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Band-tailed Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-Tailed Pigeon by Pam Huntley, as heard on

I usually hear the strong, flapping wings of Band-tailed Pigeons as the flock takes off from its perch at the tip of a tree. At fifteen inches, the Band-tailed pigeon is the largest of the pigeon-dove family. They have a distinct, narrow band on their tails above a wide, light-grey band on the tip. They have a purple head. On the nape of the neck, below the whitecrescent line, they are iridescent green. They have yellow legs and a yellow bill tipped with black.

They are found in mixed forest, woodlands, canyons and rural edges of suburbia, wherever there are oak trees and acorns, their favorite food. They eat other nuts and berries, such as elderberries, cascara and manzanita. During migration, when some travel as far as Nicaragua, they will eat seeds and insects.

All pigeons and doves share their unusual way of drinking; they immerse their entire bill in water and suck like a horse.

Band-tailed Pigeons are gregarious and can be seen in flocks of dozens. They are generally quiet. Breeding season is the best time to hear the owl-like call, given from a high perch. In courtship, the male performs a rapidly flapping flight. Landing in a tree, he bows to her.

Band-tailed Pigeons nest in scattered pairs. They build a fragile platform nest of loose sticks, laying one white egg that is incubated by both adults. Parents feed the young “pigeon milk” that's made from secretions in the crop, a storage space at the end of the throat. Both parents produce crop milk and feed it to the hatchling or squab for the first three weeks. It has more protein and fat than human or cow's milk. Band-tailed Pigeons were close to extinction in the west due to hunting and their populations are still considered fragile.

First published MCAS The Whistling Swan December 2010
Band-tailed Pigeon Photo Ron LeValley