At a Glance
This big pigeon, larger than the familiar park pigeon, is common in parts of the west. It lives along much of the Pacific Coast and in the mountains, moving about nomadically to feed on acorns, berries, or other wild food crops. Band-tails are sociable, foraging in flocks at most seasons and often nesting in small colonies. Unlike many doves, they do much of their feeding up in trees, clambering about with surprising agility to pluck berries.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Pigeon-like Birds, Pigeons and Doves
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Present all year in some areas, especially on Pacific Coast; mainly summer resident elsewhere, including northwestern coast and southwestern interior. Often nomadic, flocks concentrating where food supplies are good. Strays have reached Atlantic Coast.
14-15 1/2" (36-39 cm). Large and colorful. Note narrow white band across nape (absent on juvenile), yellow base of bill, wide gray tail band. Purplish pink on head and chest, with green iridescence on neck.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Gray, Purple, White, Yellow
Songs and Calls
A deep owl-like whoo-hoo.
Oak canyons, foothills, chaparral, mountain forests. Mainly in wooded or semi-open habitats; moves around to take advantage of changing food supplies. Breeds in oak woodland along the coast and in mountains, also in pine-oak woods and fir forest. May forage along streams in lowland desert. Increasingly regular in suburban areas on Pacific Coast.
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1, sometimes 2. White. Incubation is by both parents, 18-20 days.
Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest about 25-30 days after hatching, are tended by parents for some time thereafter. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.
Will forage on ground or in trees. Can climb about with great agility in small branches, even hanging upside down to reach berries. Usually forages in flocks, even during breeding season.
Mostly nuts, seeds, berries. Diet shifts with season. Acorns are major part of diet when available. Eats many berries, including those of elderberry, manzanita, juniper, wild grape, many others. Also eats seeds, tender young spruce cones, buds, young leaves, flowers, occasionally insects.
Several pairs may nest close together in loose colony. In courtship, male flies up and then glides in a wide circle, giving a wheezing call and fluttering wings toward end of glide. On perch, male coos with chest and neck puffed up, tail lowered and spread. Nest site is in coniferous or deciduous tree, usually 15-40' above ground, can be lower or much higher. Placed on fork of horizontal branch or at base of branch against trunk. Nest is a bulky but loosely-built platform of sticks; male brings material, female builds.
Numbers were once seriously depleted by overhunting. With protection, made a fair comeback; in recent decades declining again, undoubtedly for different reasons.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Band-tailed Pigeon. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Band-tailed Pigeon
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.