Green pigeons and red berries – a theatre of nature in my garden

The cotoneaster stage

In our garden are large cotoneaster bushes which at this time of year (mid autumn, April, in South Africa) are laden with the wonderfully decorative berries that characterise this bush. The bushes are a delight to look at and the berries attract a wonderful selection of birds.

Of particular note was the presence of a few green pigeons.

One morning, bright and sunny with little wind, I stood outside under the bushes and waited with my camera at the ready.

My wait was not in vain.

Very soon a few of the rather timid, but very attractive, birds arrived to get their fill of the lovely red berries, heavy with juice after the good rains we have been having in the past few weeks.

His beady eye fixed on me - a green pigeon
His beady eye fixed on me - a green pigeon
Diagram from "The Complete Book of Southern African Birds"
Diagram from "The Complete Book of Southern African Birds"
The attraction!
The attraction!

The African Green Pigeon

The African Green Pigeon is fairly widely-spread in sub-Saharan Africa, though until now I had not actually seen one. It is not easy to spot in the wild as it tends to remain very still and its cryptic colouring conceals it well in the wild figs (ficus species) and other fruiting trees that it frequents.

Certainly we have been in this house for more than three years now and this is the first time, to my knowledge that these birds have visited us. Perhaps that is evidence of the effectiveness of their plumage – but I'm fairly observant and love birds so really I think I would have spotted them had they been here before.

These birds are about 30 cm (12 inches) in length. The description of their plumage in The Complete Book of South African Birds (Struik, 1989) is beautiful in itself: “Entire head dark green and upper throat yellowish-olive merging into grey on hindneck; mantle, rump and upper-tail coverts olive-green. Yellow tips to outer-tail feathers visible in flight. Underparts below upper upper throat greyish yellow-green, flanks olive, the feathers edged with white giving a streaked appearance; belly feathers fringed yellow; under-tail coverts olive-green grading to cinnamon on longer feathers, edged with white; lilac shoulder patches. Primaries and secondaries black. Cere scarlet, and extends on to the bluish-white bill. Legs and feet orange.”

If, like me, you wonder at that word “cere”, I looked it up in the glossary of the same book which defines it as: “A morphologically distinct area of area skin at the base of the upper mandible of certain birds, surrounding the nostrils.

For the meaning of the other terms in the description see that accompanying diagram from the same book.

A gallery of illustrations by Kenneth Newman

Black Eyed Bulbul. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Black Eyed Bulbul. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Crested Barbet. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Crested Barbet. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Grey Lourie the "Go Away" bird. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Grey Lourie the "Go Away" bird. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Red-faced Mousebird. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Red-faced Mousebird. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Karoo thrush. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"
Karoo thrush. From Kenneth Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa"

Your lifetime ticket to the theater of nature

For Nature is love, and finds haunts for true love,

Where nothing can hear or intrude;

It hides from the eagle and joins with the dove,

In beautiful green solitude.

  • From “Evening” by John Clare

I am by no means an expert bird watcher, but I do love birds. They are fascinating in their ability to fly, in the beautiful sounds many of them make, and in the often spectacular beauty of their plumage.

Birds also provide so much of interest to observe, and one doesn't have to travel far to see them – they are everywhere, even in the most built up areas, and so provide easy access to nature. As one birding site has it, birding is: “Your lifetime ticket to the theater of nature.”

Birdwatching, or birding, as a pastime had its beginnings in the late 18th Century and was celebrated by poets like John Clare (1793 – 1864). Typical of the aesthetic appreciation of birds at that time was his poem “The Thrush's Nest”:

Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush

That overhung a molehill large and round,

I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush

Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound

With joy; and often, an intruding guest,

I watched her secret toil from day to day -

How true she warped the moss to form a nest,

And modelled it within with wood and clay;

And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,

There lay her shining eggs, as bright as flowers,

Ink-spotted over shells of greeny blue;

And there I witnessed, in the sunny hours,

A brood of nature's minstrels chirp and fly,

Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.

Early bird enthusiasts were mostly interested in collecting eggs and skins, especially of rarer species from the growing empires of the metropolitan European states.

