Species Profile

Band-tailed Pigeon

Scientific Name: Patagioenas fasciata
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2021
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This large, fruit-eating pigeon breeds in woodlands of western North and Central America, but in Canada nests only in southwestern British Columbia. Forest harvesting and encroaching urbanization have reduced the quality and extent of its breeding habitat. Most individuals overwinter in the western United States, where they are exposed to habitat loss and hunting and are threatened by an epizootic disease caused by the parasite Trichomonas gallinae. This pigeon’s normal one-egg clutch limits its annual reproductive output. Aggregation at communal foraging areas, and at sites where minerals are ingested to offset dietary imbalances, increases its vulnerability to disturbance and disease. The Breeding Bird Survey has documented continuing long-term population declines in Canada, with an 11.5% decline over the last three generations. However, species-specific surveys at mineral sites suggest localized declines of about 40% over three generations, and this species may become Threatened if threats related to habitat loss throughout the year, and disease on US wintering grounds, cannot be managed effectively.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in November 2008. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2021.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2011-02-04

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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There are six subspecies of the Band-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas fasciata. Because only one subspecies, P. f. monilis, occurs in Canada, it is considered its own species in Canada. It is also referred to as the Pacific Coast race.



The Band-tailed Pigeon is a largish pigeon measuring up to 40 cm long. It is very similar in size and appearance to the Rock Pigeon, especially at a distance. The Band-tailed Pigeon is dark grey overall, with a purple-grey head and a distinctive white crescent on a patch of iridescent green-bronze on the hindneck. In flight, the tail appears dark with a lighter grey band across the tip, hence the species’ name. Feet and legs are yellow, as is the bill, which has a black tip. The wings produce a clapping sound on takeoff, and flight is usually swift and direct. The song is owl-like.   The sexes are similar in colour, but females are duller and slightly smaller than males. Juveniles are similar to females but are even duller and lack the white crescent on the hindneck.


Distribution and Population

The Band-tailed Pigeon occurs in the western regions of the Americas, from southern British Columbia to northern Argentina. In Canada, the breeding range is restricted to the south coast of British Columbia. Its breeding range expanded northward along the coast and eastward into the interior of the province in the 1980s, but it has since largely disappeared from the interior. It is a casual visitant to most other Canadian provinces as far east as New Brunswick.   Most of the Canadian breeding population winters in California, but a few remain for the winter in British Columbia.   Population sizes in Canada are unknown. The Canadian population has been estimated to be 2 500 to 170 000 mature individuals by various sources, but those numbers are not based on any population census. Extrapolations from mark-resighting data from mineral sites (salt-rich habitats that Band-tailed Pigeons can use as a source of sodium) suggest several tens of thousands or more is a reasonable estimate of the current population in Canada, while extrapolations from Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) suggest that there are between 43 000 and 170 000 Band-tailed Pigeons in Canada, but these are not precise or official estimates.   Once much more abundant in western North America than at present, the Band-tailed Pigeon has undergone several periods of population decline. All surveys carried out in Canada suggest long-term declines from the 1960s through the early 2000s. BBS data show a significant decline of more than 9% per year over the last three generations, from 1988 to 2006. Unfortunately, these most recent BBS data for this flocking species have little weight and are imprecise. The causes of historical continental declines are uncertain, but excessive hunting in the United States could be the main cause. Habitat loss is likely another contributing factor in Pacific Coastal population declines. Although population surveys have low precision, they do suggest a stabilization of the population in the last decade.   Since most of the Band-tailed Pigeon population along the Pacific Coast is in the United States, the possibility of the immigration of individuals to Canada is theoretically high. If hunting pressure is well managed in the United States and populations there continue to remain stable or increase, populations in Washington State could provide a source of birds for Canadian populations.



In British Columbia, the Band-tailed Pigeon breeds from near sea level to 760 m elevation. It typically breeds in natural and human-made habitats, including edges and openings in mature forests, city yards and parks, wooded groves, open bushland, orchards and golf courses. In the interior, it occurs in high-elevation forests. In coastal regions, Band-tailed Pigeons show strong fidelity to mineral sites, where they drink mineralized water and ingest minerals encrusted on the soil surface. Mineral sites are critical seasonal habitat as sources of sodium. Areas with flowering and berry-producing trees and shrubs provide foraging habitat.  During the fall migration, Band-tailed Pigeons are highly noticeable when they occur in relatively large flocks, typically in agricultural fields or in clearcuts where fruit-bearing shrubs are abundant. The species winters in both coniferous and deciduous woodlands, favouring openings and edges where berries, such as madrone, and oak acorns may occur. The small Canadian winter population also freely uses urban backyard bird feeders.



In North America, most Band-tailed Pigeons breed from March to September. Upon reaching the breeding areas to which they faithfully return each year, pairs nest solitarily and are dispersed across the landscape. Nests, which are rarely reused, are built mostly by the female over a two- to six-day period. Nests are thin, flat to saucer-shaped structures made of small, loosely intertwined twigs. Females generally lay one or two eggs per year, which they incubate with the males during a 16- to 22-day period. Adults feed their young crop milk, a curd-like substance formed in the lobes of the crop of both parents. The nestling period lasts 22 to 30 days. Local breeding populations may aggregate at good foraging sites and mineral sites, which individuals use as a source of sodium. In midsummer, individuals feed predominantly on fruits. The high potassium content of fruits may cause an electrolyte imbalance, which sodium could counter and neutralize. The diet of the Band-tailed Pigeon changes seasonally: birds eat grains and seeds in spring, arboreal buds and flowers in early summer, berries and fruit in summer, and acorns and grains in fall and winter. The Band-tailed Pigeon is somewhat nomadic in response to food availability.   Outside the breeding period, the Band-tailed Pigeon is gregarious most of the time, with flocks typically ranging from tens of birds to over 1000. Due to their flocking behaviour, Band-tailed Pigeons may be particularly susceptible to disease outbreaks, including trichomoniasis, a protozoan parasite. Adult birds are also taken by raptors, such as Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk and Great Horned Owl. Common Raven, Steller’s Jay and squirrels are likely the main predators of eggs and nestlings. The Band-tailed Pigeon can live to the age of 22 years.



The Band-tailed Pigeon faces two natural constraints: low annual reproductive output and dependence on mineral sites. These factors, while not considered threats in and of themselves, hamper recovery of populations.   Threats in the British Columbia interior include loss and degradation of habitat through residential and industrial development. Disturbance of mineral sites is of particular concern. For example, one of the hot spring mineral sites had a road built to it recently, and pigeon use was expected to decline because of easier access for humans.   Another threat to the Canadian population is chemical contamination at foraging and mineral sites. The Band-tailed Pigeon is likely exposed to a wide range of chemical contaminants owing to its use of agricultural areas for foraging and estuaries for mineral sites. In British Columbia, industrial activities have polluted the marine environment, resulting in the contamination of a number of mineral sites, particularly the Pigeon Cove mineral site in Port Moody. Pollutants there are thought to include cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and zinc, as well as organic compounds, oil and grease hydrocarbons, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons originating from petroleum facilities.   Other threats to the species are predation on nests by invasive species and disease. In 1988, a particularly virulent strain of trichomoniasis caused the deaths of 15 000 to 16 000 Band-tailed Pigeons.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

12 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Band-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas fasciata in Canada (2009-08-28)

    The Band-tailed Pigeon is a largish (40 cm long and 350 g) pigeon. It is dark overall, with a purple-grey head and distinctive white crescent on the hindneck. In flight the tail appears dark with a lighter grey band across the tip. The bill (with black tip), feet and legs are yellow. One subspecies occurs in Canada: P. f. monilis Vigors 1839. This subspecies is referred to as the Pacific Coast race.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Band-tailed Pigeon (2009-11-25)

    This large pigeon has suffered long-term declines throughout its range in the western mountains of North America, due in part to overhunting.  Harvest has been severely limited in Canada for the past 16 years. Although population surveys (e.g. Breeding Bird Survey and mineral site counts) have low precision, they do suggest a stabilization of the population in the last decade.  The species is long-lived (up to 22 years) and has a slow reproductive rate; females typically lay only one or two eggs per year.  Forestry may negatively affect habitat in the long term, creating dense second-growth forests with few berry-producing shrubs; the pigeons also are susceptible to disturbance at isolated mineral sources needed for their nutrition.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada (2017-08-24)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada (Fort Rodd Hill) applies to lands occurring within the boundaries of the site. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at Fort Rodd Hill.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada (2018-08-01)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits to other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at GINPR.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (2017-08-24)

    Backed by the Insular Mountain Range of Vancouver Island and facing the open Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (Pacific Rim NPR) protects and presents the rich natural and cultural heritage of Canada's west coast. Pacific Rim NPR consists of three distinct units, the Long Beach Unit, Broken Group Islands Unit, and West Coast Trail Unit, each offering a range of unique visitor experiences. With significant areas (51,216 ha in total) of old growth, temperate rainforest, coastal dune systems, wetlands and foreshore, and marine habitats, the park demonstrates the interconnectedness between land, sea, and people. These natural wonders are interwoven with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations culture (past and present), and that of European explorers and settlers.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) in Canada (2019-12-23)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Band-tailed Pigeon and has prepared this management plan, as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia, as per section 66(1) of SARA.


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)

    2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2020 to 2021 (2021-10-12)

    Over the past year COSEWIC assessed a total of 66 wildlife species, of which 4 were assigned a status of Not at Risk. Of these 66, COSEWIC re-examined the status of 41 wildlife species; of these, 80% were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 826 wildlife species in various risk categories including 369 Endangered, 196 Threatened, 239 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 19 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, 62 wildlife species have been designated as Data Deficient, and 202 have been assessed as Not at Risk.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species, December 2009 (2009-12-17)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 1, 2010 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 1, 2011 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update July 29, 2021
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