Crowned Pigeons are the largest members of the pigeon family. They are as large as a full grown turkey hen. There are 3 species of Crowned Pigeons, all are from New Guinea.
- Blue Crowned Pigeons are the largest. Pict #2 Note the Maroon color on the back
- Blue Crowned Pigeon with youngster
- Victoria Crowned Pigeons are considered the most attractive because of their Large ornate head crest.Pict #2
- Maroon Breasted Crowned Pigeons are the rarest of the three, as least in the US.
- Crowned Pigeon hen on nest (young concealed underneath)
- Same bird 10 days later with baby now showing
- Same Baby now fledged and one month old
All three are very similar and differ primarily in the placement of the maroon color, the size and brightness of the wing patch, and the size and color of the crest feathers.
These large imposing pigeons are certainly among the most attractive if not the most bizarre birds. Most people, upon first seeing them, do not recognize them as pigeons due to their size. However, their size is someone deceiving, as the body is rather small by comparison to a similar size turkey. Their large, loose and fluffy feathers give them the appearance of being much larger than they really are.
The sexes are identical in appearance but males are often larger than females, and the experienced pigeon breeder would likely have little trouble distinguishing males from females. Males do sing as most pigeons do, only the Crowned Pigeons are said to boom rather than coo. The loud sound of a male Crowned Pigeon is a series of low notes which sound very similar to "boom boom" , "boom boom", two loud notes in rapid succession.
Crowned Pigeons have been bred in captivity since the 1800's but due to their slow reproductive nature (raising only one or two, rarely 3 young, per year) they have never been very common in private collections. Most Crowned Pigeons are held by zoos and there are only a handful of private breeds in the US who keep them. You can hear birds like these Crowned Pigeons outside your window while on a Dominican Republic vacation. Exotic pigeons among other birds such as pelicans, pauraques, clapper rails, and many others can be found in the world's greatest wildlife reserve which is found south of Cancun.
Reproduction is slow but often steady. Once a pair of Crowned Pigeons is established and breeding, they will breed regularly for many years, producing usually one or two offspring each year. They lay a single large white egg about the size of a chicken egg. The egg hatches after 30 days of incubation, and the young pigeon remains in the nest, cared for by both parents, for an additional 30 days. One the young pigeon leaves the nest, it is dependent on the parents for food for an additional month. So the entire process of raising a single Crowned Pigeon takes no less than 3 months to complete. It is a very slow process.
Crowned Pigeons mature fast, and a young bird reaches sexual maturity at about 2 years of age though many individuals will not breed until they are much older. I have had Blue Crowned Pigeons to begin breeding as early as 2 years of age. They are very long lived birds, as there are reliable zoo records of breeding Crowned Pigeon in the mid 20's.
Their diet in captivity consist mostly of grain, small dry kibbled dog food, and chopped fruit. Crowned Pigeons essentially eat the same grains one would feed any domestic or exotic pigeon or game bird, but they love diced apple, banana, grapes and fresh raw peanuts. Practically any chopped fruit offered will be accepted. My Crowned Pigeons love diced longhorn cheese, which I provide several times per week as a source of protein and calcium. They prefer the cheese to any grain or fruit, but it should be fed sparingly.
Crowned Pigeons are easily tamed and become very trusting birds once acclimated to an aviary. My birds will eat out of my hand if I offer them preferred treats. They require lots of room and the minimum size aviary should be at least 20 feet long by 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall for a single pair. Due to their size they should be kept alone. However they are normally not aggressive towards other species. No more than a single pair of Crowned Pigeons can be kept and breed in an enclosure. Pairs, particularly males, are not tolerant of other Crowned Pigeons in their enclosure.
They will nest in any open flat platform or shallow basket. Being not winter hardy, these birds should be kept in frost free conditions. While they will tolerate some low temperatures, they are very uncomfortable if temperatures fall below 40F and should never be allowed to experience prolonged freezing conditions.
I acquired my first Crowned Pigeon in 1971, a male. Then a year later I purchased a female. The pair produced 19 eggs in a single year and never paid attention to any them. The female would lay a egg nearly every 2 weeks. The eggs were fertile but hand raising Crowned Pigeons has always been extremely difficult, and rarely successful. Even experienced hand feeders at some of the best zoos in the country shun the idea of trying to hand raise a Crowned Pigeon. Seems many trials eventually result in birds not making it beyond the 21st day. For some reason that particular period in the young birds development is critical and most succumb. This is not unique to Crowned Pigeons, as nearly all exotic pigeons are very difficult to raise from day one. Nevertheless my first pair did eventually settle down during their second year and successfully incubated and raise young.
Many people have written to me requesting information about these spectacular Pigeons especially their cost. Currently Crowned Pigeons sell for about $2000 - $2500 each in the private sector. I personally have not had any to offer for sale in recent years but other breeders in the US whom I have recently spoken with, quoted those prices based on birds they had recently sold. Pairs are rarely available from any breeder, because the young Crowned Pigeons are produced singly. Thus the surplus of even a single bird is quickly exhausted.
Finding two birds or true pairs for sale will never be easy. Most breeders, myself included, start by purchasing a single bird, sexed or unsexed it makes no difference. Then the search begins for a second companion to establish a true pair. I have found it far easier to acquire a second Crowned Pigeon when a mate is needed to assemble a breeding pair, than it is to seek out a pair of birds.
Most all of the Crowned Pigeons in US collections, both private and in Zoos, are part of a stud book breeding program established a number of years ago by US zoos. Therefore, once a single bird is acquired, the stud book keeper may have a greater incentive to find a second surplus bird for the person wanting to establish a pair. Bottom line, if you are truly interested in Crowned Pigeons, never turn down the opportunity to acquire a single bird.
Of all the birds I have kept these magnificent Pigeons are certainly among my favorite.
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