By the early 20th Century the serious scientific study of birds had overtaken the “collector” ethos and bird watching as opposed to collecting became more popular with non-scientists. Societies were founded in many countries to protect birds and the collecting aspect became limited to collecting sightings of bird species and keeping records of such sightings.

With the growth of popular photography the photographing of birds became a passion for some.

The digital revolution in photography has also led to new techniques in the photography of birds, in particular the technique known as “digiscoping.” This neologism refers to the practice of attaching a digital camera to a spotting telescope to take photos of birds at a distance without the need for expensive long telephoto lenses.

Bird calls are also important in the identification of species and so the recording of bird sounds is very important to birders.

A spin-off from the popularity of birding has been the proliferation of bird books to feed the hunger of bird lovers for information about birds. Many of these are focused on local birds, but there are some which take a broader perspective.

My own bird book is Kenneth Newman's Birds of Southern Africa (Sappi, 2002). The standard reference on South African birds is simply known as "Roberts", after the original author, famous ornithologist Austin Roberts, formerly of Pretoria. The actual title is Robert's Birds of South Africa

All birds in South Africa are referenced by a number; for example, the grey lourie is R373. The "R" standing for Roberts and the number is the number originally given to the bird by Roberts.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A black-eyed Bulul hiding away in the leaves as he takes a mouthful of berry.A crested barbet shows how effective his camouflage isA grey lourieGrey lourieRed-faced mousebirdsRed-faced mousebirdsNote the lilac shoulder patch.Here's lookin' at yer!
A black-eyed Bulul hiding away in the leaves as he takes a mouthful of berry.
A black-eyed Bulul hiding away in the leaves as he takes a mouthful of berry.
A crested barbet shows how effective his camouflage is
A crested barbet shows how effective his camouflage is
A grey lourie
A grey lourie
Grey lourie
Grey lourie
Red-faced mousebirds
Red-faced mousebirds
Red-faced mousebirds
Red-faced mousebirds
Note the lilac shoulder patch.
Note the lilac shoulder patch.
Here's lookin' at yer!
Here's lookin' at yer!

The birds in the bush

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” goes the old saying, but I have to confess I much prefer the birds in the bush, especially where I can see them.

The lush red berries of the large cotoneaster in our garden has attracted a large variety of birds in the past few weeks, giving me great delight in the sights and sounds of them.

In addition to the green pigeons the bush has been visited by black-eyed bulbuls (Pycnonatus barbatus); Karoo or Sombre thrushes (Turdus smithi); Crested barbets (Trachyphonus vaillantii); Grey louries, also called the “Go-away bird” because its call sounds like someone shouting “go away” (Corythaixoides concolor); Red-faced mousebirds (Urocolius indicus); some small rufous birds which at first I thought might be a cisticola species, though I'm not at all sure; and, of course, the green pigeons (Treron calva).

With the exceptions of the thrushes and the tiny rufous birds I have managed to get photos of all of them, though not always too successfully. The thrushes are amazingly sensitive – they will let me look at them for long periods, and then as soon as I point the camera at them they fly away.

The louries are the comedians of nature. They are large and ungainly-looking birds and have a habit of sitting as close to the ends of branches as they can get. The branches usually cannot hold the birds who then have to frantically and comically find another perch, amid much squawking and flapping of wings, often choosing another perch equally unsuitable for their weight, and the whole pantomime is repeated.

They have not always been well-thought of. Hunters especially don't like them, as described in Sir Percy Fitzpatrick's famous book for “the likkle people”, Jock of the Bushveld , (first published in 1907, and the only South African book to have been in print continuously for more than 100 years). In the story from this book entitled “Lost in the Veld” Sir Percy wrote:

“No doubt they have another name, but in the Bushveld they were known as Go 'way birds, because of this cry and because they are supposed to warn the game when an enemy is coming. I do not believe they care a rap about the game; they only want to worry you.”

