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Band-tailed Pigeon

Patagioenas fasciata ORDER: COLUMBIFORMES FAMILY: COLUMBIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A backwoods relative of the ubiquitous Rock Pigeon, the Band-tailed Pigeon is common in forests of the Pacific Coast and the Southwest. A sociable bird with a mellow coo, it forms large flocks in mountain forests where it feeds on seeds and fruits. As flocks pass overhead, these large, swift-flying pigeons can resemble Rock Pigeons, so look for the long tail with a wide, pale band at the tip. Up close, a distinctive white neck crescent adorns its pastel gray plumage.

Birds of North America Online
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Keys to identification Help

Doves
Doves
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Band-tailed Pigeons are large, stocky pigeons with small heads, long, rounded tails, and thick-based, pointed wings.

  • Color Pattern

    They are soft blue-gray above and purplish-gray below, with a white crescent on the back of the neck. The upper half of the tail is gray, fading to a pale gray band at the tip. The wings are unmarked pale gray with dark wingtips noticeable in flight. The bill and feet are yellow.

  • Behavior

    These forest pigeons spend much of their time traveling in groups to search for nuts, fruits, and seeds on the ground and in trees. They typically travel and feed in flocks of dozens to hundreds of individuals. Their call is a slow one- or two-syllable coo, sounding somewhat owl-like.

  • Habitat

    Band-tailed Pigeons live in mature coniferous forests in Western mountains, damp forests of the West Coast, and conifer-oak woodlands. They also visit forested suburban parks, fields, orchards, and backyard birdfeeders to forage.

Range Map Help

Band-tailed Pigeon Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Band-tailed Pigeon

    Adult
    • Large dark pigeon
    • Pale band at tip of gray tail
    • Yellow bill and feet
    • White stripe adjacent to iridescent patch on nape
    • © Stephen Parsons, Oregon, July 2009
  • Adult

    Band-tailed Pigeon

    Adult
    • Large, dark pigeon
    • White stripe on nape
    • Yellow bill and feet
    • © Heidi Carlson, Campbell, California, May 2008
  • Adult

    Band-tailed Pigeon

    Adult
    • Large, lanky, dark gray pigeon
    • White collar on nape
    • Yellow bill and feet
    • © cdbtx, Monroe, Washington, May 2008
  • Adult

    Band-tailed Pigeon

    Adult
    • Large gray pigeon
    • White band on tip of gray tail
    • Yellow bill and feet
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, Portal, Arizona, July 2010
  • Adult

    Band-tailed Pigeon

    Adult
    • Stocky, dark gray pigeon
    • White stripe adjacent to iridescent patch on nape
    • Yellow bill and feet
    • © hopendust, April 2011

Similar Species

  • Adult

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult
    • Slightly smaller and stockier than Band-tailed Pigeon
    • Dark tip on tail
    • More heavily patterned
    • Dark bill and pink feet
    • © Laura Erickson, Washington D.C., Maryland, September 2006

Similar Species

Rock Pigeons are slightly smaller and more compact than Band-tailed Pigeons. They have variable plumage, but they usually show dark bars on the wings that Band-tailed Pigeons never have. Rock Pigeons also lack the Band-tailed Pigeon’s white crescent on the neck, black-tipped yellow bill, yellow feet, and pale tip to the tail. Eurasian Collared-Doves are pale brown, not gray, and they have a black, not white, crescent on the neck. White-winged Doves are considerably smaller and browner than Band-tailed Pigeons, and show a white blaze on each upperwing. Mourning Doves are also considerably smaller and browner than Band-tailed Pigeons, with long, pointed tails.

Backyard Tips

Band-tailed Pigeons visit bird feeders to eat seeds, and they are attracted to berry bushes and fruit trees.

Find This Bird

Band-tailed Pigeons can be found in two separate regions in North America: dry mountain forests of the Southwest and wet forests of the Pacific Coast. They’re often way out of sight in tall trees, so keep an eye out for flocks of these large pigeons flying swiftly overhead—their overall pale gray color, combined with dark wingtips and a pale tip to the tail, will help you recognize them. Also watch for chunky birds perched on bare tree limbs; these pigeons routinely sit on conspicuous perches. If you do see one perched, look for the white crescent on its neck and for its black-tipped yellow bill and yellow feet. While walking in the forest you may hear them calling with deep, slow coos.