Pigeon from the Torres Strait

The Pied Imperial Pigeon splits its time between Australia and overseas.

Birds in our World with Keith Ireland

If I was to use the name Pied Imperial Pigeon for the attached birds’ photo, it probably wouldn’t give a lot of information to many people. However, the use of its second name ‘Torres Strait Pigeon’ would immediately make it clear where this bird would be found in Australia.

On a driving holiday to Cape York some years ago now, we stayed a night with bird loving friends. In the course of conversations, he mentioned the great flocks of Torres Strait Pigeons as he called them, that had arrived to the off-shore islands every year. From what he said, numbers had dwindled greatly, with the large colonies now being off the top end of the cape.

He told me that, like many of our overseas migrants, this pigeon returns to our shores from New Guinea around July and August breeding in colonies till around March. Some return to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef where they nest in the mangroves. Similarly, large numbers also return along the coastline of the Northern Territory.

These birds are fruit eaters but, with large numbers of birds, there is not enough food available so one of the pair will head back to New Guinea or the mainland daily for special fruit and then return to their nesting site set up in the mangroves. Both parents take turns at minding the nest and young.

Had we been staying longer, I might have asked if it was possible to go to one of these islands but unfortunately, I didn’t get that chance. It wasn’t till many years later that I was able to get the photo that is attached.

Both male and female are similar in appearance. At around 45cm in length, the Imperial Pigeon is one of our largest pigeons.