What is the Colombe Oricou?

Just recently, that means today, I did hear about this pigeon for the first time.

What is known about this bird?

Colombe Oricou (Columba auricularia Temminck & Knip)

Depiction from: Pauline Knip: Les pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, le texte par C. J. Themminck. Paris: chez Mme. Knip 1838-1843

(public domain)

Well, let us read (a part of) the description.:

Nous avons vu une variété entièrement blanche qui n’avoit du noir que sur la queue; d autres avoient le plumage plus ou moins marqué de taches grises et noires : ces derniers nous ont paru être de jeunes oiseaux. Les pieds sont constamment d’un beau rouge, et le bec est noir.
Nous présumons que l’Oricou habite les îles de la mer Pacifique, c’est du moins par des vaisseaux venant de ces parages que quelques individus ont été rapportés en Angleterre. Le Pigeon qui a servi de modèle à notre planche coloriée est déposé dans le cabinet de M. Raye de Breukelerwaert à Amsterdam. Cet amateur possède aussi la variété de cette espèce, dont les ailes sont entièrement blanches.“ [1]

translation:

We saw an entirely white variety that only had black on the tail; others had more or less marked plumage of gray and black spots: these appeared to us to be young birds. The feet are constantly beautiful red, and the bill is black.
We assume that the Oricou lives in the islands of the Pacific Sea, it is less by vessels from these areas than a few individuals have been reported in England. The Pigeon which served as a model for our colored board is deposited in the cabinet of Mr. Raye de Breukelerwaert in Amsterdam. This amateur also has the variety of this species, whose wings are entirely white.

The description clearly based on a stuffed specimen, and the first and last sentences are especially interesting … for reasons …. 

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The bird is also mentioned in another work.:

Note. – The Columba auricularis, Temm. Pig. t. 20,

is said to inhabit some of the islands of the Pacific Ocean; and others have more particularly given the Friendly Islands 
[Tonga] as the abode of this bird; but it is only an artificial production of some ingenious bird-preserver.“ [2]

Ah, there it is: the Colombe Oricou apparently was one of the many made-up stuffed animals stored in museum- and private collections all over the world, made by extremely talented taxidermists and sold as exceedingly rare specimens for the highest prices – a practice that was quite common in former times.

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The only question that remains is, which birds are involved here?

The body might have been that of a common feral pigeon, and the naked parts may indeed just have been plucked and painted subsequently.

That’s just all.

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References:

[1] Pauline Knip: Les pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, le texte par C. J. Themminck. Paris: chez Mme. Knip 1838-1843
[2] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859

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edited: 10.03.2020

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