Despite the fact that much of the Pilbara is dry to the point of crispness, there is a surprising amount of flora and fauna, particularly close to places, such as the gorges, where water is available much of the year. Wildflowers, eucalypts, acacias, and spinifex dot the landscape and offer homes to birds, bugs, lizards, and small mammals.
Among the birds that make this arid region home is the spinifex pigeon, or Geophaps plumifera. (Geophaps means “earth pigeon,” an appropriate moniker for these attractive little ground-dwellers.) Spinfex pigeons nest near clumps of spinifex or small shrubs, simply scratching a slight depression in the stony soil and lining it with wisps of dry grass. They generally dine on the seeds of the spinifex and other dry grasses and plants—but that doesn’t keep them from accepting handouts, when tourists drop by. When we reemerged from Weano Gorge at lunchtime, we found that a group of spinifex pigeons had come around in the hope that we’d toss them our crumbs—which we were only too happy to do.
These pigeons are usually found in pairs or small groups. They are wanderers, following the receding water supply as the dry season progresses. They lay their eggs when rain brings renewed growth and fresh seeds to the grasses. They lay two eggs, which both male and female of a pair incubate. Both also tend the chicks, which are fledged in about eight days. As you can see in the photo, their coloration is ideal for blending into their surroundings.