The band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)[3] is a pigeon native to the Americas, being the largest pigeon native to North America. They are a native species throughout the Southwestern United States and Mexico, extending down to Peru.


Its closest living relatives are the Chilean pigeon and the ring-tailed pigeon, which form a clade of Patagioenas with a terminal tail band and iridescent plumage on their necks.[4] There are at least 8 sub-species, and some authorities split this species into the northern band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)[5] and the southern band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas albilinea).[6][7]

Use as genetic proxy

The band-tailed pigeon is the closest living relative of the extinct passenger pigeon and has been investigated for being used in efforts to bring back that species.[8][9]

Distribution and habitat

It ranges from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and southern Arizona south in higher elevations through Mexico and Central America to northern Argentina. In autumn it migrates out of its permanent resident range into northern California, New Mexico, and parts of Utah and Colorado. It is found from almost sea level to 3,600 m (12,000 ft), generally in oak, pine-oak, and coniferous forests. It feeds on seeds, notably acorns, as well as berries and small fruits.


Upper body

It is the largest pigeon in North America, measuring 33 to 40 cm (13 to 16 in) long and weighing 225–515 g (7.9–18.2 oz).[10][11] The coastal subspecies P. f. monilis (averaging 392 g (13.8 oz)) is larger than the inland subspecies (averaging 340 g (12 oz)).[10] The band-tailed pigeon has a wingspan of 66 cm (26 in).[12]

The plumage is gray, somewhat darker above. The head and underparts have a faint pink cast, especially in the adult male; the belly is nearly white. The distal half of the tail is also pale (except in the subspecies of Baja California), whence the English name. The bill and feet are yellow, with good identification marks at sufficiently close range. Adults have green iridescence on the back of the neck, adjacent to a thin white collar on the nape. Juvenile birds have white feather edges above, giving a scaly appearance.

Behavior and ecology

At a feeder near Pecos, New Mexico

This species is relatively quiet for a pigeon. Its voice is low-pitched and owl-like, often in two-syllable calls that rise and then fall (huu-ooh) with even spacing between calls.[13] It also makes a variety of harsh squawking sounds for a variety of reasons.

It builds a rudimentary platform nest out of twigs, in which it lays one or two eggs. Outside the breeding season, it forms flocks, sometimes over 50 birds, and often becomes nomadic, following the acorn crop or moving to lower altitudes or other areas outside its breeding range. They commonly congregate at and drink from mineral springs, although it is not fully understood why. In addition to acorns and other seeds, the band-tailed pigeon will seasonally consume fruits such as Pacific madrona and Toyon berries.[14] This species often visits bird feeders. With the introduction of English holly and English ivy, two popular plants in landscaping in western North America, the bird is found in persistent numbers in suburban areas now as well.

The parasitic louse Columbicola extinctus, believed to have become extinct with the extinction of the passenger pigeon, was recently rediscovered on the band-tailed pigeon.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Patagioenas fasciata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22725264A94888623. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22725264A94888623.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Patagioenas fasciata. NatureServe Explorer 2.0". Retrieved 10 August 2023.
  3. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 260. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
  4. ^ Johnson, Kevin P.; de Kort, Selvino; Dinwoodey, Karen; Mateman, A.C.; ten Cate, Carel; Lessells, C.M.; Clayton, Dale H. (2001). "A molecular phylogeny of the dove genera Streptopelia and Columba" (PDF). Auk. 118 (4): 874–887. doi:10.2307/4089839. hdl:20.500.11755/a92515bb-c1c6-4c0e-ae9a-849936c41ca2.
  5. ^ "Species factsheet: Patagioenas fasciata". BirdLife International. 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Species factsheet: Patagioenas albilinea". BirdLife International. 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  7. ^ National Geographic. "Band-Tailed Pigeon". National Geographic - Animals - Birds. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on April 15, 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  8. ^ Rich, Nathaniel (27 February 2014). "The Mammoth Cometh". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  9. ^ "The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback". Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  10. ^ a b Dunning Jr., John B., ed. (1992). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  11. ^ "Band-tailed Pigeon". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  12. ^ fasciata, Patagioenas; Length: 14.5"; Wingspan: 26" (2018-08-08). "Band-tailed Pigeon". Bird Watcher's Digest. Retrieved 2020-09-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Mahler, Bettina; Tubaro, Pablo L. (2001). "Relationship between song characters and morphology in New World pigeons". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 74 (4): 533–539. doi:10.1006/bijl.2001.0596.
  14. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (2008). Stromberg, N. (ed.). "Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)". Global Twitcher. Archived from the original on 2009-07-19.

External links