The wompoo fruit-dove is a marvellously multi-coloured pigeon that makes its home in rainforest along coastal ranges from mid-north NSW to southern Queensland. It’s protected as a vulnerable species in NSW.
Magnificent but reclusive
While it has a pale grey head, the rest of the body is a riot of colour. Its back and wings are shaded a rich green, with a striking yellow band across each wing. The breast and belly are a plum-purple colour, and the underparts are yellow.
Despite their large size and vibrant range of colours, wompoo fruit-doves are by nature, rather reclusive birds. This can make them devilishly difficult to actually clap eyes on in the rainforest canopy. To tip the odds in your favour for finding one of these magnificent birds, check out our expert tips.
4 tips for spotting wompoo fruit-doves
1. Wait and listen
Because wompoos are large, heavily-built birds they can’t help but dislodge a scattering of fruits and berries as they clamber around the canopy in search of the ripest offerings. Stand silently under the forest canopy and simply listen for a regular rain of fruits falling to the forest floor. Even if it’s not a wompoo making the ruckus, it’ll always be something interesting!
2. An unmistakable call
In most cases, you’ll hear the call of a wompoo before you see it. Even though the rainforest can be a complex symphony of bird voices, the call of the wompoo fruit-dove is unmistakable. Listen out for a loud, deep and booming ‘woom-POO!” or a more subtle and human-like “wollack-wa-hoo”. By moving steadily closer to the source of the call you’ll eventually meet the owner of the voice.
3. Seasonal abundance
Sometimes, when trying to spot an elusive wompoo, it helps to think like one. Knowing what fruits and berries ripen in the rainforest throughout the year helps to anticipate where and when hungry fruit-doves will arrive. Ripening figs in late summer or fruiting white cedar in late autumn are an irresistible temptation for foraging wompoos.
Wompoos breed throughout the months of October to February when rainforest fruit abundance is at its peak.
4. A super-size wompoo
Visitors to Dorrigo National Park will encounter a super-sized artistic sculpture of a wompoo fruit-dove in flight along Wonga walk. Suspended 25m above the rainforest floor, the sculpture is a unique celebration of the ecological role these spectacular fruit-doves perform in keeping our ancient Gondwana rainforests healthy.
Listen to a wompoo fruit-dove's call
Audio © David Stewart Naturesound
A seedy business
Wompoos live semi-nomadic lives, foraging across a large home-range for fleshy seasonal fruits as they ripen throughout the year.
Unlike many pigeon species, the digestive system of wompoo fruit-doves lack a hard-walled gizzard, so they can’t grind up and digest the hard seeds of the rainforest fruits they eat.
This is excellent news for rainforest vines and trees as their seeds are couriered across the landscape and deposited far and wide, one dove-dropping at a time. This important ecological service helps to maintain the genetic health of small and often fragmented rainforest communities.
Being colourful can be a dangerous business. Keen-eyed aerial predators like the peregrine falcon and grey goshawk scan the forest canopy for the bright plumage of plump fruit-doves too preoccupied with scoffing fruits to notice the danger lurking above.
It’s likely this is why wompoos never fly above the rainforest in flocks like the more mutely coloured top-knot pigeon and white-headed pigeon. When they do fly, it’s with audibly heavy wing beats and often at such astonishing speed that their passage creates a sound like ripping fabric.
- Common name
- Wompoo fruit-dove
- Scientific name
- Ptilinopus magnificus
- Conservation status in NSW
Wompoo fruit-doves were once far more abundant and widespread. Clearing of lowland subtropical rainforests during the 19th and early 20th centuries means today their main stronghold in NSW is in remnant rainforest along the Great Eastern Escarpment.
Key threats to the ongoing survival of this vulnerable species include habitat degradation from wildfire and the loss of large rainforest fig trees, especially on private land. The loss of even a single large fig tree reduces availability of high-quality fruit for dozens of local fruit-doves.
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