Erratum: When a Rock Pigeon Becomes a Topknot

June 12, 2014

Within 48hrs of publishing the last article on the Peregrine’s lunch in downtown Sydney, I received a polite email from Peter Slater.

Peter is a renowned ornithologist and wildlife artist. Many of you will know him from that birdo’s bible, The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, which was published in 1986 in collaboration with his wife, Pat, and son, Raoul.

He suggested that perhaps—just perhaps, the raptor’s lunch was NOT a feral Rock Pigeon but a Topknot Pigeon. Australia has some really magnificent pigeons, among them a group of rainforest-fruit specialists. Such is the large and handsome Topknot.

What would a rainforest pigeon be doing flying across the city? It seemed unlikely. It was time for some forensic examination of the evidence. Peter had noticed a number of telltale signs: the pale band across the underside of the tail and the dark rather than lighter under-wings.

I sent him a second video recording. From this he was able to make out feathers reaching down the legs. The legs of Rock Pigeons are bare. So…it would appear he was right.

Topknot Pigeons are nomadic. They follow the fruit. Occasionally they visit Sydney. Last year a flock took up residence in the north’s Warriewood Wetlands for several weeks. There they sated themselves on the fruit of Cabbage Palms.

Still, who’d have thought? In the middle of town. What an unusual set of circumstances. The Peregrine must have separated the unfortunate Topknot from its flock and chased it down, smack into the high-rise window pane.

And another thing. Topknot Pigeons are big: up to 45cm long, whereas Rock Pigeons reach no more than 36cm. The comparison I had made between falcon/pigeon size in the earlier article has to be revised in the light of this new understanding. It now seems likely that the falcon was the larger female, not a male.

Thank you, Inspector Slater for unraveling the victim’s identity and the consequent gender reassignment of the perpetrator.

Locations visited



Land Birds 1 species
Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus) 1



Written by

Louise Egerton

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