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2011

More by this Author


Comments 58 comments

kentuckyslone profile image

kentuckyslone 5 years ago

Beautiful! I have been hopping around some hubs this morning and this is the best one yet


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

You so lucky Tony to have seen a bird so lovely dressed in green.;)


Russ Baleson profile image

Russ Baleson 5 years ago from Sandhurst, United Kingdom

I don't think I have ever seen a green pigeon. Thanks for sharing the Theatre of Nature with us. Go well. Russ


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Thanks for the look and descrips of your bird life Tony; something pleasantly different in the fauna from S. Africa.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

The Green Pigeon is beautiful..So big, esp. the chest area. I enjoyed the video. I love birds. My back yard is almost a bird sanctuary with a bird house, bird bath, feeders. I esp' love the Humming birds..It's too early for them, but they will soon be here. I also have a Rabbit and a Squirrel who live in my back yard. Thank you for showing us the Green Pigeon.

Cheers


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Tony, thank you for this fine hub about birds. I have an ongoing love affair with the lovely creatures. I never cared much for pigeons, but these lovely things almost look like parrots and if they warn that the enemy is afoot, I adore them. It doesn't hurt that green is my favorite color.

up/useful and awesome


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 5 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Gorgeous, beautiful, divine, fantastic! I absolutely love this hub. I'm ashamed to say I had no idea there was such a thing as the green pigeon, but I am a new admirer. A lovely variety here, and a wonderful story. Some wonderful photos you were able to capture.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Tony this one is brilliant. I am a sucker for anything to do with Wildlife/nature and this one had it all, even a great video clip.

Also I push all the buttons and I am bookmarking into my animals/nature slot.

Thank you for sharing Tony.

Take care

Eiddwen.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I so enjoy seeing South Africa through your eyes, and this is another of your Hubs that make me feel as though I'm right there. Today I got to watch these beautiful green birds gorge on cotoneaster berries. Thank for the lovely tour to your part of the world! Up & awesome.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

I didn't know there was green pigeons. Really enjoyed this and seeing the photos too.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

Green is a soothing colour isn´t it?, The berries, though. l believe they are the most wonderful coloured berries l´ve seen


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

I found this hub to be both beautiful and fantastic and you are so lucky to have those amazing birds in your cotoneaster. We have cotoneaster here too, but here they do not get so many berries or visits from so big birds ! Up, beautiful and awesome. Tina


amillar profile image

amillar 5 years ago from Scotland, UK

Nice one Tony - yes I agree that pigeons are better in the bush, (as long as you're not directly beneath the bush). You have a great heritage. It's a beautiful country and I think the future looks good for South Africa now.

Up and useful.


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

Hello Tony: great write as usual. Thank you for introducing a bit of nature into my day.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing your wonderful hub...really enjoyed it.


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Fantastic! You certainly are fortunate to see so many wonderful birds, right in your garden!Canadian pigeons just cannot compete with those beautiful green pigeons! I shall have to bookmark this for all the information as well as the "parts of a bird"...Informative and beautiful Hub :)


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Beautifully done Tony. Thank you brother man.


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

Having raise racing pigeons in my youth this hub is a delightful read bringing back fond memories.Thank you. I also read that South Africa host the richest pigeon race in the world with over a million dollar prize money.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I love birdwatching. As you say, it can done in the country or in built up areas. Thank you for introducing me to some new birds, including the green pigeon. The louries sound like very interesting birds as well. A beautiful and useful hub!


Raymond Tremain profile image

Raymond Tremain 5 years ago from Metro Manila Philippines

Well Tony great hub, never heard of Green Pigeon before sure not like that ones in London, if they had some they'd probably keep them not chase them away.

good hub

it lovely to see creatures that God has made.


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Hi Tony I'm no expert on birds either, but i can imagine the joy you would have experienced photographing those beautiful birds in all their glory.

We have a shack up in the Aussie bush where we see quite a variety of bird-life. Kookaboroughs abound, as do multi-coloured and green Parrots. I'll have to write about our last weekend up there. It's always pleasant hearing about your escapades and this was another fine hub. Bye.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Kentucky - thanks for those kind words and for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Bryan - I know that I'm lucky, and in so many other ways too, like having you comment on my Hub. Thanks so much.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Russ - they are rare and shy, but just so lovely to see. I have felt very blessed by their presence here in my little garden - they are here again today (Good Friday).

