Crowning Glory of Taronga's Rainforest Aviary
Monday 11th April 2011
Crowning Glory of Taronga's Rainforest Aviary

The world’s largest and most stunning pigeon, the Victorian Crowned Pigeon, ‘Patrick’ is delighting visitors at Taronga Zoo’s newly-renovated Rainforest Aviary. 

Taronga’s expansive walk-through aviary provides an intimate view of an array of colourful Australian and New Guinea birds which are rarely seen, even in the wild.

Patrick’s exquisitely soft, mauve plumage, intricate, lace-like crest and startling call is a memorable experience for visitors that encounter the remarkable pigeon in the aviary, which  has recently been updated with an expansive boardwalk offering stunning views of Sydney Harbour and wheelchair access. 

The Rainforest Aviary is home to a number of species including King Parrots, , Superb Fruit Doves, Eastern Whipbirds and the gregarious Victorian Crowned Pigeon, ‘Patrick’. 

Taronga Zoo Bird Keeper, Emily Schmelitschek, said: “For the past few weeks we’ve been gradually moving over 90 birds into the aviary, slowly acclimatizing them in a feeding area and then, when they’re ready, letting them out into the huge walk-through exhibit.”

 “Moving so many birds is a huge job. We’ve moved about half of them, but it will take another week or two to have all of them settled.” 

“Patrick is a very friendly bird and moving him was no trouble at all. He loves wandering along the pathway and greeting people with his beautiful call.” 

“Visitors are always stunned to find out he’s a pigeon.  

Patrick isn’t just a favourite for visitors, he is also much-loved by Taronga’s bird keepers since he is quite a rarity. Taronga is the only zoo in Australia to care for this New Guinea species and is home to Patrick and one other male, ‘Wewak,’ which lives in an aviary near the Zoo’s Meerkat Desert exhibit.

Patrick and Wewac were both hatched at Taronga and are the last descendents of the original birds which arrived at the Zoo during the directorship of Sir Edward Hallstrom from 1941-67.

Due to restrictions on importing bird species, Patrick and Wewac are likely to be the last Victorian Crowned Pigeons to reside in Australia. 

“At 30 years old, Patrick is getting on in age and probably could tell a story or two. It will definitely be the end of an era once these two boys pass on,” said Emily.

The Rainforest Aviary was originally opened in 1972 and was one of the first exhibits at Taronga which allowed visitors the opportunity to walk among the animals as opposed to being mere observers. At the time it was built, the aviary was a cutting edge design with only San Diego and London Zoos having aviaries of comparable size.