The rose-crowned fruit dove looks like a rainbow Paddle Pop
Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.
Pretty as a sunset cocktail, the rose-crowned fruit dove (Ptilinopus regina) is a native Australian species found in the coastal rainforests of NSW and Queensland, plus the Kimberley region, Arnhem Land and Cape York up top, and on the nearby Lesser Sunda Islands and the Maluku Islands of Indonesia.
Named for the distinctive pink patch that caps their foreheads, these beautiful birds belong to the large genus of fruit doves called Ptilinopus, along with around 50 other species native to Southeast Asia and Oceania.
While the males and the females both develop the pink cap – which is very handy for identification – the males are adorned with the best colour patterns, with an array of bright orange, more pink, and yellow plumage sitting below their grey chests. The females are mainly just green and grey all over.
The males use their pink caps as part of their courting displays, bowing their heads low like common pigeons do to give the females a good view. The females can only lay a single white egg at a time, and these little families of three are often seen feeding together on fruits of rainforest trees, palms and vines. They especially love native figs.
The species was first described in 1825 by British zoological artist and naturalist-of-sorts, William Swainson. I say ‘of-sorts’ because John Gould, considered the father of bird study in Australia, respected Swainson enough to try and rename the bird Swainson had already named, and after Swainson himself – the bird is still sometimes referred to as ‘Swainson’s fruit dove’
Not everyone shared Gould’s admiration, though. Namely Sir William Jackson Hooker of Kew, England, a botanist who was none to pleased to find that Swainson had taught himself the discipline of botany as well as zoology during his time in Australia, “Of which,” said Sir Hooker, “he is as ignorant as a goose”.
At least he got to be a bird.