The Band-tailed Pigeon is a large, native bird that graces our pacific northwest conifer forests and mixed woodlands in spring and summer and then migrates back to warmer climates for winter.
Band-taileds are overall grayish-blue in color with face and breast having purplish-pink tones. They have a distinct white cresent over a patch of irridescent green feathers on the back of the neck and their tails are gray marked with a slender dark band followed by a broad whitish-colored tip.
These birds are vegetarians and eat all kinds of wild and domestic nuts, seeds, and fruits. They will pluck foods directly from trees and shrubs or take it from the ground below. Foods include cherries, blackberries, elderberries, green acorns, green cottonwood seed pods as well as buds and flowers from woody plants. If you live within or close to their habitat, you can invite Band-tailed Pigeons into your yard by offering sunflower seeds or cracked corn on an open tray feeder. They will also visit other feeders that accommodate their size.
Pigeons and doves are unique when it comes to drinking water and feeding their young. Most birds scoop water with their bill and then tilt their head back to swallow but pigeons and doves simply drink by lapping it up just as mammals do. These birds have the most specialized crop of all birds! During nesting season the crop of males and females undergo a physical change so that they can produce “pigeon milk” (also called “crop-milk”) to feed their chicks.
Band-tailed Pigeons vocalizations are also unique. The males song is a series of deep hooting coos and are often mistaken for an owl calling. All use nasal grunts to communicate with each other, especially when bickering as they crowd each other to get to food a source. They take flight in a burst of loudly clapping wings, which is thought to alert others of possible danger.
How can you tell a Band-tailed Pigeon from its cousin, the feral Rock Pigeon? Band-tailed’s are much larger and have yellow feet. The Rock Pigeon’s feet are pink, but also their choice of habitat keeps them separate as well. You won’t find Rock Pigeons in forests or woodlands and you won’t find Band-tailed’s milling at your feet for crumbs at an outdoor café