White-crowned Pigeon

The White-crowned Pigeon is perhaps one of the most aptly named birds there are. They are strikingly beautiful, complete with the contrasting colors that decorate their plumes. Their radiant white crown sits on their all-black bodies, with the right light bringing out an iridescent green sheen on the neck and a red one on the tail. They are birds of tropical habitats, mainly scattered throughout the southern regions of Florida and the islands and coastlines in the Caribbean. They are entirely dependent on islands and forests with fruiting trees, making them especially vulnerable to habitat loss.

About White-crowned Pigeons

These birds have been observed to be rather shy around human presence, generally flying away if anyone gets too close. Although they can get used to human presence if, given the time, their elusive nature has prevented scientists from gathering data on many aspects of their lives. As a result, these beautiful birds are still somewhat understudied. Despite the many gaps in our understanding of them, the information that we do have can still paint a detailed picture.

● White-crowned Pigeon Photos, Color Pattern, Song
● White-crowned Pigeon Size, Eating Behavior, Habitat
● White-crowned Pigeon Range and Migration, Nesting


White-crowned Pigeon Color Pattern

These Pigeons are striking in appearance, with dark slaty bodies with a contrasting white cap on the upper half of their head. These shining crowns are an iridescent green on either side of their neck and the uppermost back. These green feathers have black edges, helping them blend in with the rest of the body. Their bill is pinkish-red with a white tip, while their irises are a bright yellowish-white. During the breeding seasons, the bills and legs of males become bright red.

Both sexes look similar to each other, with females generally having duller plumes overall. The crowns of females are also of grayish color rather than a radiant white. Juveniles are evidently different, lacking the white cap and having dark brownish gray to brownish-white foreheads instead. Their irises are dusky and the feathers of their breast and upper parts are edges with pale shades. Like the adults, however, they have a slate gray plumage. Sometimes because of the resin dropping from the trees they grow up in, they have brownish-black stains on their crown.

Description and Identification

The most identifiable feature of these birds is their appearance. The white crown is their most characteristic feature. Their white crown in contrast with their dark bodies that make them look black from a distance. These features distinguish them from all other Pigeons in their range. Their calls are similar to other Pigeons, so keep your ear out for a familiar coo before tracing it back to the point of origin. Although these birds are shy, you can spot them easily from a distance.

White-crowned Pigeon Song

The most characteristic call of these birds is their advertising call, a coo that is used on courtship by the males during the breeding seasons. Both males and females make this call during territorial displays, courtship, after territorial chases, and display flights. Males tend to give this call out more loudly and frequently as compared to females.

They also have a growling call that sounds like “cr-cr-cr”, a deep tri-syllabic call they make during territorial defense. Although growl calls are most frequently let out by males, females have also been observed to give out these calls if there are threats in the proximity of the nest.

They make their nest calls when either member of the pair is returning late from the nest exchange. These calls are a soft and highly variable nasal call that sounds a little muffled when let out, it sounds like a “gruugh gur”. The last distinctive call is their distress call, a deep and monosyllabic call that sounds like a “wooo”. Both sexes make this call 1–4 times in sequence when predators breach their breeding territories. As they make this call, their necks are outstretched, and throats repeatedly inflated and deflated.

White-crowned Pigeon Size

White-crowned Pigeons are around the same size as the very common Rock Pigeons but are relatively more slender and less chunky in shape. They are around 12–14 inches in length and weigh about 7.8–10 ounces. Their wings are long and have pointy tips, with a wingspan of 23.2 inches.

White-crowned Pigeon Behavior

These birds remain within the treelines and dense foliage within wooded areas, rarely ever coming on to the ground. They are fairly agile and hop from branch to branch as they forage, sometimes even hanging upside down like flycatchers. They are strong fliers and take direct strides when in air, but generally remain in low altitudes below 330 feet. When flying above the water, they fly even lower and do not go higher than 33 feet. They go faster than some of the fastest motorboats.

During the breeding seasons, both males and females are fiercely protective over their territories if they are nesting away from colonies of other pigeons. They frequently chase intruders away and get especially aggressive if the intruding bird continues to make its way towards the nest. If chasing fails, the defending bird lands nearby and raises its neck feathers while keeping its head upright. They will then proceed to fan their tail feathers and strike the intruder with their wings. Extreme fights include birds facing each other while simultaneously leaping into the air and grappling each other with their feet. Birds that breed within colonies are noticeably less aggressive but can get worked up if another bird ventures too close to their nesting site. Aggression during the nonbreeding seasons is the least but can occur over fruit on occasion.

The mating behaviors of these birds are still rather understudied, but they seem to be seasonally monogamous – meaning that paired birds remain only with their mate throughout the duration of the breeding season, after which they separate. Their displays include flights that may occur before or after their conventional courtship behaviors. Males fly down from their perches with slow and exaggerated wingbeats before beginning to gain altitude again. They then glide back to their display perches or somewhere else in their vicinity. Pair formation occurs when males begin to utter their advertising calls and the females do not flee from the male. Other displays include males bowing, expanding their throats, and spreading their tails while turning around on a lateral plane. Pairs may preen each other to maintain their bonds.

White-crowned Pigeon Diet

These Pigeons are highly dependent on fruits and berries, consuming the products of over 50 species of trees in the Caribbean. Among the populations that reside in Florida, the most commonly consumed fruits were poisonwood, blolly, shortleaf figs, strangler figs, and black torch. Since the vegetation gradually changes throughout their range, birds in the Caribbean consume fruits of royal palm, Cordia, broad-leaved blolly, ratwood, boxwood, and strangler fig. They also eat fruits of mastic and metopium brownii in other parts of their range. The fruits that they consume most likely do not remain constant throughout the year, with their fruit-based diet probably exhibiting seasonal change. These birds also occasionally consume wasps, snails, and flies. They eat these to consume sufficient amounts of protein during the breeding seasons.

White-crowned Pigeon Habitat

White-crowned Pigeons nest in coastal and island forests, including mangrove forests, and feeds in forests that have a large variety of fruit-bearing trees. They lean towards wooded islands but move freely throughout the wooded habitats of south Florida. Sometimes, they nest within mangroves in small offshore islands, but they can be in the outer fringe of mangroves along the mainland as well. They feed in tropical hardwood groves on islands and on the mainland but tend to avoid areas with raccoons since they are a major nest predator.

Range and Migration

White-crowned Pigeons are resident birds of their breeding habitats, mainly found in the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Antigua. Smaller populations also live in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Anguilla, and other Caribbean islands. In the United States, they live only in the Florida Keys, Everglades, and the southern tip of mainland Florida. Since these habitats are warm regions, they spend their winters in the same regions they breed in. They may, however, travel locally in order to source the most optimal food.

White-crowned Pigeon Lifecycle

White-crowned Pigeons generally have a single brood each season, but in some parts of their range, they can have up to 3 broods. Each brood has a clutch size of 1–2 white eggs, with both parents taking turns incubating the eggs day and night. Unfortunately, how long these eggs are incubated is still unknown, but when the eggs do hatch the chicks emerge in a completely helpless state. Both parents feed the young “pigeon milk” in the early days until they are strong enough to digest food themselves. 3 weeks after hatching, they leave their nests and presumably gain independence.


Nest sites are generally selected on a fork in a horizontal branch below 15 feet high. The site is located in mangroves or in other shrubs to provide concealment to the vulnerable nests. The nest themselves are simple platforms of twigs that are lined with small twigs, grasses, and other fine materials to add softness and insulation to the interiors. They are most likely constructed by both members of the pair.

Anatomy of a White-crowned Pigeon

White-crowned Pigeons are around the same size as the very common Rock Pigeons but are relatively more slender and less chunky in shape. They are around 12–14 inches in length and weigh about 7.8–10 ounces. Their wings are medium-sized to long and are pointed at the tips, with a wingspan of 23.2 inches.

Final Thoughts

White-crowned Pigeons are one of the more threatened birds in their family. Their populations have suffered from a major decline in all parts of their range, with some surveys categorizing them as bird species that are at the risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. Factors like hunting are a major risk for them since their plumes are in high demand in illegal trades. Although hunting these birds has been outlawed in Florida, they are still excessively hunted in the Caribbean countries. Habitat loss is also another common problem that they face, with mangrove forests reducing at a frightening pace. The increasing threat of hurricanes poses more danger to them with every passing year as well.

Few birds are as beautiful as White-crowned Pigeons. Their iconic appearances make them some of the more memorable birds in North America. Unfortunately, their shy nature has also earned them the notion of being less understood than other Pigeons. So, the next time you are visiting the tropics in North America, keep your eye out for a white flurry of movement through the foliage above you. You might just be lucky enough to catch sight of a spectacular bird!


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 White-crowned Pigeons

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing White-crowned 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.

White-crowned Pigeon Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the White-crowned 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 ForWhite-crowned 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 ForWhite-crowned 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.

Please Share to Help Us Get Kids Bird Watching