When it comes to appearance, the African green pigeon is the undisputed star among pigeon species. But this colourful bird isn’t just a looker – there’s more to this acrobatic fruit eater than meets the eye.

The African green pigeon’s gorgeous plumage would probably leave most other birds green with envy. But aside from its natural beauty, how much do you know about this tree dweller? Get the lowdown on its wild ways and be on top of your birding game the next time you spot an African green pigeon.

#1

The African green pigeon belongs to the Treron genus (the first part of a bird’s scientific name). This Greek word means trembling, timid, shy and easily alarmed.

#2

Green pigeons blend in effortlessly with the branches they frequent. Ever wondered what this type of camouflage is called? Concealing colouration is when the colour of an animal’s body replicates that of the environment in which it finds itself.

African green pigeon-Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo-Kruger (7)-min

Pictures by Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo

#3

There’s a reason why African green pigeons so frequently hang upside down, almost like parrots. They favour these topsy-turvy manoeuvres as a way to get close to juicy, ripe fruit. Did you know that the green pigeon is the most acrobatic of the pigeons found locally?

African green pigeon-Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo-Kruger (3)-min

#4

It’s common for the species to eat mineral-rich soil for nutrients at certain times of the year. This behaviour is called geophagy.

#5

Wondering where to spot the African green pigeon? Some top sites – all Wild Card partner parks – include Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Ithala Game Reserve and the Kruger National Park (more specifically Pafuri Border Camp and from Skukuza to Lower Sabie). Since they adore fruit, particularly that of the sycamore fig, best start your search at the base of one of these trees.

African green pigeon-Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo-Kruger (2)-min

#6

While the male and female of many bird species look different, both sexes of the African green pigeon wear the same colourful feathers. Note that juvenile birds are somewhat duller without the lilac carpal patches.

#7

If this bird is sitting quietly in the canopy, you might never notice it. Fortunately, this pigeon has a distinctive call: soft clicks are followed by high-pitched whistles and concluded with low, frog-like croaks.

African green pigeon-Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo-Kruger (1)-min

#8

Given the bird’s habit of hanging upside down to snack on fruit, the African green pigeon is appropriately named papegaaiduif in Afrikaans. An adult bird weighs some 235g.

#9

When not breeding, African green pigeons gather in small flocks. What’s the collective noun to use when you spot a whole bunch of pigeons? The correct term is a passel of pigeons. Now you can impress your friends.

#10

African green pigeons are very good parents: the nest is incubated at all times and chicks are never left alone. They lay up to two eggs and the chicks will hatch after about 13 days.

African green pigeon-Paolo Giovanni Cortelazzo-Kruger (4)-min
To learn more about the sycamore fig tree (Ficus sycomorus) and to see a beautiful illustration of the African green pigeon by Wild magazine’s botanical artist, Daleen Roodt, download a PDF of the article that appeared in Wild 38.

Compiled by Arnold Ras
Sources: SASOL Southern African Birdfinder; Beat About the Bush – Birds; Beat About the Bush – Mammals and Birds; Roberts Bird Guide (second edition); http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_green_pigeon.html.