Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata


In many ways reminiscent of it’s more widely distributed relative the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), the Band-tailed Pigeon (occasionally called the Blue Rock) is similar in size and posture, movements, and reproductive and feeding behaviour. It is equally a generalist, able to nest and feed in towns and near farms as well as in distant forests.
Band-tailed Pigeons inhabit dry montane forests of 4 states in the southwestern U.S. (the interior region) south into Middle and South America, and also the wetter Pacific Coast region, including the Coast Range and western Cascade Range from the tip of southeastern Alaska through California into northern Baja.


General: This pigeon is large and lanky, with relatively long tail; our largest pigeon.
33-40cm length. 342-362 g. weight. (Male heavier than female).
Adult Male Head purple-gray(often paler, even whitish, on chin and throat); hindneck with white crescent subtended by distinct patch of greenish-bronze iridescent feathers, each sharply edged with dark, producing squamate (scale like) pattern; remaining upperparts varying shades of gray to brownish gray (sometimes glossed with bronze); rump and wing-coverts (edged whitish) slightly paler. Underparts contrast somewhat paler against upperparts; pinkish buff to purplish gray on breast, becoming paler (more light purplish buff) towards belly and whitish on undertail. Besides dark band across mid-tail, has broad gray band, especially noticeable in flight, across tip of fan-like tail. Yellow bill with black tip. Adult males average up to 7% greater mass than adult females.

Adult female: Female’s duller overall, with narrower white crescent and less extensive iridescence on hindneck.

Juvenile Male: All gray and narrow white band on nape absent.

Similar Species: Similar in size and posture to Rock Dove, with which it could be confused at a distance. Rock Dove relatively shorter tailed and stockier bodied, less uniformly patterned, usually showing white rump-patch, dark band at tip of tail, all-dark bill and pinkish feet.

Behavior: Flight is strong and direct, very swift, like that of a rock dove. At nesting time, flocks break up into pairs; from a conspicuous perch in treetop, male frequently utters a deep, mellow, owl-like ‘whoo-whoo-hoo’ or a two-syllabled ‘whoo-uh!
Feeds on the ground and in shrubs, eating nuts, berries, seeds, waste grain, and especially in the fall and winter, acorns.
Individuals travel long distances daily to feed and are readily attracted to grain fields and fruit orchards dispersed below the forested foothills where they live.

Habitat: Lives in woods and in mountains with tendency to alight in trees; frequents water holes and salt licks in large flocks
Flocks are fond of perching for long periods of time in tops of tall trees.
Coniferous forests along the northwestern Pacific Coast, but in the southwester part of its range it prefers oak woodlands or pine-oak forests where it can feed on acorns.


As with other pigeons and doves, the Band-tailed Pigeon has a long nesting season across its range. Adults are presumably monogamous, and most clutches have only 1 egg. In contrast to long-standing suspicion, recent research has revealed that some nesting pairs complete up to 3 nest cycles a year. Its song is a series of 2-syllable, low frequency coos that may be heard up to 300m in closed forest. Its nest is typical for pigeons, a seemingly haphazard layer of sticks that look as if they provide little protection to egg or nestling (squab). Both parents incubate the egg and brood the squab. Nestlings are fed curdlike crop milk formed from the inside lining of the crop of both parents. Adults, especially in summer and particularly in the Pacific Coast region, frequently visit natural spring and water bodies high in mineral salts, where they rapidly peck at the soil or drink water intermittently, with long bouts of roosting in nearby trees.

Conservation Status:

Low estimated hunting mortality and longevity up to 22 years suggest that hunting under present conditions has little effect on population trends over large areas, but this remains speculative. Breeding Bird Surveys show numbers decreasing at an average annual rate of 2.8% across its North American range since 1966.
Capture Rates

Band-tailed Pigeons are present in large flocks at Colony Farms, however remain difficult to capture. Therefore, capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) are not reflected in the number of this species present.


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