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Alastar - you are most welcome. It was indeed my pleasure to share them with you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby - it is indeed a lovely bird. I would love to see your garden. I would love to see a hummingbird - we don't get them here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

"Your lifetime ticket to the theater of nature" - that alone was worth coming here for :-)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Fay - thanks for stopping by. I just love birds too. Watched the green pigeons again today! BTW their name in Afrikaans is "pappagaaiduif" which literally means "parrot dove"!

Thanks again for the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Frieda - so glad you enjoyed this one so much. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such an enthusiastic comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Eiddwen - thanks so much for stopping by. I really appreciate your kind words. Thank you.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sally - thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you like this Hub and my others on beautiful South Africa.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sandy - glad you enjoyed this Hub. Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Dim - the pigeons are amazingly beautiful and so are the berries. And the berries are so prolific this year.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Tina - thanks so much for the kind comment. I know how lucky I am indeed!

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Not a good idea to stand for too long under a bush in which doves and pigeons are roosting, that's certain!

Even worse are the hadedas - their poop is awesomely large! Wouldn't like to get hit with one of their "bombs"!

Thanks for stopping by and for the great comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Gerry - you are most welcome, my friend! Thank you for stopping by and I'm glad you liked it.

Love and peace

Tony


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Yes, quite a show tony. I too have a fondness for birds. I am glad you have native plants to attract the birds.


Karanda profile image

Karanda 5 years ago from Australia

What an excellent Hub Tony. The green pigeon looks very similar to the Wampoo that we have in our garden on the northeast coast of Australia. They are not around at the moment but come in for the red berries on the palm trees later in the year. I wonder if they are migratory.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Alek - thanks for the comment and I'm glad you enjoyed!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Scribenet - I am so lucky indeed! Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Micky - my dear brother, I thank you for your kind words. Thank you muchly!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

SR - thanks for stopping by. I was not aware of that race in South Africa. Interesting.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


al7nan profile image

al7nan 5 years ago

Thank you for this offering upscale


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

tony I have a niece who is keen on giraffes. Is your neck of the woods big on giraffes?


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Alicia - thanks for stopping by. Glad that you enjoyed these species.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Raymond - thank you and the world of nature is amazing! Green pigeons in London would also be amazing.

Love and peace

Tony


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

Fantastic hub. Amazing pictures. Voted up and awesome. Id never heard of a green pigeon before. Great information.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 5 years ago from India

Amazing, Tony! All that red and green looks so Christmassy! I've never heard of green pigeons till now.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Keith - thanks for stopping by. Your shack sounds wonderful! Looking forward to reading about your times there.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Dimitris - yes, I loved that too, just had to use it!

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Rod - thanks for stopping by.

As for your question in the later comment there are plenty of giraffes in South Africa, though not too many in my immediate vicinity. Does your niece want some pix of giraffes or what would please her? I agree with her - I think they are the most beautiful of creatures. I have watched them in the Kruger National Park and they are just so graceful. Send her my greetings as a fellow giraffe lover!

Love and peace

Tony


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Thanks tony. Never really thought of giraffes as graceful but my niece probably has. Maybe something to do with the Jazz ballet she did when she was younger. She's hoping to spend some time in Africa once she qualifies as a teacher. That will still be a few years down the track.


lionel1 profile image

lionel1 5 years ago

Thank you once again Tony for bringing us another great hub post ‘Green pigeons and red berries – a theatre of nature in my garden’ was beautiful and the images are amazing.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

You have introduced me to a new hobby! Loved this hub about green pigeons. So fascinating. The photos are breathtaking and I felt as though I could reach out and touch each bird. Wonderful - thank you my blessed friend. UP, USEFUL, AWESOME and BEAUTIFUL!


caretakerray profile image

caretakerray 5 years ago from Michigan U.S.A.

Tony:

This is a great hub (like all of yours)! I, too, am an admirer of nature. I feel it entertains me daily.

thanx ;)


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Those green pigeons are so pretty. We don't have them in England, or at least not here on the south coast. (We do have cotoneaster though).

I find it fascinating that there are different species of birds in other parts of the world.


myawn profile image

myawn 5 years ago from Florida

These birds are just so pretty I have never seen one before now. Thanks for the pictures love the birds and berries.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 21 months ago from Northeast Ohio

This was an excellent hub, Tony. I never heard of green pigeons. Lovely pics, too! Great job! Voted up!

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