border band below, followed by black line and orange-rufous band. Belly to vent is white, washed yellowish-buff on vent. Flanks are orange-rufous. Undertail coverts are grey fringed with white. Underwings are cinnamon and tail feathers show darker tips.
In “ferruginea” group, birds have darker and richer chestnut above, and underparts are ruddy-brown, darker and duller than in “plumifera”.   
On the head, forecrown and forehead are grey, extending above the supercilium. Lores and orbital area, until ear coverts, are bare and red, bordered above and below by narrow black line. Chin to lower ear coverts is white. Crown and nape are orange-rufous with greatly elongated feathers forming erected, pointed crest.
Bill is dark grey to black, sometimes with darker tip. Eyes are bright yellow-orange. Legs and feet are reddish-grey.
Adult female usually has shorter crest than male.

Juvenile is duller than adults, with less distinct pattern on body and face. Eyes are rather greenish-yellow, with dull khaki orbital skin. Legs and feet are red-brown.

Spinifex Pigeon’s advertising call is a low “cooo-woo”, with longed first note. Other calls are longer and higher pitched “coo-oo-oo-oo-whoo” or “cu-woo, cu-woo, cu-woo, cu-woo”.
During courtship displays, male utters short “grunting coo”, followed by almost silent inspiration.  

Spinifex Pigeon lives in arid areas where are growing up spinifex grasses and low woodlands, and in stony areas as arid stony hills and rocky outcrops.

The race Geophaps plumifera plumifera lives in north western, northern, eastern and central Australia.
The race Geophaps plumifera ferruginea is found in Pilbara, in Western Australia.

Spinifex Pigeon feeds on the ground, mainly on dry seeds of grasses such as spinifex Triodia, large rounded tussock of grass, endemic to Australia. It also visits farms for poultry grain food, and consumes invertebrates and leaves. It has to drink often. It is mainly active in the early morning and the evening, but it drinks at any time.

Spinifex Pigeon moves long distances on the ground in small groups. At night, they roost close to each other on the ground, near the top of a slope, in small shrubs.
During courtship displays, male performs bowing displays, bowing deeply with bill pointed downwards, with spread erected tail, and wings slightly spread and held up. Contraction of pupils gives the golden iris very conspicuous. They also perform elaborate mating dance after rain, where the male is strutting. But bowing may also be an aggressive behaviour, and rivals fight, circling each other. Breeding is influenced by weather conditions, and usually occurs in spring or after rains.
Spinifex Pigeon is permanent resident of arid Australian regions.

Spinifex Pigeon prefers to run and hop on the ground, because it does not fly readily. It may perform fast, direct flight with rapid wing beats, interspersed with glides with horizontal wings. While flying, crest is not visible, hold flat on the nape.

Breeding season occurs mainly from August to January. Spinifex Pigeon nests on the ground, sheltered in small shrub, rock or spinifex tussock. Nest is a scrape in the ground, a shallow depression sometimes lined with some vegetation.
Female lays 2 creamy-white eggs. Incubation lasts about 16 to 18 days, by both parents which share also all nest duties.
Chicks are off and running at 7 to 9 days old, and leave the nest-site at about 11 days after hatching.

Spinifex Pigeon feeds on various dry seeds of grasses and herbs, especially those of spinifex Triodia. It also consumes invertebrates and leaves, and it needs to drink frequently.      

Spinifex Pigeon is usually common in suitable habitat, although it is scattered and local.
Spinifex Pigeon has been threatened by the grazing back of spinifex by cattle, but numbers seem to be stable.       

Fr: Colombine plumifère
All : Rotschopftaube
Esp : Paloma Plumífera
Ital : Piccione plumifero
Nd :  Spinifexduif
Russe :  Белобрюхий султаноносный голубь

Photographs by Patrick Ingremeau

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 4 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334229

PIGEONS AND DOVES by David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes and John Cox - Pica Press Sussex - ISBN: 1873403607

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)


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