Band-tailed Pigeon

  • Band-tailed Pigeons are large, stocky pigeons with small heads, long, rounded tails, and thick-based, pointed wings. 
  • They are soft blue-gray above and purplish-gray below, with a white crescent on the back of the neck. The upper half of the tail is gray, fading to a pale gray band at the tip. The wings are unmarked pale gray with dark wingtips noticeable in flight. The bill and feet are yellow.
  • Like other doves and pigeons, Band-tailed Pigeons are almost entirely vegetarian. They eat grain seeds, domestic and wild fruits (especially raspberries, blackberries, cherries, cascara, madrone, and elderberries), acorns, pine nuts, and flowers of woody plants.
  • Band-tailed Pigeons will visit bird feeders to eat seeds.
  • Band-tailed Pigeons have two distinct breeding populations in the United States, one along the West Coast and one in the Southwest. Individuals do move from one region to the other, and sometimes they wander even farther afield. One pigeon banded in Oregon was shot a year later in Florida, well outside the normal range.
  • Band-tailed Pigeons often travel far for food, flying an average of 3 miles between nesting and feeding areas, according to one study.
  • Like other doves, parents (both fathers and mothers) use a secretion from the esophagus known as crop milk to feed nestlings. Since they do not have to rely on specific food items for their chicks, Band-tailed Pigeons can have a long breeding season with multiple broods.
  • Like other doves and pigeons, Band-tailed Pigeons can suck up and swallow water without raising their heads.
  • The Band-tailed Pigeon is occasionally called the “blue rock,” because of the blue-gray hue of its back and its resemblance to the closely related Rock Pigeon. The two species are similar in size, posture, movements, and behavior. While the Rock Pigeon is a widespread introduced species, the Band-tailed Pigeon is native to western North America.
  • The oldest Band-tailed Pigeon on record was at least 18 years, 6 months old.
  • Band-tailed Pigeons are common within their range, but according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, North American populations declined over 2% per year between 1966 and 2014 (amounting to a cumulative decline of 63%). The pigeons are still hunted in six American states (California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, with a total harvest of about 25,000 per year in the U.S.), and in Mexico and Central America. Current declines may be related to continued hunting, and possibly from changes in land use over the last century.
  • Band-tailed pigeons can be found year round in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

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