Australian Bush Birds
Spinifex Pigeon  -  Geophaps plumifera
Spinifex Pigeon
Spinifex Pigeon in spinifex grassland wooded with mulga and eucalyptus near Windorah, Queensland
Spinifex Pigeon head Spinifex Pigeon head
Left: Enlargement of the head area of the top photograph showing the red, black and white colouring as well as the tall head crest.
Right: Spinifex Pigeon showing the black and white breast band. The very effective camouflage of the bird's colouring against the natural rock is clear; taken near Winton, Queensland.
map map The Spinifex Pigeon - Geophaps plumifera - is readily identified by the red, white and black facial colouring and by the crest vertically above the head. There are three variants of this species, all have the same head and facial markings and colouring and rust-brown back and upper wings with darker brown scalloping. Versions differ in the shape of the breast band and colouring of breast and belly. Male and female are similarly coloured, juveniles are coloured as for adults but colouring is weaker and eye skin is khaki.

Spinifex Pigeons are permanent residents of the arid spinifex grasslands of northern and central Australia. They have very effective camouflage colouring for living, and feeding, on the ground and run quickly and erratically from intruders.

Spinifex Pigeon - page 2
They take to flight abruptly, flying fast and low with bursts of wing-beats alternating with gliding; sustained flights is uncommon, usually landing after about 30 metres. Live in groups of up to 15 birds.

Lives among spinifex in rocky ranges and gorges; less often in sandy country.

Never far from water; Spinifex Pigeons concentrate around remaining waterholes in times of drought, if all the waterholes dry up then spinifex pigeons die.

They feed almost exclusively on seeds dropped by plants growing among spinifex hummocks. Spinifex seeds are an important part of their diet in the years spinifex flowers.

Breeds throughout the year but most breeding takes place after annual rainfall about September to November. The nest is a scrape in the ground lined with a few pieces of grass; usually beside a rock or spinifex hummock. Two eggs are laid; cream rather glossy, ellipsoidal in shape, about 26 by 20 mm. Incubation takes 16 to 17 days by both parents. Young fledge in about eight days.

There are three recognised variants all with the same head and facial markings and colouring. Variant plumifera, with a white belly and breast, is found in the East Kimberley, WA and Victoria River, NT region; variant ferruginea, with bright rufous breast and belly, is found in the Pilbara, WA; while leucogaster, with breast and belly rufous with varying extent of white, is found in western Queensland, eastern and south-western Northern Territory. Variants plumifera and leucogaster have a black and white breast band; ferruginea lacks the white breast band and has a limited black breast band. Variants form hybrids between adjoining populations.