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The Spinifex Pigeon

Learn more about this quail-like pigeon.

By Joseph M. Forshaw

At his aviaries near San Bernardino, California, Warren Meyers has, for many years, specialized in the breeding of pigeons and doves, and successfully bred white-bellied spinifex pigeons in aviaries measuring 6 feet by 8 feet by 12 feet, but in 2007 he lost his last bird, a female. Warren tells me that some of the birds that he bred went to Southern California to an aviculturist who continues to breed the species, and he personally does not know of any other successful breeder in North America. Warren also tells me that some 6 to 8 years ago there was a report of red-bellied spinifex pigeons being brought into California from Germany, but some died while in quarantine and the remaining birds apparently perished soon after being released from quarantine. At about the same time, some birds were reported to have been brought into Canada, also from Germany, but their fate appears to be unknown. Obviously, very few spinifex pigeons currently are being kept in North America.  

In an aviary with a length of 26 feet, a width of 6 feet and a height of 9 feet, one of my breeding pairs was held with a pair of yellow-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) and a breeding pair of superb parrots (Polytelis swainsonii), and there were no conflicts.  Another breeding pair shared with a pair of Bourke’s parakeets (Neopsephotus bourkii), a pair of star finches (Neochmia ruficauda) and a pair of black-throated finches (Poephila cincta) an aviary that was 9-feet long, 4-feet wide and 6-feet high.

The basic seed mixture given to my pairs comprised equal parts of white (French) millet, plain canary seed and panicum, and the birds avidly snapped up fragments of almond kernels dropped by the cockatoos.  Rarely was green food taken, but seeding grasses were favoured and fine shell grit was consumed regularly.  At no time did I see my birds eating termites or mealworms.
 Preferred nesting sites are under grass tussocks or beside rocks and logs placed on the ground to provide elevated display sites for courting males.  Females laying, but not incubating eggs on the bare ground, without any attempted nest-building, is often reported, and usually is indicative of an absence of acceptable nesting sites.  During the first few days of incubation, the parents will not tolerate interference at the nest, and desertion is a common problem at this time.  Thereafter, both parents sit tightly, even continuing to brood older, mobile chicks at different stopping places.  As a precaution against injury from collisions in flight, I trimmed one wing feather of each flying chick, and this was repeated regularly until the youngster had settled.  As soon as the young birds were independent, usually some three to four weeks after fledging, they were removed from the natal aviary.

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