No other bird has a warning system quite like it

Crested pigeons are native to Australia and one of the growing number of birds that have adapted to the impact of humans on the environment and moved into urban areas.

Originally birds of the inland, restricted to arid and semi-arid, they have gradually spread, colonising Adelaide first in the 1980s during a severe drought and later appearing in Perth and Melbourne. Crested pigeons are now commonly found on most of the mainland, with the exception of the tropical northern areas.

Like all pigeons and doves these birds have a plump body with a rounded chest and the feathers on their flanks are modified to continuously produce powder down which is used to preen feathers.

They are easily identified from other similar birds as they have a thin black crest on the head. The only other pigeon in Australia with a crest is the Spinifex Pigeon, also found in arid areas.

Crested Pigeons have grey-brown plumage which has a pinkish tinge on the underparts and pink legs and feet and a red eye ring and eye. The wings are barred with black and decorated with glossy green and purple patches that are amazingly beautiful when caught in the light.

These birds are found in lightly wooded grasslands in rural and urban areas and always near water. They feed in pairs or small flocks and are often seen on golf courses, in parklands and urban streets.

They are ground feeding birds and eat native seeds and grasses and seeds from introduced crops and weeds. Clearing land for agriculture has significantly extended their range.

The birds build a delicate nest of twigs in small trees or dense bush and produce two eggs.

Both male and female birds have a unique glandular crop which secretes “crop-milk” on which the young are reared.

One of the most intriguing features of these birds is the whirring noise made by their wings when they are alarmed and take flight. This noise is caused by an adaptation to their wing structure resulting that the eighth primary flight feathers are half the width of the others.

This difference produces a high-pitched sound when the wing is pushed down and has become a critical part of an alarm system that warns the rest of the flock to flee the danger.

No other related pigeon has this survival feature.

Hunter Bird Observer’s Club website can be found at www.hboc.org.au