Hunchy Pigeons and Doves - A resurgent population Part 1
  • Last updated:
  • 26 Aug 2019

We moved onto our property near the top end of Hunchy about sixteen years ago when remnant trees could still be found in the deep gullies. Most of the vegetation however was comprised by the many common South East Queensland weeds. Lantana dominated the steep slopes and large clumps mixed with Setaria and other exotic grasses. Wild tobacco (Solanum mauritianum) dominated the more open areas. A green blanket of Glycine and Silverleaf desmodium could be seen climbing trees and spreading seeds in all directions – sound familiar?

There were small birds, notably wrens and finches, which favoured the flowering and seeding of annual weeds – but few pigeons and doves. It was said, although this was unsubstantiated, that many had been shot for food during the depression years. It was more likely that land clearing for bananas, small crops and grazing had removed their food sources as had the opportunity to move safely from one patch of forest to the next. Photos taken most likely in the 1940’s show the whole of the steep Hunchy escarpment, up to the main road between Montville and Flaxton, planted with bananas. The majority of the trees now growing in Hunchy were either planted or are regrowth.

The only pigeons of note back in the late 90’s were Brown cuckoo-doves feeding on Wild tobacco fruit and an occasional Rose-crowned fruit-dove in the deep gullies. Mature remnant trees in the laurel family provided some food, and denser foliage along the creek lines gave protection. Up-drafts of air created by the escarpment enabled raptors including Wedge-tail eagles, Grey goshawks and others to soar above the land looking for a tasty pigeon meal. They are wonderful to watch.

Several long-term landholders were already revegetating their properties and with the departure of the banana industry to other areas, the escarpment was already substantially re-treed. However, trees suitable for frugivores (pigeons and doves) were not necessarily part of the mix. The exceptions were a magnificent White Fig (Ficus virens) known to be over 100 years old, a few of its cousins and an equally old Ficus macrophylla. These exceptions were visited every fruiting season by flocks of Fig birds, providing a valuable food source. The Rose-crowned fruit-doves also came up from the gullies along the creek lines to feast on the seasonal bounty.

If we wanted to bring back the pigeons and their ability to disperse the fruit of rainforest trees, the answer was obvious — plant more figs! Also, of course, research other food sources to develop a range of fruit bearing trees for seasonal as well as dietary diversity. The general revegetation program would provide links and corridors for safe movement and the opportunity for neighbours to cooperate. Since this is landslip country, planting figs in slip-prone areas was a good idea anyway and served a double purpose.

Read Part 2 of this article about their revegetation program results in the next edition of Bush Hands.

Article by Joan Dillon
Image by Eric Anderson