Join us in celebrating the wan and only Gok as this little charmer turns six years old today! Gok is our Blue Crowned Pigeon, you know the one with the fabulous head wear that parades around the Tropical House? No? Well if you’ve not made his acquaintance yet make sure to pay him a visit on your next day out to Wingham Wildlife Park.

Gok became a bit of a celebrity during our “League of Extraordinary Cuteness” event where our Facebook fans chose a selection of the cutest animals in the park and voted for a winner. Some keepers were quite surprised to see that Gok had been nominated by the public to be a contender… I of course always thought he was a worthy nominee! After a heated online battle with Pickle the Gibbon, Gok was knocked out and the hashtag #GokWasRobbed was born.

We never realised he had so many admirers, so it was so lovely to see just how many of you had fallen in love with him. He certainly lapped up all of that attention, stealing the limelight during many of the Live Stream videos during lockdown. He has become so popular, you can now buy merchandise from us with his handsome face on!

He is also one of my favourites to work with on Team Bird as I love the mischievous animals on the section! He’s extremely nosey and has to be doing whatever we are doing whilst working in the Tropical House. It’s a wonder how we ever get any work done in there really. His favourite thing to do is stand right in front of where you need to sweep. We hear that he behaves quite similarly when taking pushchairs through the exhibit, especially if you have fancy shoes for him to inspect as well.

Today he will be receiving a few special treats from his Keepers and I’d just like to mention that whilst Gok is a very approachable dude, please don’t ever share any of your own treats with him as this could upset his sensitive belly! If fed a healthy balanced diet, Blue Crowned Pigeons can live up to a notable 20 years old. Human food and too many layers pellets are a big no no for Gok, we would rather he eat his own special seed mix and his healthy fruit and veggies!

Gok belongs to the Crowned Pigeon family (Goura), the largest pigeons in the world, all of which are endemic to the island of New Guinea and a few surrounding islands. Also known as Western Crown Pigeons, Blue Crowned Pigeons (Goura cristata) are distinctive, having a wholly blue breast, whereas other members of this family have purple hues instead. Living in the lowland rainforests and mangroves of Western Papua and islands nearby in Indonesia, they eat fallen fruits, seeds, berries, small invertebrates and young shoots.

He sometimes greets us with an impressive tail wagging walk combined with a deep rumbling call. During the breeding season that amazing head gear is put to good use. Blue Crowned Pigeons have an intriguing display where they make a deep booming vocalisation combined with throwing that marvellous crown up and down in a vigorous bow. Gok often treats us to this display, and I seem to be serenaded whenever I’m wearing my waterproof trousers. Whatever floats your boat Gok.

After wooing a prospective female, males will bring her nesting material and chip in with egg incubation whilst she goes off to feed. They usually lay a single egg which takes around 30 days to hatch. Like all pigeons the young are fed a special “Pigeon Milk”, a secretion made from the lining of their crop. The parents tend the nestling for about a month and continue to feed their chick once it has left the nest for several months. Gok has been a dad before, but sadly his mate passed a way a few years ago.

I hope Gok inspires you to learn more about his remarkable species which are listed as Vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List. The wild Blue Crowned Pigeon population is in decline and it is estimated that there are between 2,500 and 9,999 left in the wild. Along with habitat loss from logging, sadly these magnificent birds are highly prized as an aviary bird and hunted extensively for their meat and feathers.

Hopefully, things are starting to look up for Blue Crowned Pigeons. They now have some protection from trade in Indonesia and already live in some protected areas, although policing this is very difficult. Two more nature reserves are being proposed in the mountains of Papua which can only be a good thing! Overall, we still don’t know too much about this elusive species and more research is definitely needed to understand their habits and population size.

I know our Gok has quite the collection of adoring followers, I love the photo above where one of his fans made him some enrichment at home and brought it in for us. It was a hit! I’d love to see your photos and videos of him. Apparently one superfan has even given him a voice on Instagram and he has his own Twitter account. Gok is certainly a little poser so I’m sure there are lots of snaps of him out there, so let’s celebrate this special man’s birthday in style. #Gokoclock!

About Becky - Head of Birds

Becky has been with the park since 2010, at which time all of the keepers had to work with all of the animals. Once we moved across to having different sections, Becky became head of the birds & mammals section, and has also progressed to assistant head keeper, covering Ruth's jobs when she is not on site. Becky has a real passion for birds, with a huge amount of dedication to the parks group of penguins, and spending much of her free time supporting wild bird conservation.