Band-tailed pigeons (bandtails) are members of the Columbidae family, which includes pigeons and doves. They are relatively large birds, approximately 13 to16 inches in length.
Bandtails appear almost entirely blue-gray and have black wing tips. Their fan-like tail has a broad dark band across the midsection and a broad gray band across the tip. Adults have green-bronze iridescent feathers on their hind neck marked above by a white crescent. A distinctive characteristic of bandtails (compared to feral pigeons) is their yellow bill tipped with black and yellow legs and feet.
The bandtail could be confused with the rock dove (feral pigeon) because of their similarity in size and posture. Rock doves, however, are highly variable in color and usually show a white rump patch. The range of the two species in general does not overlap.
Range: Bandtails found in Colorado belong to the Four Corners population ranging across parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Mexico. There is also a population of bandtails along western Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia referred to as the Pacific Coast population.
Bandtails are migratory, wintering in Mexico and breeding at more northern latitudes. They begin to arrive in Colorado in late March, but most arrive late April to mid-May. Southward migration from Colorado can occur as early as mid-August; rate of departure increases until mid-September. Migration can occur swiftly, or at a relaxed pace, with pigeons lingering in summer-use areas. Speed of migration is related to weather and food availability.
Habitat: Bandtails are forest dwelling birds. In Colorado, they are generally found west of the Front Range, nesting in mountainous terrain dominated by ponderosa pine and oak. They can also be found in association with lodgepole pine and spruce fir at higher elevations.
Diet: Bandtails feed principally on wild berries, acorns, pine nuts, and flowers of trees and shrubs. They are opportunistic feeders concentrating on a single, abundant food item until depleted. Although they prefer natural foods, they also feed on waste or stored grains and may frequent bird feeders.
Reproduction: The bandtail nest, constructed by both the male and female, is loosely formed of crossed twigs and usually located six to 30 feet from the ground in a coniferous or oak tree. The average clutch size is one, and there are sometimes as many as three broods. The male and female share responsibility for incubating the eggs for 18 to 20 days. The young fledge at 25 to 30 days. Both parents care for the young.
For more information see the Natural Diversity Information Source species profile.