May 20, 2011

Mysterious Band-tailed Pigeons

Band-tailed Pigeons (Columba fasciata) mob one of our sunflower seed feeders.
Band-tailed pigeons were a new species to M. and me when we moved into the Wet Mountains, which are part of their limited Southern Rockies range.

Their presence here is why we found noted bird photographer Richard Crossley strolling up our driveway three springs ago.

These are not city pigeons (otherwise called rock doves or rock pigeons). In fact, they are a little bigger.

And quite a bit spookier than city pigeons, mourning doves, or the Eurasian collared doves that are now thoroughly at home hereabouts.

The movement of a face behind the window twenty yards away is enough to send them whap-whap-whapping into the air. Often I am just walking around watering plants or something when, suddenly, a flock of thirty or so band-tails explodes out of a pine tree like a helicopter taking off. Be still, my heart.

They are a game species but in Colorado a minor one—what this Colorado bird site reports fits my informal observation.

In Colorado, their distribution seems roughly equivalent to the distribution of Gambel oak. No acorns, no band-tailed pigeons?

(To me, the presence or absence of scrub oak is the marker between Southern and Northern Rockies, not Interstate 80 or South Pass.)

Poking around on the Web, I find a number of scientific papers on parasites and nesting, but this does not seem to be a heavily studied species in the Southern Rockies. But I can tell you that between them and the black-headed grosbeaks, I am buying lots sunflower seeds.

No comments: