Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Gary R. Graves, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Graves had an early childhood fascination with birds that eventually led him to his role as curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Don Hurlburt, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gary Graves is a research zoologist and curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where his research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds. His early childhood fascination with birds led to graduate studies at Louisiana State University and Florida State University: "I am unapologetically curious about natural history and the ways that natural history observations catalyze important ecological and evolutionary discoveries." His dissertation work focused on speciation of birds in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He has also conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Polynesia, Canada, and in more than half the states in the USA. His current research efforts are split between the analysis of complex data sets based on the collective resources of the World's great museums and conducting field research in Jamaica, the great forests of the eastern USA, and in the Sonoran Desert.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) nesting
Courtesy of Tjpayne, via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA


About Pigeons and Doves (Order Columbiformes): Parental Care

In pigeons and doves, a male brings sticks and other materials and a female assembles a loose nest. They are unique among birds in making milk to feed their young. Distinct from mammal milk, it is made in a pouch on the bird's throat (the crop). Males and females both start to make crop milk just before eggs hatch. They tend to lay just one or two eggs, and the thick, high-protein milk sustains hatchling pigeons and doves (squabs) for their first week or so. After a week, their digestive system is ready for the mature diet of seeds or fruits. Parents include adult food with the crop milk, continuing to feed squabs for up to a month. If a squab dies, the other squab gets extra milk and grows bigger quickly. When a hawk or other predator approaches the nest, the parents may pretend to be injured, using a broken-wing display to distract the predator.