BAND-TAILED PIGEON  Patagioenas fasciataPatagioenas fasciata

Band-tailed Pigeon is an interesting collection of at least 5 allopatric subspecies: 3 in North and Central America south to Nicaragua and 2 in southern Central and South America. The best studied race is that inhabiting mountain ranges along the Pacific Coast of the United States and British Columbia, Canada. A second race is found in interior mountains from Colorado and Utah to northern Nicaragua. A third population is limited to the mountains at the southern end of Baja California, Mexico.

The primary food items for this pigeon are acorns (plucked from the cup and swallowed whole), pine nuts, fruit, grain seeds, and the buds and flowers of trees and shrubs. Nestlings are fed “crop milk,” sloughed off the lining of the crop.

This fast-flying pigeon is often seen in flocks. Band-tails may live for many years (longevity record 22 years; Keppie and Braun 2000).

DISTRIBUTION. During the 1987-1992 field work period of the TBBA project atlasers found 4 probable and 2 possible breeding records in latilong block 31104 (Guadalupe Mountains), 2 probable and 1 possible records in 30104 and 1 possible in 30103 (Davis Mountains), and 1 confirmed record in the Chisos Mountains (29103).  Lockwood and Freeman (2004) report this pigeon as a summer resident in these ranges.

Band-tailed Pigeons also breed in the highlands from British Columbia south along the Pacific Coast to the Mexican border and in the Rocky Mountains from Utah and Colorado south though Arizona, New Mexico and southwest Nevada on through the highlands of  mainland Mexico and Central America to northern Nicaragua. Another population breeds in the southern tip of Baja California Sur, Mexico. In winter breeding populations from British Columbia to northern California move south to winter in the highlands of  southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico. Band-tailed Pigeons breeding in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico winter in mainland Mexico (Keppie and Braun 2000).

Further south two populations are resident in Costa Rica and western Panama and in South America in the Andes from Colombia south to northwest Argentina and east to Trinidad, Guyana and Brazil. These populations differ in details of plumage and bill color from populations further north and were previously considered a distinct species (White-naped Pigeon; Stiles and Skutch 1989, Keppie and Braun 2000).

SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. Band-tailed Pigeons breed in Texas from mid- to late April to late September, based on egg dates from April 30 to August 21 (Oberholser 1974).  Lockwood and Freeman 2004). In Arizona breeding activity for this species was found from May 10 to September 10 with peaks in activity about June 1, July 1, August 10 and September 1 (Martin 2005).

BREEDING HABITAT. Band-tailed Pigeons breed in Texas at elevation between 1500 and 2600 m (5000 to 8700 ft) in oak-pine-juniper habitats in the Trans-Pecos mountains (Oberholser 1974). In Arizona 70% of breeding records for this pigeon came from coniferous forests, most containing at least some ponderosa pine. Thirty-six percent of all records were from oak woodlands with or without conifers) and only 10% from woodlands containing  appreciable juniper (Martin 2005). In Colorado about 2/3 of breeding reports came from coniferous forests and about 1/6 of  records were from habitats dominated by deciduous trees (Dexter 1998). In Mexico this pigeon breeds primarily in pine-oak and evergreen oak woodlands (Howell and Webb 1995).

The nest of Band-tailed Pigeon is usually on a horizontal limb near the trunk of a tree, at an average height of 8.9 m (30 ft; range 1.8-54 m [6-180 ft]) above ground. The flat or saucer- shaped structure is loosely constructed of twigs and is similar to the nest of a Mourning Dove  (Zenaida macroura).  The female usually lays a single white egg which the male incubates from late morning to late afternoon and the female incubates for the remaining hours.After 16-22 days the egg hatches and the young birds fledge 33-39 days later although they may move out of the nest to the supporting branch before this. A pair may raise 3 broods per year, but the mean is 1.14-1.26 (Keppie and Braun 2000).

STATUS. Lockwood and Freeman (2004) describe Band-tailed Pigeon as a common to uncommon summer resident at the higher elevations of the Trans-Pecos mountains. The North American Breeding Bird Survey does not sample this species in Texas, but data from other areas (most of the 222 routes are from Pacific Coast states and British Columbia) produce a statistically significant -2.0% population change per year for the period 1966-2004 (Sauer et al. 2005). While hunting pressure has been heavy in some areas in the past, protection of much of this pigeon’s breeding range in Texas within National Parks should be helpful for the future of this pigeon in Texas.

Text by Robert C. Tweit (2006)

Texas Breeding Bird Atlas map

Literature cited.

Dexter, C. 1998. Band-tailed Pigeon (Columbia fasciata). In Colorado breeding bird atlas, pp. 198-199 (H. E. Kingery, ed.), Colorado Bird Atlas Partnership, Denver.

Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb.. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, New York.

Keppie, D. M. and C. E. Braun. 2000. Band-tailed Pigeon (Columbia fasciata). In The birds of North America, No. 530 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.

Martin, J. L. 2005. Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata). In Arizona breeding bird atlas. pp. 186-187 (T. E. Corman and C. Wise-Gervais, eds.), University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2005. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2004. Version 2005.1. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel MD (Web site,

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