The pigeon lives from Cooktown and Queenstown to the southern part of New South Wales. It is often found in tropical areas, subtropical rainforests, scrub, waterways, and street trees. Since people started living in Australia, their numbers have gone down, but they have done well on the camphor laurel brought there.
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The White-headed Pigeon (Columba leucoma) is a large pigeon with a white head, neck, and breast, sometimes with an orange or grayish wash. The back, wings, and tail are dark grey to black, and the underside is grey. The male is shiny green or purple, and the female is usually greyer and has a darker cap. When they are young, white-headed pigeons look like darker females. The ring around the eye is pink to dark red, and so are the legs and feet.
The White-headed Pigeon is a large species of pigeon with a unique plumage. It is the only living member of the widespread Columba genus native to Australia. Birds are easy to recognize because their heads and bodies are white, and their wings and tails are dark gray. Somewhat social, flocks of up to 12 birds are not unusual, and as many as 40 birds have been seen together. This species is most common and widespread in a small area around Brisbane, but it may be more widespread in the northwest than the data shows.
White-headed Pigeons can be found all along the east coast of Australia, from Cairns to Melbourne. They are common in rainforests and areas with dense vegetation, but they are less common in Brisbane. The only other birds that could be mistaken for it are Feral Pigeons with mismatched feathers and colors, like descendants of the Turbit breed.
In July 2018, 40 birds were seen at Aspley (Lambert, 2018). More than 10 birds have also been seen in 10 places around the city, such as Mount Glorious, Brookfield, Mount Crosby, and Sherwood.
This shows that flocks move around a lot, most likely looking for trees with fruit to eat. The species is found in a wide range of elevations in Brisbane, from sea level to more than 600 meters above sea level. There are no records of this species breeding in Brisbane, but birds likely breed there. More research needs to be done in this area. Birds can be seen in Brisbane all year, but the number of reports goes down significantly from February to December.
Many reports of birds in urban parks and gardens show that birds can live in these places. So, this species’s current status in Brisbane seems stable. Still, care must be taken to keep large areas like D’Aguilar National Park, a good place for this species to live safe.
White-headed Pigeons are a fairly localized species in Brisbane. They tend to stay in the wetter forests of the western suburbs, where they can be seen regularly. Given that much of the rainforest and wet sclerophyll that they like to live in is in Camel’s Head and Body, which hasn’t been studied much, the actual range of this species in Brisbane isn’t clear right now. Still, it probably lives in most of the city west of Oxley/Sherwood.
There aren’t many reports from the north, east, or south of the city, but some feeding flocks or wandering individuals do show up in the suburbs. The species has only been reported once from Moreton Island (by Michael in 2005), but this report has not been confirmed. The species has not been recorded from the island in the past (by Vernon and Martin in 1975 or by Biodata), so it is at best a rare visitor to the bay.
Within Brisbane, birds are found in a wide range of altitudes, with the majority of records coming from lowlands below 100m and many forms higher up, all the way to the top of Brisbane, which is over 600m. This is probably because there are so many places for this species to live. There are wet forests at all altitudes in Brisbane, and they cover the highest mountains in the area (such as Mount Glorious and Mount Nebo).
The places where birds live in the city don’t change much from one season to the next. About the same areas are used all year, but some changes exist. Despite this, it is likely (based on records from all of suburban Brisbane) that birds move around the city a bit in search of the best habitat and fruiting trees. However, this hypothesis needs more detailed monitoring than is currently available to prove it.
The numbers of white-headed pigeons change a lot from one season to the next in Brisbane, and the number of sightings goes down from one year to the next. In February, just under 2 percent of all completed checklists are reported. From then on, the number of reports steadily goes down until November and December, when the number is under 1 percent.
This isn’t apparent, but it could be because birds are moving around, either locally (like other species do, going up and down the mountains) or more widely around the area. More work is needed here.
There are no reports of this species breeding in Brisbane, which is surprising since birds are present in the city all year (despite the variance above). So, no one knows yet when the local birds will breed. It would be great to learn more about where and when our local birds breed.