There are nine species of pigeons and doves recorded for Victoria. In most of these the sexes look the same.
Local exceptions are the two bronzewings - the common and the brush - in which the female is duller than the male.
Sometimes regarded as a bronzewing, because it has similar iridescent metallic colours on its wings, is the crested pigeon.
Male and female are identical in this species. They are the both exactly the same colour and they have identical crests, so it is not possible to tell whether they are male or female, except perhaps by close observation of their behaviour.
As in most bird species, young crested pigeons are duller than their parents, with slightly smaller crests. However, they soon gain their adult plumage.
The crested pigeon is becoming more and more common in and around Ballarat, but it was not known here until the 1980s.
Since then, it has increased to the extent that it is now found in almost all pastoral country, and has entered Ballarat suburbs as well. It has extended south from inland Victoria.
With increasing numbers comes increasing familiarity, resulting in questions, not only about their identity and first appearances, but also about the difference between male and female, hence the comments above.
The crested pigeon is an attractive bird when viewed closely.
Its crest is its most distinctive feature, then the metallic green and purple colours on its wing.
Well-coloured birds have attractive pastel colours mixed with their predominantly brownish-grey plumage.
There can be a light pastel blue tinge on the face and chest, as well as a pink or orange tone on the lower neck and around the shoulders. Sometimes the birds appear greyer, at other times browner.
Legs of adults are bright pink, and there is a narrow pink ring of skin around the orange eye.
The black tail has a white tip, and there is attractive black barring on the shoulder, so there is much detail to appreciate on this relative newcomer to the Ballarat district.
The golden-headed cisticola is an unusual small bird because it has a longer tail in winter than in summer.
This was noticed recently, when one of these tiny yellowish birds was spotted with a tail that was almost wren-like.
The summer tail is noticeably short.
The cisticola's total length in summer is around 95mm long, but in winter it is 110mm.
This 15mm may not seem like much, but it makes a difference to the appearance of such a small bird.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
What would be eating this red toadstool? I thought it was poisonous.
Your toadstool appears to be the poisonous fly agaric, often found under pines.
The most likely animal to taste this would be a black wallaby. A second option would be a possum - either a brush or ring-tail - but more likely a brush-tail as ring-tails try to avoid the ground, where they might become prey to foxes and cats.
Wallabies can probably safely ingest more of these unpleasant-tasting fungi than we can, despite their size. A wallaby's digestive system is quite different from ours, enabling it to sample small amounts of such things with little ill-effect. The fact that fly agaric is not a preferred food of any animal is obvious, as most remain untouched.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to email@example.com, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.