Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeons are the forest-dwelling relatives of the commonly found Rock Pigeons. These birds inhabit the forests of the pacific coast and the Southwestern area of the North American continent. Band-tailed Pigeons are very sociable by nature and thus form large flocks. The color and the soft mellow cooing of these birds resemble that of
Rock Pigeons while flying overhead and thus they can be mistaken easily as a flock of Rock Pigeons. However, these swift flying birds can be distinguished because of their tails with a pale band at the tip, which is usually missing in Rock Pigeons.

About Band-tailed Pigeons

Because of being very similar to Rock Pigeons in behavior, movements, and appearance. The Band-tailed Pigeon has bluish-gray upperparts which are also called the “Blue Rock”. However, the Rock Pigeons are a widespread introduced species whereas, Band tailed Pigeons are a native species of the pacific coast.

Band-tailed Pigeons are named Patagioenas fasciata in taxonomical terms and belong to the family Columbidae in the order of Columbiformes. These birds are usually a bit bigger in size than the usually Pigeons that we feed at the parks.

● Band-tailed Pigeon Photos, Color Pattern, Song
● Band-tailed Pigeon Size, Eating behavior, Habitat
● Band-tailed Pigeon Range and Migration, Nesting


Band-tailed Pigeon Color Pattern

The color pattern of these birds is very fascinating. Band-tailed Pigeons almost look like Rock Pigeons but the color pattern of these birds is one of the biggest factors to tell them apart. They have bluish-gray upperparts with very distinctly purplish-gray (almost Lavender) underbellies. These birds also have a white crescent on the back of
the neck.

As the name suggests, Band-tailed Pigeons have a pale band on the terminal of their tails. The tail is gray and fades to a paler band towards the trip. The color of the wings is solid and unmarked gray with dark wingtips. Bills and feet are a hue of yellow.

Description and Identification

Among all the similar species from the family of Columbidae including Rock Pigeons, Eurasian Collared Doves, White-crowned Pigeons, and Mourning Doves. Band-tailed Pigeons are the closest to Rock Pigeons. However, upon observing carefully, the significant pale band on the Band-tailed Pigeons helps in identification greatly.

The adult Band-tailed Pigeons have a stark white crescent marking on the back of their necks whereas, the juvenile birds lack such marking which makes them pretty distinguishable from the adults. The adults also have iridescent green scaly-looking feathers on the neck, just below the white crescent but the juveniles have an even and smooth neck.

Band-tailed Pigeon Song

Band-tailed Pigeons have a soft mellow “coo”. Only the male Pigeons sing from the tops of tall trees. The song consists of a series of slow, deep, Owl-like coos, each rising slightly in pitch from the preceding one.

Apart from the song, other calls of these birds include the mechanical chirping calls that only the male makes and the soft, nasal grunt that both males and females give out to keep other individuals crowding too closely.

Band-tailed Pigeons also make a specific sound by flapping their wings aggressively. While taking a flight, the wings clap together and make the flap sound that signals aggression or works sometimes as a danger alarm or caution signal to other members of the flock.

Band-tailed Pigeon Size

Band-tailed Pigeons are easily confused with Rock Pigeons because of the similarity in their appearances. However, these Pigeons are slightly bigger than the Rock Pigeons and relatively smaller than the American Crow. They are usually large and stocky Pigeons with small heads. These birds can measure around 13.0-15.8 inches (33-40 cm) in length and can weigh around 12.1-12.8 ounces (342-364 g).

Band-tailed Pigeon Behavior

Band-tailed Pigeons are very social birds and tend to live in flocks. These flocks stick together round the year and can have up to 300 birds. Even though these birds protect their nesting areas from other individuals of the flock, they haven’t been registered to fight each other during feeding seasons. Such flocking helps these birds avoid predators like Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks, and Great Horned Owl.

Band-tailed Pigeons protect their nests against the nest predators including Common Ravens, Western Scrub-Jays, and tree squirrels quite aggressively. Brooding parents hiss, droop their wings, and bristle their feathers in an attempt to scare away the nest predators and even resort to striking the intruder with their wings.

Courtships happen in tall trees; the male struts toward the female, swinging his head side to side or standing tall and pressing his bill down against his throat. The female responds by bobbing her head. Band-tailed Pigeons are monogamous in nature. Band-tailed Pigeons have a longer nesting period than other Pigeons. These birds may even make three complete nests during the nesting season. However, each nest usually has only 1 egg. Both the parents incubate the eggs and the children.

Band-tailed Pigeon Diet

Band-tailed Pigeons like any other Pigeons and Doves are almost completely vegetarian and usually feed on grains and berries. The primary diet consists of grains, seeds, and berries. Both wild and domestic types including raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cascara, madrone, and elderberries. Other than the grains and berries, the diet also includes pine nuts, acorns, Manzanita, Juniper, wild grapes, and flowers of woody plants along with young spruce cones, tender leaves, and the very occasional insects.

Band-tailed Pigeons travel long distances to feed on their primary diet of seeds, grains, and berries every day. Often they travel to orchards and fields at lower elevations than their breeding grounds.

In grain fields, these birds feed on the ground in rolling flocks, as individuals in the rear fly over their flock-mates and land at the front to continue foraging. In forests and orchards, these Pigeons hang upside down to pick acorns, fruits, or flower buds while swallowing cap-less acorns whole.

The children of these birds eat crop milk which comes from the esophageal lining of the parents. During summer, the adults from the pacific coastal areas visit the saline hot water springs and drink the water, while sometimes pecking on the soil. This behavior can be a way to maintain the balance of sodium intake in their bodies.

Band-tailed Pigeon Habitat

Band-tailed Pigeons have two very distinct breeding ranges in the North American continent. These birds breed in the wet forests of the Pacific coasts from southeastern Alaska to Southern California and in the dry mountain forests of the southwestern United States extending towards the south through Mexico and Central America.

On the pacific coast, these birds live in the elevations between sea level and 1000 feet above sea level. The breeding habitat mostly includes temperate rainforests of coniferous with trees like Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and red alder. The foraging habitat mostly includes fruiting and flowering shrubs like cascara,
elderberry, Pacific madrone, cherry, and huckleberry.

In the southwestern parts, these birds live on elevations from 5000-10000 feet above sea level. Band-tailed Pigeons usually live in dry coniferous or mixed deciduous forests in this area consisting of trees like pines and oaks along with many berry-bearing shrubs.

Pigeon’s winter habitat lies in the southern portions of the breeding range, along with the western foothills of northern Baja California. A small, isolated population lives year-round in southern Baja.

Range and Migration

The breeding range of Band-tailed Pigeons includes the wet forests of the Pacific coasts and the dry mountain forests of the southwestern area of the North American continent. Individual birds may keep traveling between the zones at times. The ranges include British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and southern Arizona south and in higher elevations through Mexico and Central America to northern Argentina. They migrate during the autumn towards Northern California, New Mexico, and parts of Utah and Colorado.

Band-tailed Pigeon Lifecycle

Band-tailed Pigeons have a relatively long nesting period. During this time they complete up to three nests. These nests have smooth glossy white eggs of the clutch size of 1-2 eggs. The eggs measure around 1.5-1.7 inches (3.7-4.4 cm) in length and 1.0-1.2 inches (2.6-3.1 cm) in width. Both the male and the females incubate the eggs during the incubation period which lasts 16-22 days. The nestling period for these birds can be anywhere around 15 days to a good 29-30 days. Upon hatching, the chicks are helpless and covered with long, orange-yellow down. These babies are fed by their parents with a substance called Crop Milk or Pigeon Milk that is secreted by the parental esophageal lining and is very nutritious in nature for the hatchlings.


After the courtship, they form monogamous pairs for the season during which these pairs complete a maximum of three nests. Band-tailed Pigeons build nests on sturdy tree limbs, 10–180 feet from the ground, in trees such as Douglas-fir, acacia, lodgepole pine, or live oak.

It is pretty unclear if the male or the female chooses the nest site however it has been proven from the observation that even though the male may lead the female to the potential nesting sites, the female mostly has the last say.

The nest is a flat or saucer-shaped platform of haphazardly intertwined twigs, occasionally supplemented with sparse needles, moss, or breast feathers. Both the partners in the pair together build the nests. The building of the nest may take from 3-6 days. The nest measures around 8 inches across and 4 inches tall on the outside, with an interior space about 5 inches across and 1 inch deep.

Anatomy of a Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeons are big and stocky Pigeons. These birds have fairly long necks with very small heads. Their bills are rounded and small, fit for picking seeds, grains, acorns, and berries. Their legs are chunky but the feet are strong and have sharp nails for their occasional upside-down foraging practices. Band-tailed Pigeons have long rounded tails and thick-based wings that are terminally pointed.

Final Thoughts

Band-tailed Pigeons have around 8 subspecies and each of them has some unique features. However, some authorities split this species of birds into two main subspecies: Northern Band-tailed Pigeon and Southern Band-tailed Pigeon.

Band-tailed Pigeons are in the category of least concerned species as they are pretty adaptable to their surroundings and their diet consists of a lot of commonly found elements. However, according to North American Breeding Bird Survey, the North American population of these birds was over 2% per annum between the years 1996 and 2014 amounting to a whole of 63% population decline. These birds were threatened greatly as the hunt for these Pigeons was going on heavily till 2014, before they had any legal protection. The farmers had charged that the birds were digging up grains and eating sprouts and thus millions of birds were hunted down by farmers and even sportsmen.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Band-tailed Pigeons

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Band-tailed Pigeons are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Band-tailed Pigeon Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Band-tailed Pigeon. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders ForBand-tailed Pigeons

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Bird Houses ForBand-tailed Pigeons

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. If you spend a little extra money on bird houses, it will be well worth every penny and they’ll look great.

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