WatchList > View WatchList
This species was on the 2002 WatchList, but is not on the 2007 WatchList. Please refer to http://web1.audubon.org/science/species/watchlist/techReport.php for information on the 2007 WatchList.
This large handsome pigeon inhabits the coastal woodlands of the Pacific coast and the mountains of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Despite its large size, the bird is surprisingly adept at feeding on berries and seeds in the tops of trees. In its U.S. and Canadian breeding range it has shown a steady decline since the 1960's but the reasons for the decline are not well-understood.
North America's largest pigeon, it is distinguished not only by its large size but by a pale gray bicolored underwing, yellow legs, a white crescent bordering a distinct patch of iridescent greenish-bronze feathers on the hindneck (adult), bill yellow with black tip, and a wide, gray tail band. It may be confused with the Rock Dove at a distance but the Rock Dove has a shorter tail and is less uniformly patterned, often with a white rump patch.
Broadly distributed from forested regions of southern Alaska to Central and South America. In North America it is distributed along the coastal areas from about southern Alaska into Baja California. Populations are also found in the interior region from Colorado where they extend mostly along the continental divide into South America. While present year-round in some northern urban areas where it is attracted to feeders and holly orchards, the species is described as a partial migrant where most from the northern Pacific Coast breeding range migrate to south of the upper third of California (Sonoma-Nevada Counties) and most from the interior region migrate beyond the U. S.- Mexico border. Breeding Bird Survey trend analysis shows a significant decline across its U.S. and Canadian range of 2.5% per year from 1966-2001. Christmas Bird Count data from the same time period also show a decline.
The Band-tailed Pigeon is an inhabitant of woodlands. In the northern Pacific region it inhabits conifer rain forest. In northern California it is found in mixed evergreen forest and more locally in redwood forest. Further south it inhabits oak and pine-oak forest. In the U. S. interior it inhabits montane conifer or oak-pine forests. It is generally absent from lower elevation deserts. There is little information about migratory behavior but presumably migration is diurnal since there are numerous reports of large flocks flying in daylight, especially in the fall. Nest building is on tree branches over a 3-6 day period and consists of twigs placed crosswise over each other much like the Mourning Dove. Generally one egg is laid and both parents incubate with hatching occurring in 16-22 days. The peak nesting period is generally in early to midsummer. Second and even third successful nestings are not unusual. The species is vegetarian with most food consisting of grain seeds, wild and domestic fruits, acorns, pine nuts, and buds and flowers of trees and shrubs. As with other pigeons and doves, young are fed a "crop milk" derived from sloughed-off, liquid filled cells that line the crops of both parents.
Loss and degradation of habitat undoubtedly is a continuing threat for the species but more research is needed to elucidate the importance of the various factors contributing to its decline. Hunting of this species has long been popular from early in the last century when its numbers were seriously threatened until federal protection was imposed. Later, unfounded fears of crop damage caused large numbers to be killed. In the U.S., hunting continues in California, Oregon, and the four U. S. interior states (AZ, CO, NM, UT). Hunting harvests in California and Oregon have been considerably reduced presumably because of restrictive hunting seasons in these states. The species is hunted regularly in Mexico, Central and South America, and in many areas is little-regulated. Migrant birds from the U.S. may be experiencing heavier mortality from hunting while wintering in Mexico and/or Central America.
Little direct actions have been taken to stabilize or increase Band-tailed Pigeon populations in the U.S. and Canada. This may be in part because of the lack of understanding of what factors are most important in limiting abundance. Further restrictions on hunting may need to be imposed but it is unclear at this point if mortality from hunting in the U.S. is a major factor in the declines of this species. Lack of management efforts are largely due to inadequate funding at both state and region-wide levels even though management plans exist for some areas or are being developed.
What Can You Do?
Audubon's Important Bird Area program is a vital tool for the conservation of the Band-tailed Pigeon as well as other species. To learn more about the Important Bird Areas program and how you can help, visit: http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/.
Support local land trusts, government agencies, and other organizations working to preserve and enhance Band-tailed Pigeon habitat in your area. Contact your state Important Bird Areas coordinator (http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/state_coords.html) to find out if there are sites in your area important for Band-tailed Pigeon that need increased protection.
Information on where the Band-tailed Pigeon occurs and in what numbers is vital to conserving the species. Help in monitoring this and other species by reporting your sightings to eBird. A project of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is the world's first comprehensive on-line bird monitoring program: http://www.audubon.org/bird/ebird/index.html
U.S. National Wildlife Refuges provide essential habitat for Band-tailed Pigeon, and a great number of other species throughout the U.S. and its territories. Unfortunately, the refuge system is often under-funded during the U.S. government's budgeting process. To learn more about how you can help gain much needed funding for U.S. National Wildlife Refuges, visit: http://www.audubon.org/campaign/refuge_report/
Volunteers are crucial to the success of long-term monitoring programs such as the Breeding Bird Survey. The BBS helps determine the distribution of species such as the Band-tailed Pigeon and monitors population trends. To find out how you can get involved, log on to: http://www.mp2-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/participate/.
Elphick, John B. Dunning, Jr. and David Allen Sibley. 2001. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. National Audubon Society. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc.
Keppe, Daniel M. and Clait E. Brown. 2000. Band-tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata). In The Birds of North America, No. 530 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). Ithaca: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. National Audubon Society. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc.