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Full text of "North American fauna"

bUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY 



3 9999 06317 632 3 



UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 

FISH AND WILDUFE SERVICE 



HABITS, FOOD, AND ECONOMIC STATUS OF 
THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 

NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58 



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BOSTON PUBUC UBRARY 

'30VBIWMBIT DOCUMENTS U£t>A8TMEIiT 

RPCIt»N/FD 






1 MAR 3 1 2000 







ABSTRACT 



INFORMATION Is compiled for use in conserving and man- 
aging the band-tailed pigeon, largest native member of the 
family Columbidae in the United States. The report deals 
with the discovery of the bird and its appearance, distribution, 
migration, life history, nesting, habits, and game status, and 
contains a discussion of factors governing its abundance. 

Original information is presented on food habits, based on 
the laboratory analyses of 691 stomachs and/or crops of these 
birds. 

Mast (acorns and pine nuts) was found in 268 of the 
specimens and constituted 50.1 percent of the annual food. 
The availability of mast for food largely determines the migra- 
tion routes and wintering habitat, and indirectly determines 
the nature and extent of damage inflicted by these birds upon 
crops. 

The fondness of the bandtail for cultivated cherries and 
small green prunes forms the basis for many agricultural com- 
plaints. These fruits were found in 98 birds and made up 11 
percent of the diet. Other fruits df the rose family taken by 
the birds included those of blackberry, salmonberry, service- 
berry, toyon, and hawthorn, together making up 13.6 percent 
of the annual food. 

Cultivated grains formed 12.8 percent of the diet, showing 
the adaptability of the bird to modern conditions. Cultivated 
peas made up nearly 5 percent of the food. Although both grain 
and peas are frequently waste gleaned from harvested fields, 
many complaints of depredations arise. 

Other vegetable items found very acceptable by the bandtail 
Include fruits of huckleberry, salal, elderberry, dogwood, cas- 
cara, and hackberry. The foods identified included 76 in- 
dividual items, representing 26 plant families. 

Animal food of the adult biandtail comprises less than one- 
fourth of one percent and appears to be taken only accidentally. 

The bird is a voracious feeder and when large flocks attack 
a farm crop, severe damage may result. A summary of the 
bandtail's economic status is compiled from records of the 
Fish and Wildlife Service, and is followed by suggestions for 
crop protection. 

In winter, California harbors most of the West Coast popu- 
lation of bandtails which constitutes the greater part of the 
total, as birds from the Northwest commonly concentrate there. 
As a species, the band-tailed pigeon is little more than holding 
its own, with local increases in some States, local decreases in 
others. As it lays only one egg, its reproductive potential is low, 
and careful attention must be directed toward every practice 
that might cause further decreases. Shooting seasons and bag 
limits should not be liberalized. 

As to management, breeding stock must be carefully con- 
served over the entire range; the accepted principles and 
practices of forestry that will preserve or even increase the 
supply of oaks and pines, and the wild fruits and berries that 
supplement mast as food, must be kept in operation; and suit- 
able nesting habitat must be maintained. 



UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 

J. A. Ki-u". Secrelaiv 



FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 
Albeit M. Day, Director 



North American Fauna 58 



HABITS, FOOD, AND ECONOMIC STATUS OF 
THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



BY 



JOHNSON A. NEFF 




INITED STATES 

GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 

WASHINGTON : lUi7 



For sale by tiie Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office 
Wasliington 2.'). D. C. — Price i'<i cents 



2 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

HISTORY OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE SPECIES 

The type specimen of the band-tailed pigeon was obtained on 
Pkim Creek, near Castle Rock, Douglas County, Colo., by members 
of Long's expedition to the Rocky Mountains, and described for 
the first time by Say in 1823. Eggs were first collected by Lieuten- 
ant Benson (Bendire 1892) i near Fort Huachuca, Ariz., on 
September 25, 1885. 

It is impracticable, if not impossible, to compare the present 
numbers of the pigeons with those of any year in the early history 
of the West. The variation in degree of concentration in response 
to changing food supplies and the widespread wilderness range of 
the species make it difficult now to draw satisfactory conclusions 
from the scattered reports on abundance. 

Prior to 1913 small notice had been taken of the species as game 
in most States and little protection was afforded it. In the North- 
west most of the shooting was done during the spring months 
when the pigeons were concentrated in grainfields. In California, 
however, pigeon hunting, including market shooting, was de- 
veloped to a high degree. During the period before the automo- 
bile became a great factor in hunter transportation, gunning had 
occurred locally wherever pigeons concentrated. Although the 
number of hunters increased annually as the West became more 
densely settled, lack of transportation limited the hunters to rela- 
tively small areas. Ornithologists were few in number and widely 
scattered, hence there is no estimate of early-day pigeon abun- 
dance that would make possible comparison with present numbers. 
Early writers use such terms as "quite numerous," "common but 
never abundant," "very abundant," "common," "occasionally quite 
plentiful," and "fairly abundant." 

Only one instance has been noted that specified truly great num- 
bers. Bendire (1892) quotes Carpenter as follows: ". . . this species 
is most numerous near the mouth of the Columbia River, where 
immense flocks were to be seen from May to October 1865, which 
fairly rivaled those of the Passenger Pigeon." 

During the winter of 1911-12 there was an enormous flight of 
band-tailed pigeons along the California coast from Paso Robles to 
Nordhoff, and sport and market hunting flourished. Chambers 
(1912) described conditions in that area, stating that one market 
hunter shipped some 2,000 pigeons to city hotels, that the morning 
train from San Luis Obispo to Los Olivos carried about 100 hunt- 
ers each Sunday morning, and that frequently the hunters took an 
average of 30 birds each. The number of pigeons killed in the 
large area covered by that winter concentration must have been 
enormous, for hunters came from long distances. Apparently the 
birds remained in the area until shot out. This unusual congrega- 
tion of birds and of hunters brought the dangers of the bandtail's 
situation to public notice, and in 1913 Grinnell in furthering the 
drive for protection published an excellent summary of the status 
of the species. 

As practically the entire band-tailed pigeon population of the 

1 Publications referred to parenthetically by date are listed in the Bibliography, p. 71. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 3 

West Coast wintered in a relatively small area in central and 
southern California, it was possible for concentrated shooting- to 
decimate the numbers of the species. The instance described by 
Chambers aroused ornithologists to the great need of the birds for 
protection. 

The first action came in 1913 when in the appropriation act for 
the United States Department of Agriculture there was embodied 
what was commonly known as the Migratory Bird Law of 1913. 
This act asserted the authority of the United States Government 
over those birds, both game and nongame, that in the course of 
their northern and southern migrations passed through any of the 
States or that did not remain permanently within the borders of 
any State or Territory. Under this legislation the Department of 
Agriculture was directed to adopt suitable regulations to give ef- 
fect to the act, and when the regulations were approved and pro- 
claimed by the President on October 1, 1913, they embodied a 
closed season on certain species, including the band-tailed pigeon, 
until September 1, 1918. 

This act served its purpose though there was doubt that it could 
stand the test of constitutionality. Therefore the treaty with Great 
Britain for the protection of birds migrating between the United 
States and Canada was negotiated and was made effective by the 
adoption of the Migratory Bird Treatv Act, of July 3, 1918. Un- 
der this unquestionably constitutional act the closed seasons on 
certain species prescribed in 1913 were continued, and the band- 
tailed pigeon was afforded complete protection until 1932, during 
which period the birds gained slowly but consistently in numbers. 
Owing to the growing numbers of complaints by farmers in Cal- 
ifornia that pigeons were seriously damaging their chei-ries, the 
Secretary of Agriculture, pursuant to authority granted in the Mi- 
gratory Bird Treaty Act, issued an order on April 30, 1924, allow- 
ing the granting of permits for the destruction of band-tailed pi- 
geons that were attacking cherry crops in that State. In June 
1930 an amended order extended the same privilege to Arizona 
and Washington. Permits were issuable covering the period from 
May 15 to July 31, and the grounds for giving them included dam- 
age to cherries and other small fruits. It was provided also that 
the birds killed in protecting crops could be used as food by the 
landowner or lessee. Complaints of alleged depredations on agri- 
cultural products continued to increase, and the demand for per- 
mits grew until it was apparent that soon in some sections they 
would in effect create almost an open season and that during the 
breeding season of the birds. 

The pigeons continued to increase slowly but steadily in num- 
bers, and in 1932 an open shooting season was permitted in Ari- 
zona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. In Colo- 
rado no open season was permitted until 1944, and that only in 12 
southwesterly counties. In Texas and Utah the birds are so sparse- 
ly distributed that no open shooting has been permitted. The open 
season in each State in which band-tailed pigeons are present in 
shootable numbers was limited to 15 days annually until 1942, 



4 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

when the period was extended to 30 days ; the possession bag limit 
in all localities has remained at 10 birds. 

NATURAL HISTORY 

DESCRIPTION 

The band-tailed pigeon is described by Grinnell, Bryant, and 
Storer (1918) as follows: 

Adiilts, both sexrs. — Head pinkish brown or vinaceous (exact tint varying 
greatly among difTerent individuals), darkest and more purplish on top 
and back of head, more ashy on chin and checks; base of bill straw yellow, 
and black; naked eyelids, coral red; narrow collar around hind neck, white, 
averaging more conspicuous in males; broad area on sides and back of 
neck (below white collar), iridescent bronzy green; back, dark olive 
brown; rump and bases of tail feathers, dark bluish gray; ill-defined band 
across middle of tail, dull black; terminal portions of tail feathers, drab, 
lightest on outer ones; outer surface of closed wing, chjeily light gray, the 
coverts narrowly margined with white; flight feathers, brownish black; 
lining of wing and axillars, gray; under surface of flight feathers, dull 
brown; under surface of body, pinkish brown or vinaceous, deepest on 
breast and sides, paling to almost white on belly; under tail coverts, white; 
under surface of terminal portion of tail, whitish, distinctly lighter than 
upper surface of same; feet straw yellow. In some females the tone of 
coloration verges towards grayish rather than pinkish brown. Juvenile 
plumage. — Similar to that of adult, but vinaceous tinge wholly lacking; 
neck without white collar or iridescent bronzing; under surface dark 
brownish, with feather tippings of lighter color, giving a faintly scaled 
effect. 

Marks for field identification. — Largest of our wild pigeons (about the 
bulk of a domestic pigeon); general bluish coloration; distinct dark band 
across middle of square-ended tail; wings without white patches. 

SIZE 

Of 320 band-tailed pigeons examined by John C. Knox near 
Mountain Park, N. Mex., in June 1941, the heaviest adult weighed 
151/2 ounces, the smallest 8% ounces. D. M. Gorsuch, of the Unit- 
ed States Forest Service, w^eighed 6 birds collected at Williams, 
Ariz., between September 26 and November 8, 1941. Two adults 
weighed, respectively, 345 and 359 grams (or 12.16 and 12.31 ounc- 
es), and four young, respectively, 270, 270, 290, and 290 grams 
(or 9.52 and io.23 ounces). United States Game Management 
Agent Frank F. Foley and the writer examined 22 bandtails shot 
in Colorado between September 17 and 19, 1945; the average 
weight of 17 adults was 338 grams (or 11.2 ounces), the largest 
bird weighing 372 grams (or 13.1 ounces), the smallest 292 grams 
(or 10.3 ounces), and the average weight of 5 young was 270 
grams (or 9.52 ounces) . A 17-day-old nestling in Colorado weighed 
140 grams (or 4.9 ounces). 

Ridgway (1916) gives the following measurements for the 
band-tailed pigeon as taken from skins, the figures representing 
in millimeters respectively the smallest and the largest measure- 
ments of the birds he examined, and, in parentheses, the average 
(25.4 mm.=l inch) : 

Adult male.s, 38 specimens.— l.ength. ;;42-400 (3G3) ; wing, 195-221 (208.0) : 
tail, 122-151 (139.4); culmen, 16-20 (18); tarsus, 24.5-29.5 (27); middle toe, 
27.5-34 (30.4). 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 5 

Adult females, 28 specimens.— L,ength, 334-395 (338) ; wing, 193-218 (204) ; 
tail, 121-149 (134.1); culmen, 15.5-19.5 (17.6); tarsus. 24-28.5 (26); middle 
toe, 26.5-33 (29.6). 

PLUMAGES 

In addition to features mentioned in the technical description 
quoted, it is stated in the Hterature that the nestling has a yellow 
skin covered with sparse, cottony, white down. The nestling stud- 
ied in Colorado in 1945, however, was covered with cottony down 
of a peculiar shade of yellow and the skin was not noticeably yel- 
low. 

According to Bendire, juvenile birds apparently molt during 
their first fall. The molt of the adults is not well known. Among 
specimens collected for the present study some birds were identi- 
fied by the field collectors as juvenile, but on laboratory examina- 
tion their crops were found to contain active milk glands. Study 
of September-collected birds in Colorado in 1945 showed consid- 
erable molt under way. Several adult birds had lost most of their 
crown and face feathers and presented a quilled hedgehog appear- 
ance. It was also apparent that soon after the close of nesting 
activity there is a rather speedy reduction in the prominence of 
the white neck-ring, especially in the male birds. 

COURTSHIP 

Apparently little is recorded concerning the courtship of the 
bandtail. Bent (1932), quoting Swarth, indicates that cooing and 
other calls and spectacular circling glides by the male from a perch 
are among the details of courtship. Pearse (1935) describes an- 
other activity, apparently part of the courting behavior. Short 
flights in a hesitant, quivering manner, during which the bird 
seems almost to float, form the basis of this display. The tail is 
fully spread, and Pearse says that the tips of the wings appear to 
be held down. The display is accompanied by two separate very 
low calls, one of which he describes as being very like the modified 
chirping of a cricket. 

CALLS 

The deep, cooing notes of the band-tailed pigeon are distinctive. 
Once heard as they ring through the depths of some mountain 
canyon they will never be forgotten. Mrs. Florence Merriam Bail- 
ey (1902) terms the calls "owl-like." They are most often heard 
during the courting period, and Wales (1926) describes the tilt- 
ing of the head downward to horizontal, the inflation of the neck, 
and other actions incident to the display of that particular period. 
After nesting has begun, the cooing is more subdued and less fre- 
quent. 

A variety of low guttural call notes may be heard when the par- 
ents are together at or near the nest ; these are similar to the notes 
of the domestic pigeon at such times. The squab, when hungry, 
utters a thin, piping note. Neither of these latter calls can be 
heard for more than a few yards. 



6 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

BEHAVIOR 

Band-tailed pigeons are very gregarious, consorting in flocks at 
all seasons except during nesting ; even then communal tendencies 
are exhibited. They are fond of perching for long periods in the 
tops of tall dead or partially dead trees, but when approached drop 
quickly away to better concealment. The flight is strong and swift, 
and in descending mountain sides the birds may dive with wings 
partially or completely shut. During such swoops the noise of the 
wind through the rigidly held wing feathers is often audible for 
a long distance. When the bird takes flight, the wings may be 
clapped together over the back producing a sound that may be 
heard for some distance. This seems to be a form of signal, and 
not the result merely of intense exertion. 

NESTING 

NESTING SEASON 

The nesting period of the band-tailed pigeon is lengthy. During 
practically all the months pigeons may be noted in flocks. Even 
in the nesting season bands of 5 to 50 birds have been observed. 
These flocks were once considered to be nonbreeders, but it is now 
thought that they may be nesting birds. This habit, combined 
with the usual remote nesting habitat, makes it difficult to obtain 
accurate information on the number of broods a season and other 
nesting phenomena. Observers have recorded successive broods 
from the same nest, without proof, however, .that the same adults 
were concerned. The long nesting period alone has led some observ- 
ers to believe that at least in the South some bandtails may rear 
two or possibly three broods. In the northern part of the bird's 
range it seems that normally only one brood is produced. 

In California, Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer (1918) list nests con- 
taining eggs or young from March 5 to August 23, and A. C. Ober- 
le (letter of April 1.5, 1935) says that nesting has been observed 
on the Laurette Ranch north of San Dimas, Calif., and in Brown's 
Flat, the first nesting starting about April 1. Eggs were observed 
into May. Apparently each nest contained but one egg at a time. 
Abbott (1927) quoted Bushnell's observation of a nest that con- 
tained one egg on March 8, 1925, and later a second egg that 
hatched in mid-May. Moran (1919) relates finding a nest with 
one well incubated egg on March 30, 1895, at the head of Lopez 
Canyon, San Luis Obispo County. Grinnell (1928) watched a 
squab being fed in a nest on September 29, 1927. Stillman (1928) 
describes a young bird that left its nest in San Diego County on 
October 2. Kloppenburg (1922) noted a nest in the Plumas Na- 
tional Forest that contained one egg in mid-September. Derby 
(1920) recorded one containing a naked squab on September 1, 
1920, at 6,500 feet elevation on the headwaters of Deer Creek, Se- 
quoia National Forest. Davis (1938) wrote of the nesting season 
near Eureka, and Michael (1928) of that in Yosemite National 
Park. These records seem to bound the outer limits for California. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 7 

Kitchin (Bent 1932) said that the nesting season in Washington 
lasted from April through June. Einarsen (letter of December 
15, 1939) reported a nest near Triton Cove, Hood's Canal High- 
way, that on August 24, 1939, contained a squab about a week old, 
Hagenstein (1936) observed a nest containing a squab near Seattle 
on October 17, 1935. 

Gabrielson and Jewett (1940) report that in Oregon egg-laying 
is at its height late in May and in June, and give May 3 and July 
12 as the known extremes of the season. Later, Jewett (1941) re- 
corded a nest with two eggs in Yamhill County on September 30, 
1940. 

In Arizona, according to Bendire's correspondents, nesting oc- 
curred in nearly every month of the year. Poling, writing to him 
from Fort Huachuca of various nests, said, "I have taken young 
two or three months old in February, and since that time young 
and eggs enough to show that they lay and nest from December 
to August." Benson reported nesting of the bandtails in the Hua- 
chuca Mountains from early July to late October; Willard (1913) 
noted an October nest ; and Vorhies (1928) one in September. On 
Pinal Mountain south of Globe, Ariz., Carlos Stannard reported 
nests as follows: August 18, 1940, one egg; August 19, 1940, squab 
ready to fly; August 23, 1940, a squab about 4 days old which was 
still in the nest on August 30 ; and on August 14, 1941, four nests, 
one with eggs, three with squabs between 1 and 3 weeks old. Con- 
siderable field work by the writer, accompanied by State game 
wardens, leads to the conclusion that in southern Arizona nesting 
most commonly begins early in May, though occasionally earlier. 

For New Mexico, Mrs. Florence Merriam Bailey (1928) lists 
a number of interesting records, chief among them being that of 
a nest containing one wellincubated egg on April 23, 1922, 16 miles 
northeast of Santa Fe, at 10,500 feet elevation, well above the snow 
line. There are also records for the Animas Mountains, Guad- 
alupe Mountains, Monument Pass, Black Mountains, and the Pe- 
cos, Sacramento, Sandia, Taos, Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, and Mo- 
gollon Ranges, the dates extending from June 3 to mid-August, 
and the elevations from 5,800 to 8,000 feet. Of 280 adult band- 
tails examined by John C. Knox at Mountain Park between June 
25 and July 10, 1941, 235 were males, 151 of them with testes in- 
dicating active breeding condition, and 45 were females, 22 of 
which contained well developed eggs. 

In Utah, Lee Griner records a bandtail nesting in June, and 
Clarence Cottam (1941) saw a juvenile recently out of the nest 
on July 24. In Texas, Ray Williams, State Game Warden, ob- 
served a pair of pigeons building a nest on April 22, 1933, in the 
Davis Mountains, and saw a nest containing an egg in the Chisos 
Mountains in July of that year. 

For Colorado there was until 1945 no definite breeding record 
substantiated by collection of eggs or young or by photographs of 
nests. The presence of the birds over a wide range, however, made 
it certain that they did nest. R. J. Niedrach (Niedrach and Rock- 
well 1929) of the Colorado Museum of Natural History collected 
a bird near Kittredge on June 20, 1928, that contained a fully 



8 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

formed egg, and in Jarre Canyon near Sedalia on September 11, 
1938, he took several birds that contained active milk cells in their 
crops. Several State game wardens and woodsmen relate having 
seen nests in earlier seasons, but none were reported at the 
time and hence are not verified. Warden Hall, of Montrose, re- 
ported that in 1943 on Tabeguache Creek in the Uncompahgre Na- 
tional Forest he saw a number of juvenile birds that were so imma- 
ture they could not have been long out of the nest. 




Figure 1. — Nest and day-old young of the band-tailed pigeon in a 
lodgepole pine on the Rampart Range, Pike National Forest, Colo., 
August l.'2, 11)45, tlie first recorded and authenticated nest of this 
species for the State. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 9 

On August 22, 1945, the writer found the first recorded and au- 
thenticated nest for the State. It was in a lodgepole pine on the 
summit of the Rampart Range, Pike National Forest, some 55 
miles south of Denver, and contained a day-old squab (fig. 1). 
On August 31, R. J. Niedrach found a second nest nearby contain- 
ing an older squab. On the basis of information available at the 
end of 1945 it seems that the major nesting season for Colorado 
covers the period July 1 to August 30, with a few pairs of band- 
tails nesting earlier or later. 

NEST LOCATION AND STRUCTURE 

The location of band-tailed pigeon nests varies greatlv. 0. B. 
Johnson (1880), Irene G. Wheelock (1904). and Cooper (1880) 
report ground nests, but no other similar nestings have been re- 
corded. Johnson observed in the Willamette Valley, Oreg., nests 
ranging from the top of a stump 8 feet high to the dense branches 
of a fir at about 180 feet. C. E. Bendire (1892) quotes Ankeny as 
describing nesting in the Rogue River Valley, Oreg., on limbs of 
small firs, generally in dense thickets. William Lloyd wrote Ben- 
dire that in Texas and in Mexico nests were largely in oaks, and 
Stephens told him that in Arizona nests were usually in pines at 
heights of 8 to 20 feet from the ground. Benson and Poling re])ort- 
ed nests in Arizona in pines, oaks, and mulberries, at heights of 
15 to 70 feet, and from 5,000 to 8,000 feet elevation in the moun- 
tains. 

E. A. Kitchin, in correspondence with Bent, said that nesting 
sites in Washington were mainly in dark fir trees, in the lower 
branches near the trunk, and averaged about 20 feet from the 
ground. Occasionally nests were found in alder or birch on hill- 
sides. Leo K. Couch informed the writer that around Willapa 
Harbor, Wash., the bandtails nest in Sitka spruce {Piccci sitchcn- 
sis). Ira N. Gabrielson and Stanley G. Jewett (1940) report that 
in Oregon the nest is usually high in a coniferous tree. 

Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer wrote that most of the California 
nests were in oaks, at heights of 8 to 30 feet. One was reported in 
a Douglas fir and one in a California lilac {Ceanothus thyrsiflor- 
us). 

Fowler (1903) reported live oaks as favored locations for nests 
in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona, the nests being built on 
low, horizontal limbs from 9 to 12 feet from the ground. In July 
1939 the writer, with George Peterson, Deputy State Game War- 
den, of Nogales, Ariz., visited several of the high oak canyons in 
the Tumacacori and Washington Camp Mountains near Nogales in 
search of bandtail nests. About 10 nests, deserted but of the cur- 
rent season, were inspected . All were in oak trees at heights of 
12 to 25 feet, in dense woods near the canyon floors. David 0. 
Scott, of the United States Forest Sei-\nce, describes a nest found 
near Williams, Ariz., as being 15 feet up in a yellow pine and very 
loosely constructed of coarse oak sticks. 

The two occupied nests found in 1945 in Colorado, and several 
unused nests found nearby, were all in lodgenole pine forest at ele- 



10 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 



vations of approximately 8,400 feet. One nest was in a fork against 
the trunk, the others one to two feet out on flat Hmbs; all were 
14 to 16 feet above the ground. All were in trees on rims or slopes, 
with lower vegetation downhill, so that the adults had room for a 
downward dive upon leaving the nest as they picked up momentum. 
The nests (figs. 2 and 3), typical of those of the pigeon family, 




B87I4M 

Figure 2.— Band-tailed pigeon on a typical nest in a pine tree on Maverick 
Mountain, Prescott National Forest, Ariz. (Photographed hy Floyd Schroeder, 
United States Forest Service.) 

are usually frail platforms of dead twigs of oak, pine, or other 
plant stems. The ground nest reported by Johnson (1880) in the 
Willamette Valley was made of leaves and moss. A nest measured 
by Grinnell (Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer 1918) was 8% inches 
by 4 inches, exclusive of several protruding twigs. Frequently 
there are numerous gaps in their structure, the frailty of the nests 
being generally commented on in the literature. Nests observed 
by the writer near Nogales, Ariz., in 1939 and 1940 were thin 
platforms of oak twigs, so fragile as to cause one to wonder how 
eggs and young could remain on them. 

Willard (1916) , describing nest building in the Huachuca Moun- 
tains of Arizona, says that it was carried on only in the morning 
hours from sunrise to about 8 a. m., almost entirely by the female, 
and that she proceeded in a most lackadaisical manner. The peri- 
od from the placing of the first stick to the laying of the first egg 
was 6 days. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



11 




B87I3M 

FiGrRE 3. — Nest and young of the band-tniled pigeon in the hnniid coastal area 
of Tillamook County. Greg., June 25, 1931. (Photographed by Alex Walker.) 

Bent quotes Kitchin as stating that bandtails are very fond of 
their old nesting sites and that they come back year after year to 
the same limb even though the previous nest has been disturbed. 
Kitchin records second nests built on the same spot where an earli- 
er nest of the current season had been robbed or destroyed, and 
cites one instance of a nest from which he collected the egg being 
followed by a second nest on the same site from which he again 
took the egg ; later in the season he found in the same place a third 
nest that he left intact. 

Noack (1916) describes the breeding of the band-tailed pigeon 
in captivity. The first egg laid was removed from the nest and was 
hatched by a domestic pigeon. Within a few days the bandtail laid 
another egg, which was hatched and the young bird raised. Then 
a third egg was laid and a second squab reared to maturity. 



COMMUNAL NATURE IN NESTING 

Usually the band-tailed pigeon nests in widely separated pairs. 
Fowler (1903), however, describes a community breeding ground 
near Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where some 35 pairs nested in a loose 
rookery ; in the area most thickly populated there was one nest to 
each 3 or 4 acres. Observations by George Peterson, Deputy State 
Game Warden, of Nogales, in 1936 in the Tumacacori Mountain 
range northwest of Nogales, Ariz., were of the same purport. The 
community nesting ground was in dense vegetation along the bot- 



12 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

torn of a steep canyon at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. Inspec- 
tion of recently deserted nests in that canyon and others by Peter- 
son and the writer in 1939 and 1940 showed that nests were irregu- 
larly spaced along the bottom of the canyon, sometimes within a 
few yards of each other, but usually fairly widely separated. 

Surprising examples of community nesting are contained in 
two notes transmitted by H. Garvin Smith, of the United States 
Forest Service, Tucson, Ariz. He says that in 1933, while camping 
in the Magdalena Mountains of New Mexico he found 14 bandtail 
nests in one large Douglas fir near a spring, and that in 1934 in 
the same tree he found 17 nests, one of which contained two eggs, 
the others one each. 

Fred Herman, of Sanborn Park, Montrose County, Colo., relates 
that a former Forest Service employee described a number of 
"colony trees" that he had seen among the thick, bushy conifers 
along the rimrock above Horsefly Creek Canyon north of Sanborn 
Park, and that he had also found the pigeons nesting in blowholes 
and on ledges in the sandstone rimrock along Big Red Creek Can- 
yon nearby. Several other Colorado game wardens have reported 
bandtail activity about similar rimrock areas and they feel sure 
that pigeons nest there. 



The usual, or normal, deposition is one egg to a nest, but in the 
literature are a number of records of two eggs. In a tabulation 
covering 18 nests in California, Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer 
(1918) report one nest containing two eggs and one containing 
two squabs. 0. B. Johnson (1880) observed two nests in the Willa- 
mette Valley, Oreg., that contained two eggs each. Bendire quotes 
Ankeny as saying that two eggs were laid in nests in the Rogue 
River Valley, and Lloyd as describing two-egg sets in Texas and 
in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. Cooper (1880) also said that the 
set was two eggs. On the other hand, Bendire quotes Benson, 
Stephens, and Poling as stating that only one egg to a nest was 
laid in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona. Jewett (1941) re- 
ports a two-egg nest in Yamhill County, Oreg., on September 30, 
1940, and H. Garvin Smith writes that he has seen several two- 
egg nests in New Mexico. 

Ralph Morrow, Deputy State Game Warden, of Hilltop, Ariz., 
observed "several" nests in the Chiricahua Mountains, in each of 
which were a half-grown squab and one egg. G. W. Peterson, 
Deputy State Game Warden, of Nogales, Ariz., said that during 
June 1936 in canyons of the Tumacacori Range northwest of No- 
gales he inspected 56 bandtail nests, 11 of which contained two 
eggs. 

The eggs of the band-tailed pigeon are elliptical-ovate, somewhat 
pointed, smooth, pure wiiite, and with a slight gloss. A series re- 
ported by Bent averaged 39.7 by 27.9 millimeters in dimensions. 
(25.4 millimeters=l inch.) 

INCUBATION 

According to Bendire (1892), incubation lasts 15 to 18 days; 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 13 

even longer periods should not be exceptional in some of the early- 
season nests at high altitudes where the weather is still very cold. 

GROWTH OF THE YOUNG 

Doves and pigeons differ from all other birds in feeding their 
nestlings a substance, usually called "pigeon milk," that is devel- 
oped in the crops of both the male and the female adult. It is 
creamy-colored and somewhat similar in appearance and consist- 
ency to curd. Feeding is by regurgitation, and for the first few 
days after the nestlings are hatched this "milk" is their only food. 

Little is known of the development of this secretion in the band- 
tail. Even in regard to the domestic pigeon the literature lacks in- 
formation on some phases that are of interest ; but since the domes- 
tic pigeon incubates for 18 days and the young remain in the nest 
for at least 30 days, it seems probable that the development of the 
pigeon milk and the duration of the supply may be similar in the 
two species. The most detailed discussion of the phenomenon of 
pigeon milk that the writer has found is one that is contained in 
the literature on the domestic pigeon, and is here briefly summa- 
rized. About the 8th day of incubation the lobes of the pigeon's 
crop begin to increase in size through multiplication of the cells 
of the outer, or proliferating, layer; by" the 12th day the walls of 
the lobes are obviously thickened and enlarged and on the 18th 
day they are at their greatest development. The inner layer of each 
lobe has been pushed farther away from the source of blood in the 
outer layer, and it begins to degenerate ; globules of fat develop in 
the cells, and whitish masses of dead cells begin to peel off. By 
the time the eggs hatch on the 18th day these greasy masses are 
sufficient to furnish the entire food of the squabs during their first 
few days of life. After the first few days the regurgitated ma- 
terial begins to contain some quantity of seeds and other solids 
that have been softened in the crop of the adults. It is said that 
the duration of the milk supply varies considerably in the different 
families of the domestic pigeon, and that in some it has ceased to 
form by the time the young are 7 days old, whereas in others ap- 
proximately half of the food is still "milk" when the young have 
reached 10 days of age. 

Bendire (1892) states that both sexes assist in the care of the 
young. "The young grow rapidly and are able to leave the nest 
when about a month old." Mrs. Wheelock (1904) says that the 
squab is "fed on a thin milky fluid, by regurgitation, for 20 days." 

Considerable food must be administered at a feeding, as the 
squabs maintain continued rapid growth with a minimum of pa- 
rental visits. Abbott (1927) published notes from A. E. Stillman, 
of San Diego County, Calif., dated September 17, 1922, as follows : 
"That day the female left the oak tree in the early morning and 
returned at twilight; after quickly feeding the young she left 
again. Next day she left at daybreak and returned at sundown." 
This squab, according to Abbott, left the nest and tree on October 2. 

Under date of November 9, 1939, Carlos Stannard, of Phoenix, 
Ariz., wrote : 



14 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

We camped near the top of Pinal Peak, about eight miles south of 
Globe, Ariz., at about 7,500 feet. In a small yellow pine just over our tent 
was a band-tailed pigeon's nest with one young. It was about a week old 
on August 13. I watched the nest pretty steadily for a number of days; 
we were in that camp until August 31. No adult stayed on the nest during 
the day after we went there. And after the 16th no adult stayed on the nest 
during the night. The young left the nest on the 25th but did not leave 
the tree; it was still in the tree on the morning of the 31st. During the 
time we were there the young was fed once each day by the female, 
usually shortly after sunrise, and once by the male about 8 or 9 a.m. I 
banded all three. The adults seemed to pay no more attention to us than 
if we were cattle. 

After the discovery of the two nests in Colorado in August 1945, 
the writer made every effort to recheck existing information on 
the growth of the young. As R. J. Niedrach was making a photo- 
graphic record of these first Colorado nests, the adults were not 
disturbed as frequently as would have been desirable to obtain 
full data on growth, but some observations were made on the two 
nests. At one day of age the squab was a tiny helpless creature 
about 2 inches long, unable to hold up its head for more than a 
few seconds. The female parent was on the nest when it was 
found at 2 p. m. on August 22, and she remained on the nest dur- 
ing the daylight hours of August 24. The male was on the nest 
during most of the day of August 23. During the remainder of 
the study the adults followed this routine : The male returned to 
the nest between 8:45 and 9:30 a.m. each day and brooded the 
young bird during the day (fig. 4). The female returned to the 




Figure 4. — Male band-tailed pigeon on nest hovering a ten-day-old Sipiab. 
lianipart Range, Pike National Forest, Colo. August 31, 1945. (Photo 
graphed by R. J. Niedrach.) 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 15 

nest at any time between 3 :45 and 5 :15 p. m. She was not observed 
feeding the youngster, though she undoubtedly must have fed it. 
Watched from dav/n until dark, the tiny squab appeared to sleep 
until after the return of the male. During the first week about 
three feedings, all between noon and 3 p.m., seemed to be the 
schedule. As the youngster's food capacity grew, the number of 
feedings was reduced to two, and the period of regurgitation indi- 
cated that a large quantity of food was taken. Both feedings were 
about midday. 

Contrary to Stannard's observation, the adults continued to 
hover the squab, both day and night, until it was 20 days old. On 
that date they stopped abruptly and did not return to the nest 
during either the day or the night except to feed the squab. Each 
parent came to the nest once daily, between 10 and 11 a. m., fed the 
squab, and departed. Occasionally during the day one of the par- 
ents would visit the vicinity, scan the nest and its surroundings 
carefully, and then depart. 

During the first 10 days the young squab did not grow very 
rapidly. It slept most of the day and increased in size, but the 
feather development seemed to be slow. After about 12 days feather 
development began visibly to progress. At 17 days of age one of the 
squabs was well covered with feathers, the body feathers being 
about 15 mm. out of the sheath and the first primary 30 mm. out 
of the sheath; the tail feathers measured 28 mm. from the tip 
of the tail flesh to the tip of the feathers; the head was heavily 
pinfeathered but had no open feathers, and the sides were quite 
bare. The yellowish brown down adhered to the tips of the 
feathers, giving the squab a peculiar fuzzy appearance. At this 
age the youngster crawled clumsily about over the nest and 
snapped its beak furiously at the intruder. It weighed 140 grams, 
or 4.9 ounces. External examination indicated that the crop was 
well filled with pigeon milk. 

When the squab was 20 days old the tail feathers measured 42 
mm. in length and the first primary was 40 mm. out of the sheath ; 
the pinfeathers on the head were opening but the sides were still 
quite bare. When it was 23 days of age its outward appearance 
had changed little (fig. 5) , but when the writer's hand approached, 
the young bird snapped its beak vigorously, struck with bent wing, 
and danced awkwardly about over the nest. When the squab was 
26 days old it weighed 243 grams and its tail measured 75 mm. 
For the first time it spent much time preening, apparently picking 
off the down that still adhered to the tips of the feathers. On that 
day also, one of the squabs began to exercise and spent much of 
the day walking about, for the first time venturing off the nest 
onto the nest branch, waving and flapping its wings, and craning 
and peering about with interest. This was repeated on the 27th 
day, and on the 30th day the bird was gone from the nest, tree, 
and immediate area. The other squab was not observed between 
its 20th and 26th day, but on the latter day it was sitting quietly 
on the nest without apparent interest in exercising. The nest was 
not again visited. 

Nowhere in the literature examined has the writer found any 

695766°^?— 2 



16 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 




Figure 5. — Young band-tailed pigeon about 24 days old on nest. Note the 
high degree of eanioutlage afforded by the nest, trunk and branches of 
the tree, and the low-sitting, quiet habits of the young bird. Rampart 
Range, Pike National Forest, Colo. September 3, 1945. (Photographed 
by R. J. Niedrach.) 

information on how long the lobes of the crops of the adult band- 
tails remain enlarged and thickened, with easily distinguishable 
milk cells, after the period of active feeding of 'milk' to the young. 
Knowledge of the length of time that the young bandtail is fed 
'milk' is incomplete, but one squab examined in 1945 appeared 
to have its crop well filled with the soft curdlike 'milk' on the 
17th day. Just how long this material, alone or in combination 
with softened seeds and grains, makes up a part of the food of 
the squab and how long thereafter the thickened, whitish milk-cell 
pads remain easily distinguishable in the lobes of the crop of the 
adult after the 'milk' has ceased to be an item of food for the young 
are not yet known. 

On numerous occasions adult pigeons collected for study or 
shot by hunters on dates well outside the normal nesting season 
have carried well defined milk pads in their crops ; others have 
contained variable remnants of the thickened crop-lobe walls. In 
some instances observations indicated that the birds still had 
young in nearb.y nests; in others that they apparently were mi- 
grants. Among such late-season records of bandtails containing 
well defined milk pads in their crops are those of birds taken in 
Washington, September 22 and 26 and October 2; in Oregon, 
September 8 and October 3 ; in Arizona, September 29 ; in New 
Mexico, September 23 ; and in Colorado, September 15 to 20. In 
southwestern Colorado in 1944 a majority of the birds examined 
by United States Game Management Agent Frank F. Foley from 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 17 

September 16 to 20 contained this evidence of recent feeding of 
young, and in New Mexico as late as September 23, 9 out of 34 
birds examined showed a similar condition. Until the correlation 
between disappearance of the milk-cell pads and the 'weaning' 
of the squab by its parents is definitely established, accurate analy- 
sis of these observations is impossible. 

NATURAL ENEMIES AND DISEASE 

The few instances of molestation of bandtails recorded in the 
available literature are those by Willard (1916), who said that in 
Arizona "the Prairie Falcon and Cooper Hawk take considerable 
toll from the flocks;" by Kitchin (Bent 1932), who remarked that 
in Washington a gray squirrel occasionally took possession of a 
pigeon nest, using it as a foundation and adding to it to suit itself ; 
and S. D. Durrant, whose Hanna, Utah, specimen was struck 
from a flock by a sharp-shinned hawk (Cottam, letter of May 6, 
1940). McLean (1925) reports that a western goshawk pursued 
bandtails in Yosemite National Park. No doubt there is some pre- 
dation upon eggs and squabs, but no data are available. 

One adult pigeon collected near Durango, Colo., in July 1945 was 
found to contain at least 12 flatworms in its abdominal cavity. 

Sick pigeons were reported from Whidby Island, Wash., be- 
tween September 8 and 21, 1939. All were found close about wa- 
terholes. Reports from United States Game Management Agent 
Bach mention six birds found dead by Washington State game 
protectors and three still able to fly weakly, which were shot. Six 
specimens were sent to Dr. Karl F. Meyer, Hooper Foundation, 
University of California, who found no evidence of poisoning or 
of bacterial disease. Dr. Meyer reported hemorrhages in the giz- 
zard and evidence of acute irritation in the intestinal lining, but 
the causes were unknown. 

The band-tailed pigeon seems to be relatively free from natural 
enemies; the birds feed on the ground with little apparent fear, 
and perch conspicuously in the tops of dead trees. One beneficial 
result of their flocking habit is that individual safety is enhanced 
by the combined watchfulness of all the birds of the flock. Man 
through shooting the birds and clearing and destroying their nest- 
ing range, appears to be the only enemy of importance. 

DISTRIBUTION 

GENERAL RANGE 

As recorded in the American Ornithologists' Union Check-List 
of North American Birds, fourth edition, 1931, the range of Co- 
lumha fasciata fasciata is as follows : 

Breeds in the Transition Zone from southwestern British Columbia, Mon- 
tana, and north-central Colorado south through the southwestern United 
States and Mexico to Guatemala, and east to western Texas. Winters from 
the southwestern United States southward. Accidental in North Dakota. 

Library research and correspondence have been undertaken to 



18 xXORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

obtain a concept of the bird's range at the present time. The re- 
sults are here presented, beginning in the northwest and moving 
southward and eastward. 



SUMMER RANGE 

The summer range of the band-tailed pigeon is shown in figure 6. 




Figure 6.— The summer range of the band-tailed pigeon. (In Canada, north to 
Bella Coola and Graham Island.) In Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, 
and Utah, large expanses of range grassland and semi-arid desert may 
separate the mountain ranges in which pigeons are found. Tlie range as 
shown in the map covers the extreme distribution as known from existing 
records. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



19 



In British Columbia, Taverner (1934) says that the species is 
found west of the Coast Range, north at least to Bella Coola on 
the mainland and Tow Hill, Graham Island, and Queen Charlotte 
group along the coast. According to Bent (1932), Courtenay and 
Chilliwack are the normal limits of range, hence the southern half 
of Vancouver Island may be considered the area normally in- 
habited by the birds. 

In Washington, as in Oregon, bandtails breed locally in varying 
density west of the Cascades, and probably erratically in the Tran- 
sition and Upper Sonoran Zones of the eastern slopes. The coast- 
al belt and the area adjacent to Puget Sound seems to be the cen- 
ter of their abundance in the State. John Finley, of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service, at Olympia, says that the most easterly record 
he has obtained was near Bingen, Klickitat County, on the Colum- 
bia River. 

In Oregon, Gabrielson and Jewett (1940) report that the spe- 
cies is common in the western part of the State, its greatest abun- 
dance being reached on the coast (fig. 7). Breeding in Oregon, 




^ll ^k 




B87I0M 

FiGiniE 7. — Typical baud-tailed pijrcon habitat in a ■■burn" in tlu' Ori'son <"t)astal 
iiiouiitains, in Tillamook County, wIkmv the luxuriant vefictation offers both 
food and nesting cover. (Photographed by A. S. Einarsen, September 10, 
1940.) 

as elsewhere, is erratic. Pigeons may rarely be seen on the east- 
ern slopes of the Cascades, and the only record for the State at 
any distance east of this range is of a lone, immature bird col- 
lected by Jewett in the Steens Mountains in Harney County on 
October 19, 1928. 

In California band-tailed pigeons nest locally and erratically in 
Transition and Upper Sonoran Zone areas west of the Sierra Ne- 
vada divide, chiefly in mountainous areas from Del Norte and Siski- 
you Counties in the north to the Laguna Mountains of San Diego 



20 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

County. Their choice of nesting habitat apparently depends to a 
coniiiderable degree on temperature. In the southern mountains, 
in the Sierras, and in the more northerly interior mountains 
nesting areas are usually at high elevations, but near the coast 
and in the coastal mountains they are scattered widely at much 
lower elevations, including the coastal redwood belt. According 
to Captain W. J. Harp, California Division of Fish and Game, the 
pigeons nest locally in fair numbers near the small ranches of 
Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in northwestern California. 

Bandtails have been listed in so many publications on California 
birds that it is unnecessary to mention them all ; Grinnell and 
W;\i;he (1927) describe the species as a summer resident locally 
in the coastal belt just north of San Francisco Bay; George Wil- 
lett (1933) says that in southern California it breeds in moderate 
numbers in the oaks of the Transition Zone, mostly above 3,000 
feet, south to southern San Diego County; Grinnell and Storer 
(1924) record it as being in Yosemite Valley during the nesting 
season; Derby (1920) describes a nest in the Sequoia National 
Forest; and Kloppenburg (1922) reports one in the Plumas Na- 
tional Forest. These records outline roughly the outer limits of 
the range within which band-tailed pigeons may be observed dur- 
ing the summer where habitat is favorable. 

On October 4, 1941, Luther C. Goldman, of the Fish and Wild- 
life Service, collected a migrating band-tailed pigeon at a point 
7 miles east of Calexico, 3 miles north of the Mexican line. This 
constitutes, so far as the writer knows, the first record of the spe- 
cies from the floor of the Imperial Valley. 

In Nevada, Leo K. Couch reported observing a mature band- 
tail near Success Divide, Duck Creek Range, Nevada National 
Forest, on November 4, 1943. 

In Utah, band-tailed pigeons have been observed at several points 
during the breeding season, and nests have been found in at least 
one district. Benson (1935) collected a pigeon in the Navajo 
Mountains on June 20, 1935, and Presnall (1935) described the 
bird as uncommon on the western rim of Zion National Park. Ac- 
cording to Cottam (letter of May 6, 1940), S. D. Durrant obtained 
a specimen killed by a hawk near Hanna, Utah, in 1930 ; the speci- 
men is now in the collection of the University of Utah. Cottam 
(1941) summarized the status of the species in Utah, stating that 
apparently the birds were annual, summer residents in the moun- 
tains of southern Utah although probably never abundant any- 
where in the State. He reported 20 bandtails seen on July 24, 
1940, at Oak Grove and Bitter Creek Canyon, on the south slope 
of Pine Valley Mountain, one of them believed to be a juvenile 
only recently out of the nest. He said that W. G. MacFarland saw 
a flock at Buckboard Flat, Blue Mountains, in June 1939 at about 
8,000 feet elevation. Lee Griner is reported to have observed two 
flocks totaling 32 birds in the same mountain range 8 miles west 
of La Sal, Utah, on August 18, 1937, at 8,200 feet elevation, and 
a flock of 57 birds the same day a mile east of North Creek, at 
7,800 feet. Griner also saw the birds and found their nests in June 
1937 at Oak Grove, Pine Valley Mountain. Evidence obtained by 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 21 

Griner from local observers indicated that the birds had occurred 
there each summer for at least the last 6 years. In June 1931 and 
1932, Cottam reported that flocks of bandtails caused damage to 
fruit in a small cherry orchard at New Harmony on the east slope 
of Pine Mountain Valley, and Oscar Deming stated that in 1937 
the birds frequented this same mountain from mid-May to Octo- 
ber. 

In Colorado the bandtail has been found in suitable foothill 
and mountain environment in the Transition and Upper Sonoran 
life zones on both sides of the Continental Divide. Numerous rec- 
ords obtained from the Colorado Museum of Natural History, the 
Colorado State Game and Fish Commission, and the field person- 
nel of the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and 
reports from farmers and sportmen show that pigeons have been 
seen at some time in 42 counties. 

Those counties in which the pigeon population is considered as 
moderate to large include Archuleta, Conejos, Dolores, Douglas, 
Eagle, Gunnison, Huerfano, La Plata, Las Animas, Montrose, 
Ouray, Pitkin, Pueblo, Rio Grande, and San Miguel. Counties 
with small to moderate populations include Alamosa, Bent, Boul- 
der, Chaffee, Clear Creek, Costilla, Custer, Delta, El Paso, Fre- 
mont, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Hinsdale, Jefferson, Mesa, Mineral, 
Montezuma, Park, Rio Blanco, Saguache, San Juan, Summit, and 
Teller. In several other counties pigeons have been seen occasion- 
ally and intermittently ; these include Elbert, Jackson, Lake, Lari- 
mer, and Weld Counties. 

Reports indicate extreme erraticism in much of the Colorado 
range ; in some counties pigeons are more numerous now than for 
some years, while in others none has been seen for several sea- 
sons, and in others there is a noticeable fluctuation in numbers from 
year to year. Occasional reports from old residents indicate that 
fifty years ago large numbers of pigeons existed in some parts of 
Colorado. Food conditions undoubtedly explain many of these var- 
iations. The bulk of the birds at the present time seems to occur 
south of a line drawn from Montrose to Pueblo along United 
States Highway 50. 

A Forest Service report for the year 1942 shows that pigeons 
were observed during that year on the Cochetopa, Holy Cross, 
Montezuma, Rio Grande, Roosevelt, San Isabel, San Juan, and 
Uncompahgre National Forests. The total reported as actually 
counted was 3,032. The San Juan Forest led with 1.200 pigeons. 

Colorado is the northeastward margin of range for the species, 
and for that reason variations would be expected to occur, espe- 
cially in counties along the east base of the mountains and at the 
north. Extensive field work is necessary before the status and 
range of the bandtails can be definitely outlined for Colorado. 

In Arizona, Swarth (1914) gave the range of the species as 
follows : 

A common summer resident in suitable localities throusrhout the State; 
that is, in the higher mountain ranges, breeding usually above 6,000 feet. 
Has been found in summer on San Francisco Mountain. Mount Graham, 
and the White, Mogollon, Santa Catalina, Huachuca, and Carmelita Moun- 
tains. 



22 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

Specimens were collected north of Williams, and a nest was 
found south of that town, in 1937, and specimens were also col- 
lected in 1941. South and southeast of Williams bandtails are 
seen in fair numbers annually at many places in the Prescott Na- 
tional Forest. They also occur in some numbers in Oak Creek Can- 
yon south of Flagstaff. They have been observed on numerous 
occasions in the Coconino, Tonto, and Sitgreaves National For- 
ests. In June 1941 Charles C. Sperry found them abundant near 
Jacob's Lake in the northern end of the Kaibab National Forest. 

Clifford C. Fresnall noted several pairs near Hilltop, San Carlos 
Indian Reservation, on May 15, 1941, and in June of the same 
year saw paired pigeons at several places in the Fort Apache In- 
dian Reservation. The birds are also frequently observed near 
McNary and Springerville, and in many places in Greenlee Coun- 
ty. They nest in the higher elevations of the Crook National For- 
est near Globe, on Pinal Peak, in the Pinaleno Mountains of Gra- 
ham County (fig. 8), and in the Santa Catalina, Chiricahua, and 




B8709M 

Figure S. — Band-tailed piseon range in the oak-and-pine-covered Pinaleno Moun- 
tains of Arizona. 

Huachuca ranges to the southward. Large numbers of them were 
seen on numerous occasions in the mountains between Patagonia 
and Nogales and in the ranges to the west of Nogales. 

Mrs. Florence Merriam Bailey (1928) says that in New Mexico 
"the occurrence of the Band-tailed Pigeon at any given place seems 
to vary in different years according to the food supply. This is 
especially true of the oak-covered mountain slopes which may 
swarm with the birds when there is a heavy crop of acorns and be 
entirely deserted during a whole year when the acorn crop is a 
failure." She adds that the birds usually occurred at 6,000 to 
8,000 feet, but frequently ranged much higher in the autumn, and 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 23 

gives examples of observations in the Mimbres Range at 9,000 feet 
and on Pecos Baldy and in the Jemez Mountains at 10,000 feet. 

L. W. Simmons, Deputy State Game Warden, informed L. J. 
Merovka, United States Game Management Agent, that he saw 
bandtails near Tererro on June 25 and July 7, 1940. He estimated 
that there were 250 of the birds, and said that they remained in 
the area until September 12. He also reported 115 on Cow Creek 
near Upper Colomas and 100 near Lower Colomas on July 15, 
1940. W. M. Wilson wrote Merovka on October 2, 1940, that 
pigeons came into the Burro Mountains early in May 1939, nested, 
and left early in October. The birds concentrated well up the 
mountains. In 1940 pigeons were again present but widely scat- 
tered. Fred Sherman, of Deming, also reported to Merovka many 
past observations of bandtails in the Burro Mountains and the 
Black Range, and in 1940 some observations near White Signal in 
the Burro Mountains, and in the Black Range near Mimbres, Pinos 
Altos, and Kingston. 

H. Garvin Smith, of the United States Forest Service, has sup- 
plied from his notes records ranging back to 1919, when he stat- 
ed that bandtails in large flocks almost ruined the cherry crop 
at High Rolls and Orchard Park. In 1925 he said that in the Black 
Range pigeons were everywhere, gorging on pifion nuts; that 
thousands passed over his camp flying to roost : and that they were 
also reported from the San Mateo Mountains. By contrast, in 
1926 his notes record that pigeons were very scarce in the Mogo- 
llons and on the west side of the Black Range. He also observed 
nesting birds in the Magdalena Mountains in 1933 and 1934. 

David 0. Scott, ranger in the Carson National Forest, Penasco, 
wrote that he saw his first pigeon for the year on May 19, 1941 ; 
he concluded that bandtails were relatively scarce in that area, 
though there were at times small groups of them in Santa Bar- 
bara Canyon and near Rio Pueblo. Dean D.I. Earl, of Carlsbad, 
reported that the only time he saw pigeons on the Lincoln Nation- 
al Forest was in the fall. 

Clifi'ord C. Presnall and other employees of the Fish and Wild- 
life Service saw about 400 bandtails on May 30, 1941, near White- 
tail School, on the Mescalero Indian Reservation, and single birds 
at other places on the reservation. D. Wood, Jr., one of the ob- 
servers, said that during previous employment on that reserva- 
tion, between 1931 and 1933, he saw many pigeons in small flocks, 
and that he believed they nested near Carizzo Springs. They have 
been reported from Sarca Canyon, Capulin Springs, and other 
places in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque. 

L. J. Merovka said that band-tailed pigeons are usually fairly 
numerous around Bland, Senorita, and La Jara Canyons in the 
Jemez Mountains, and that he saw 500 in the latter place in Sep- 
tember 1943. He also reported a flock from Stone Canyon in the 
Black Range, and on June 13, 1944. he noted a flock near Amalia, 
on the Costilla River, a few miles south of the Colorado State line. 

Few early references to the range of the species in western Tex- 
as were found. One specimen from L^valde was examined ; Van 
Tyne and Sutton (1937) listed the birds from Presidio and Brew- 



24 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

ster Counties: and Oberholser (1902) reported them from the 
Chisos, Guadalupe, and Davis Mountains. Ray Williams, State 
Warden, of Alpine, Texas, wrote Merovka that in the Trans- 
Pecos area bandtails ranged from 5,700 to 8,700 feet elevation in 
the Sierra Madre and the Glass Mountains of Pecos and Brewster 
Counties, in the Eagle Mountains of Hudspeth County, in the Di- 
ablo and Guadalupe Mountains, and in the Davis and Chisos rang- 
es. 

Casual records are listed by Carter and Trentoon (Nice 1924), 
including that of one bandtail killed near Crescent, Logan County, 
Okla., in 1905. Schufeldt (1912) reported the taking of a single 
specimen near Englevale, N. Dak., on June 2, 1912. Alcorn (1941) 
reported the collecting of the first specimen from Nevada near 
Fallon on October 17, 1940. 

In Mexico, according to information furnished by Frederick C. 
Lincoln, bandtails nest as far south as Durango (Otmapa Ranch), 
Puebla (Las Vegas), probably Vera Cruz (Jalapa), and the San 
Jose Mountains in Sonora. They are also found in Baja Califor- 
nia. Bandtails were seen by the writer in considerable numbers 
in June and July 1942 along the Rio de Los Alamos south of No- 
gales, Sonora, and near Cananea, and along the Rio Babasac near 
Cocospera. American sportsmen report them widely distributed 
in the mountains of northern Sonora. 

WINTER RANGE 

In the northern part of their range band-tailed pigeons are 
largely migratory, only a few scattered birds remaining during 
the winter in sheltered locations. An Audubon Society Christmas 
Bird Census in the Puget Sound area in 1935 tallied 30 pigeons, 
and W. H. Ransom, in a letter of April 15, 1939, said that "small 
bunches quite regularly winter around Medina and Bellevue, 
Wash., along the east side of Lake Washington." On January 18, 
1928, near Agnes, Oreg., a flock of about 150 pigeons feeding on 
madrona berries was reported to S. G. Jewett, and a few days 
later he found pigeon feathers along a trail in that vicinity. Jewett 
also observed a large flock feeding in stubble near Wolf Creek, 
Oreg., March 20, 1925, and A. W. Moore saw two birds on the Ne- 
halem River in Oregon on February 22, 1940. 

In California relatively few pigeons winter in the Sierras north 
of Yosemite National Park or in the coastal mountains north of 
San Francisco Bay. Hence the great majority of the bandtails 
breed from San Francisco Bay northward and concentrate in win- 
ter in west-central and southern California. The chief wintering 
area lies in the Sierras from Yosemite southward to Mexico, and 
in the coastal mountains from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Coun- 
ties southward to the Tehachapi range and Los Angeles, usually 
centering in Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara Coun- 
ties. In some years, the major wintering grounds may be from 
Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties southward. 

Moderate but irregular numbers of pigeons occasionally winter in 
the counties just north of San Francisco Bay, and casual winter 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 25 

resident bands may at times frequent the slopes on either side of 
the Sacramento Valley to Redding. 

The wintering range in California is closely correlated with 
food supply, but concentrated shooting during any one season un- 
doubtedly causes the population of the area affected to diminish 
during succeeding seasons even though food is abundant. Mrs. 
Mary Bartol (1940) described the (to her) immense population 
of the Mount Pinos area in Ventura County in 1933, and remarked 
that only one year since then had been characterized by a crop of 
piilon nuts and a consequent large population of pigeons ; she also 
said that in one of the intervening seasons the shooting area for 
southern California was in the oak country of the Santa Ynez 
Valley of Santa Barbara County. 

Fred H. Post, State Game Warden, of Salinas, Calif., told the 
writer that in the winter of 1932-33 the birds had been very abun- 
dant in the mountains of that county. In 1933 food was scarce 
in the high areas and the birds scattered everywhere. In 1934 
food was again plentiful and the pigeons were abundant in De- 
cember. Other State game wardens in California have described 
to the writer large midwinter concentrations in areas of abun- 
dant food and have told of the annual fluctuation in abundance 
and distribution occasioned by variation in the food supply. 

Grinnell and Wythe (1927) list the bandtail as a winter resi- 
dent in the San Francisco Bay region, irregular but sometimes 
occurring in large numbers and in widespread areas. Willett 
(1933) records it as sporadically plentiful in southern California 
in foothills and mountains up to snow line, and also as having 
been observed on Catalina Island in 1932. 

In Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas band-tailed pigeons from 
the northward and from the mountain ranges of those States move 
toward their southern boundaries or on into Mexico to winter. 
Variable numbers, however, remain in mountain ranges near the 
border as food supply and weather conditions permit. Mrs. Bailey 
(1928) reports them as resident some winters below the 5,000 
foot elevation near Cliff", N. Mex., and quotes Stokley Ligon as 
having observed them on Haut Creek, Socorro County, at 7,500 
feet during the winter of 1912-13. Ligon (1927) says that a heavy 
crop of piiion nuts has in a few instances held them throughout 
the winter in the Black Range. 

Fred Pickens, Deputy State Game Warden, and William Wood, 
of the United States Forest Service, saw 35 bandtails in the San- 
dia Mountains near Albuquerque, N. Mex., on December 30, 1940, 
and on the same day Fred Johnson of the same Service saw fully 
100 in a neighboring canyon. 

In Texas, Ray Williams, of Alpine, reports, "I have seen them 
stay in the Chisos Mountains all winter when there is plenty of 
food," and on March 22, 1941, G. W. Peterson, Deputy State Ward- 
en, of Nogales, Ariz., wrote that "band-tailed pigeons stayed 
with us all winter . . . Acorn crop was very good last year." 

South of the Mexican border, according to Frederick C. Lincoln, 
the band-tailed pigeon winters south to Guatemala and Chiapas. 
A subspecies, Viosca's pigeon {Columba fasciatu vioscac), appar- 



26 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

ently nonmigratory, is restricted to southern Baja California, and 
other subspecies occur in Central America. 

MIGRATION 

Periods and routes of migration of the bandtails are strongly 
influenced by availability of food and by weather phenomena, es- 
pecially temperature and rainfall. Owing to the vast areas of 
wilderness through which the birds pass, it is difficult to trace 
their movements, and over much of their range they appear to 
move in small flocks which often may pass unnoticed. 

SPRING 

Search of the literature gives the following "earliest" dates for 
the appearance of the bandtail in the northerly parts of its range : 
Colorado, Beulah, May 7 ; Oregon, Mercer, March 5 ; Washington, 
Clallam Bay, April 9; British Columbia, Courtenay, May 31. 

Leaving the wintering grounds in west-central and southern 
California late in winter, the northward-bound pigeons move 
slowly along the foothills of the Sierras and along the coast moun- 
tains. Frequently enormous flocks concentrate in areas of abun- 
dant food supply. The date of appearance at various California 
points varies with the season, but often large flights appear in 
the live-oak-covered foothills east of Sacramento late in February 
or early in March. Food supplies to a marked degree seem to con- 
trol the dates and routes of movement. 

Grinnell (1898) observed a large flock that remained until mid- 
June 1895 feeding on acorns near Pasadena, and Van Denburgh 
(1899) reported the birds as frequently remaining in large bands 
until mid-May near Palo Alto. Evidently migration is erratic and 
influenced by a number of factors which in few instances are well 
understood. 

R. J. Little, State Game Warden, reported in 1935 that the pi- 
geons usually arrived in Butte and Sutter Counties, Calif., in Feb- 
ruary. On February 15 he saw about 4,000 birds near Bangor, 
and on February 20 about 9,000 arrived at the small mountain 
uplift known as the Sutter Buttes, where they fed on acorns or on 
grain stubble in the adjacent valley fields. Nelson Poole, State 
Warden, described a large flight of pigeons, which late in Feb- 
ruary and early in March 1935 invaded the oak-covered hills be- 
tween Sacramento, Folsom, and Auburn. These were feeding as 
they made their way northward, and soon left the Sacramento 
area. Near Auburn, however, although the numbers diminished, 
pigeons were numerous until late in April. Just as the cherry 
growers began to worry about their presence they suddenly moved 
on, and no more than normal numbers remained. 

In the border States of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, it is 
more difl^cult to record the spring migration, as in favorable areas 
some of the birds frequently spend the winter. Ralph Morrow, 
Deputy State Game Warden, reported his first 1940 bandtail late 
in February in the Chiricahua Mountains. The usual spring rec- 
ords, however, are of birds observed late in April or early in May. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 27 



The autumn migration also is strongly influenced by weather 
conditions and availability of food. After the major breeding 
season, pigeons flock together and move about locally following 
successions of food crops. There is also a definite vertical move- 
ment from the mountains to foothill or valley lands. This verti- 
cal migration varies greatly in season and in the Sierras of Cali- 
fornia seems to be stimulated by snow, storm, and cold weather 
at the higher elevations as well as by local food diminution, some- 
times not occurring until December or January, 

The latest fall records in the North found in the literature 
(Bent 1932) are for British Columbia, October 29, and for Wash- 
ington, October 29. For Oregon, Bent (1932) lists the "latest" 
record as Newport, October 28. Jewett, in a letter of June 10, 
1937, gives the following dates : Harney County, October 19 ; Mult- 
nomah County, October 11; Tillamook County, September 17; and 
Jackson County, October 6. In 1937 the writer spent the period 
of September 10 to September 25 in western Washington. During 
that time moderate concentrations of pigeons were observed feed- 
ing in the area immediately adjacent to Puget Sound from Blaine 
and Sumas in Whatcom County southward to Olympia, and north- 
ward to Dungeness in Clallam County. Local game wardens in 
those areas, however, said that there had been a considerable dim- 
inution in the population of the bandtails late in August and in 
the early days of September. South of Hoquiam and west of Ol^mi- 
pia in the area between the Cascades and the ocean almost no pi- 
geons were remaining on September 15, and local authorities stat- 
ed that the mass of the population had departed by September 1 
to 10. 

The southward migration in Oregon normally begins during the 
last days of August and is well completed by September 20. Along 
the coastal mountains definite flyways exist, and from stations on 
them during the period of major migration it is possible for an 
observer to note band after band of pigeons passing south from 
daylight until dark. According to a number of observers, these 
birds "feed" their way along, the roosting place each evening 
lying farther south than that of the night before. 

A. S. Einarsen, in a letter of October 3, 1944, described a Wash- 
ington pigeon migration as follows : 

On a trip to the State of Washington on September 25, I ran into a 
migration, and at one point on the Cowlitz River north of Castle Rock, 
counted 960 birds whicli came to a point, settling in a few roosting trees 
and, incidentally, dropping down for a drink of water in a backwater pool 
before continuing their migration southward almost immediately. In my 
experience I had never before seen such a steady drift of bandtails at any 
one point as large or continuous. 

And in a brief special report dated March 30, 1943, Einarsen 
describes another migratory concentration point in Oregon thus : 

They may pause for several weeks at some gravel bar or watering hole, 
and often other flocks join them. These facts have been confirmed by field 
observations at Pigeon Rutte in Oregon, 12 miles south of Corvallis and 3 
miles west of Bruce Station, one of many such points. Here an annual con- 



28 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

centration exists from about August 25 to October 10, enlarged by migra- 
tions fiX)m areas far to the north. Pigeons come into this area to drink at a 
source of water supply and fly through a pass in great numbers. 

From reports of local observers and from personal field obser- 
vations the writer traced the 1937 migration from Benton and 
Tillamook Counties southward. From late August to mid-Septem- 
ber the bulk of the bandtail population ranged from Corvallis to 
the vicinity of Coquille and Myrtle Point. The writer followed the 
flight from September 29 to October 4, and in the northern part 
of the area found only scattered small groups. In the Myrtle 
Point-Powers district a light population was found, where 20 
days earlier several cooperators had reported enormous numbers. 
From the Roseburg-Coquille highway in Oregon south to north- 
central California stretches a wilderness that is so large and so 
sparsely traversed with modern highways that proper analysis of 
the bandtail migration through it is difficult. At numerous places 
within this great district the south-bound pigeons are reported 
almost annually as congregating in great numbers. In the 1937 
field trip the writer continued southward along the coastal route. 
At Brookings, Oreg., ranchers along the Chetco River reported 
on October 4 that pigeons had been very abundant in their stubble- 
fields until the onset of a wind and rain storm on September 29 
and 30. Later Einarsen wrote that from October 19 to 23, 1937, 
there had been a heavy concentration of pigeons feeding on ma- 
drona berries in the Applegate section of the Rogue River Valley. 

In California it appears that the band-taile-d pigeons on the 
coastal side of the northwest coast mountains congregate in flocks 
and commence to move south almost concurrently with the begin- 
ning of the movement in northwestern Washington and Oregon. 
State game wardens in Humboldt County, Calif., reported that 
late in August 1937 there had been a large population of pigeons 
in the area south of Fortuna and west of Garberville that had 
moved on southward down the coast prior to the arrival of the 
northern birds. Captain Harp, State Warden, said that in coastal 
Humboldt County the autumn withdrawal usually had begun by 
September 1 and that by mid-October of normal years none of 
the birds were to be found. 

In 1937 the flights of bandtails from Oregon and Washington 
were apparently reaching northeastern Mendocino, eastern Hum- 
boldt, and Trinity Counties by early October, as during that month 
predatory animal hunters at various localities in the area reported 
pigeons in great numbers, and by late October considerable flocks 
were observed in southern Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties. 

In the Sierras the autumnal flights appear to remain normally 
at high elevations, hence study of them is difficult. Deer hunters 
and State game wardens often report moderate concentrations in 
the area near Mount Shasta and west of Mount Lassen, and at 
times fairly large feeding concentrations are noted farther south 
along the range. In many seasons, however, the Sierra pigeon pop- 
ulation remains at from 3,000 to 7,000 feet elevations until Decem- 
ber. 

In 1939 the autumn on the West Coast was very mild, and the 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 29 

band-tailed pigeon migration was delayed considerably in com- 
parison with average seasons. Pigeons were present in central 
Oregon in fairly large numbers all through September and into 
October, and a few yet remained in early November. Grinnell, 
Bryant, and Storer (1918) said that "in event of continued favor- 
able weather, the birds will often continue in their summer haunts 
until October or even November . . ." if food is available in these 
haunts. 

Mrs. Bailey (1928) compiled from the reports of several ob- 
servers a number of autumn records for New Mexico, among which 
were the following: September 15 and 16, 1914, Upper Blue River 
Canyon ; September 17, 1915, Diamond Creek ; and November 10, 
1914, 20 miles east of Silver City. W. M. Wilson, of Silver City, 
informed Lawrence J. Merovka that in 1940 pigeons remained 
in the area near Tyrone, N. Mex., until November 10, and that 
others were reported in the Black Range ; this, he said, was fully 
a month later than the normal date of departure. 

ROUTES OF MIGRATION 

Except for evidence accumulated through observation of large 
flocks of band-tailed pigeons, there is little direct information con- 
cerning the routes of migration used by these birds. They appear 
to be very erratic, following those routes that off'er satisfactory 
food for the migrating flocks. 

Extensive banding of these birds is needed to furnish more ex- 
plicit evidence relative to their migrations and to determine def- 
initely the winter range of the pigeons produced in the major 
breeding areas. Reed Ferris, of Beaver, Oreg., discovered that 
bandtails are readily trapped when feeding on the ground, and 
he has banded more pigeons than any one else. Banders in pigeon 
country should make every effort to mark these birds. 

Up to May 1, 1940, only 185 band-tailed pigeons had been band- 
ed, and only 5 return records were in the files of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service. Three of these were of birds that had been band- 
ed by Ferris at Beaver, Oreg., late in May 1932. One was shot 
at China Camp (Calaboose Canyon), Monterey County, Calif., in 
December 1932 ; another in the "Monterey Hills" on December 
10, 1933 ; and the third, 15 miles east of Gonzales, Monterey Coun- 
ty, on the same date. A pigeon banded at Carmel, Calif., in July 
1937 was shot on December 14, 1937, near Atascadero, Calif., and 
one banded at the State Game Farm, at Chino. Calif., in June 1937 
was found dead near Cucamonga, Calif., during the same month. 

VALUE AS A GAME BIRD 

Grinnell (1913) stated that "the value of the band-tailed pigeon 
as a true game bird is to be conceded without argument. Its pur- 
suit is of a diff'erent type from that offered by any other game spe- 
cies." "Stillhunter" (1907), an anonymous writer in southern Cal- 
ifornia, said that the best place for hunting pigeons was near a 



30 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

dead tree where the birds ahght, and that a .22 or .25-20 rifle 
should be used so that single birds could be procured without scar- 
ing the flock ; but that for sneaking up on the flocks a "duck gun" 
was used. Ten pigeons were considered a good day's bag. If the 
flesh was strong, owing to an acorn diet, soaking it in brine fla- 
vored with vinegar or lemon would remove the disagreeable taste. 
Mrs. Mary Bartol (1940) describes the hunting of bandtails in 
southern California, noting the long-range shooting and conse- 
quent wasting of ammunition and crippling of birds. She men- 
tions also the difl"erence in flavor of the flesh caused by the birds 
eating difl"erent foods. 

Since shooting seasons were resumed in 1932 after 20 years of 
total protection, several changes have occurred in the annual reg- 
ulations, each tending toward permitting shooting at a period 
when more pigeons might be killed. The history of these seasons 
from 1932 to 1945 is abstracted. 

AW2;o7ia.— 1932-1934, December 1-15; 1935-1938, October 16- 
30; 1939, October 1-15; 1940-1941, September 16-30; 1942-1945, 
September 16-October 15. 

Calif ornicL— 1932-1941, December 1-15; 1942-1945, December 
1-30. 

Colorado. — 1944-1945, Counties of Archuleta, Dolores, Huerfano, 
La Plata, Las Animas, Montrose, Montezuma, Ouray, San Juan, 
San Miguel ; and the drainage of the North Fork of the Gunnison 
River in Delta and Gunnison Counties, September 16-October 15. 

New Mexico.— 19S2-19S4:, November 1-15; 1935-1939, October 
1-15; 1940-1941, September 16-30; 1942-1945, September 16-Oc- 
tober 15. 

Ore£^07z.— 1932-1938, October 16-30; 1939-1941, September 1- 
15; 1942-1945, September 1-30. 

Washington.— 1932-1934, October 16-30; 1935-1941, September 
16-30 ; 1942-1945, September 16-October 15. 

The veiy slow rate of increase of this pigeon was apparently 
sufficient to maintain its population under early conditions, but it 
is amazing that the species has stood up so well and so long against 
the combination of modern firearms, good roads into wilderness 
areas, speedy automobile transportation, and the continued trend 
toward shooting seasons during the period when the birds are 
most abundant. 

In winter, California is largely responsible for the fate of the 
bulk of the present band-tailed pigeon population of the Pacific 
Coast. The first open shooting season after 20 years of protection 
in that State occurred in 1932, continuing from December 1 for 
15 days. The writer was not afield during that period but has re- 
ceived numerous verbal reports from hunters. In the Santa Lucia 
range of Monterey County, Calif., in the Monterey division of the 
Los Padres National Forest, there was, on December 1, 1932, a 
heavy wintering population of pigeons. The road leading to Tassa- 
jara Hot Springs resort, at a place close to 5,000 feet elevation, 
crosses a narrow saddle locally called China Camp, which sep- 
arates two deep canyons. Miller and Calaboose. Oak and pine trees 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



31 



are abundant on the slopes near the summit of the mountains, 
and a short distance north of the saddle several wide and fairly- 
open oak flats occur. Madrona and manzanita are abundant along 
the canyons, and water is available in at least one of the canyons. 

According to sportsmen, on the first day of the 1932 open sea- 
son countless pigeons flew across China Camp saddle from Miller 
to Calaboose Canyons and back again. Hunters quickly congre- 
gated and band-tailed pigeon shooting became once again a lead- 
ing sport. Owing to the roughness of the terrain it was extreme- 
ly difficult for the game officers properly to patrol the pigeon area 
and no criticism of them is implied. Certain hunters told the writ- 
er of watching gunners who shot all day long, assisting others 
to obtain their limits, and left piles of birds on the ground. 

In 1934 there was again an ample food supply in the area ad- 
jacent to China Camp saddle, and a large flight of pigeons gath- 
ered there and in the adjacent flats known as Chews Ridge and 
White Oak Flat. The shooting season opened on December 1, and 
the writer visited the area on December 7, viewing the flight 
and methods of hunting and conferring with wardens and 
hunters. Since the birds flew to and fro continuously, it was prac- 
tically impossible to estimate the numbers present, but the flight 
on December 7, after 6 days of shooting, was not unusually large. 
When there was little shooting at China Camp saddle, the birds 
flew up and down the two canyons ; when numbers of hunters oc- 
cupied the saddle, the birds scattered out and flew widely over the 
mountain-top flats. 

On December 9 (Sunday) the writer again went to the shooting 
area. The entire mountain abounded with hunters, automobiles, 
and guns. Gunners covered every opening in the forest and shots 
poured into the pigeon flight from all directions and elevations. 
At China Camp saddle the picture was not pleasant, as ten men 
shot where one would have been enough. Sportsmanship was vir- 
tually absent. In the continued fusillade of long-range shots, many 
wounded pigeons plunged to earth or fluttered down to alight in 
shrubbery or trees. Owing to the steepness of the slopes and their 
dense vegetation, the loss of birds was very high, possibly as many 
as five pigeons being lost or mortally wounded for every bird 
picked up by a hunter. 

State game wardens made partial surveys of the kill during this 
1934 season, usually counting only the full-limit bags taken ofl" the 
area. On December 9, however, the writer assisted three State 



Taule 1. — Data on pir/roit Icill. Tafisaiara District, Montn-ry Couutij, Calif.. 19:^'i 



Date 


Ivpf of count 


NumlxT 
liuulcrs cl 


of 
I'oked 


Number of ba? 
limits checked 


Recorded 
kill 


Dec. 1 

Dec 2 . . . . 




185 
412 
123 
60 
143 
830 


15(1 

28(1 

60 

30 

85 

1 tr. 


1..500 


do 


2.800 


Dec 5 


. . do 


600 


Dec 7 


do 


30(1 


Dec 8 


do 


850 


Dec 




fi.tol 









695766°— 47— 3 



32 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

game wardens in a complete roadside inspection at the foot of the 
mountain. The record of kill on the various days is given in table 
1, the figures for December 1 to 8 being generously furnished by 
the State game wardens covering the district. 

In conversation with wardens and several scores of hunters, 
December 7 to 10, 1937, the writer learned the reactions of the 
gunners of this district. The vast majority denounced the reckless 
shooting and the wastage of birds. Numerous hunters expressed 
the opinion that the band-tailed pigeon could not maintain its ex- 
istence in the face of such shooting as occurred in the China Camp 
area in 1932 and 1934. Fully 20 percent voluntarily declared for 
regulations to reduce the kill. 

Since 1934 there has been no such large concentration of birds 
at that place. In some seasons there has been a shortage of food, 
but to the writer it seems that some of the scarcity of birds can 
be attributed to the terrific shooting of 1932 and 1934. It is for 
the welfare of the species, therefore, that usually the winter pop- 
ulation in California has not concentrated in any such small areas. 

The writer observed shooting practices on Whidby Island, in 
the Snohomish River delta area, and at other places in Washing- 
ton in 1937. There was no parallel to the California situation, the 
shooters being widely scattered. The most frequently observed 
method of shooting, however, left much to be desired in the matter 
of "sport," as hunters lay in wait and shot at pigeons that perched 
in the tops of tall Douglas fir snags. 

The food of the pigeons during the general period of shooting 
greatly afi'ects the flavor of the flesh of the birds. In the Puget 
Sound area during the September open season the major food is 
peas from the stubblefields, and the birds are said to be of fine 
flavor. Mrs. Bartol (1940) pointed out the difl'erence in flavor 
of California birds that fed on pinon nuts from those that ate 
acorns. By far the majority of pigeons killed in California have 
fed on acorns or on the fruits of the madrona. Their flesh is fla- 
vored by those foods, and old birds are very tough. Entirely too 

Table 2. — Band-tailed pigeon kill im California, IBS'/ and 1935: State and thir- 
teen leading counties i 



State and county 



CALIFORNIA (ENTIRE STATE) 
Counties : 

Monterey 

Santa Cruz 

San Luis Obispo 

Santa Clara 

Calaveras 

Tulare 

Santa Barbara • 

Los Angeles 

Sonoma 

Fresno 

San Dieg'O 

Humboldt 

Riverside 




680 

1.048 

405 

405 



1 Compiled from hunting-license application blanks by the California Division of Fish 
and Game. 

2 Published in the California Conservationist 1 (8): 3. August 1936. 

3 Published in the California Conservationist 2 (8) : 20. August 1937. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 33 

many of the birds killed are destined ultimately for the garbage 
can ; no specific evidence can be given, but at numerous times the 
writer has heard statements that could have no other meaning. 
A relatively small percentage of the gunners hunt pigeons be- 
cause they like to eat the birds; the majority are in the field for 
the sport of shooting, the thrill of killing game, and the enjoy- 
ment of the high wild country. 

In table 2, based on data compiled by the California Division 
of Fish and Game, is given the band-tailed pigeon kill for the sea- 
sons of 1934 and 1935, as reported on applications for hunting li- 
censes for the ensuing year. The table gives the total for the en- 
tire State and for each of the 13 leading counties. The figures are 
conservative, for few hunters will report more than they actually 
kill and some make no report at all. Table 3, based on data from 
the same source, shows the 1934 and the 1935 kill of each of Cal- 
ifornia's game birds. 

Table 3. — Game bird kill in California, 193 't and 1935^ 



Game bird 



Band-tailed pigeon 

Western mourning tlove. 

Quails, all species 

Pheasant 

Ducks, all species 

Geese, all species 



51,050 


31,136 


580,110 


539.722 


560,181 


916,589 


25.220 


40,016 


3«!t.2t7 


.•SO 1.882 


40,278 


35,096 



^ Compiled from hunting-license application blanks by the California Division of Fish and 
Game; published in the California Conservationist 2 (8): 20. August 1937. 

Writing of Pigeon Butte, near Corvallis, Oreg., Einarsen says: 

For years this pass has heen popular with hunters. Because of tlie ter- 
rain and the usual eagerness of the hunter, most of the shots are at long 
distances, which results in a cripi)IinK loss averaging more than 60 per- 
cent of the pigeons bagged. When the numljer of birds killed (at eacli pass) 
is more than 600, as in 1942 at this pass, the seriousness of the slaughter 
can be recognized. 

The band-tailed pigeon will never have wide abundance. It is hunted on 
uneven ground, where a high percentage of crippled birds are lost and little 
effort is made to recover them. Five months after the season it was still 
possible to pick up birds which had died of injuries in large numbers 
around Pigeon Butte. 

Far too few hunters know that band-tailed pigeons decoy well, 
and in many localities far better sport could thus be obtained with 
an accompanying great reduction in the number of crippled or 
dead birds lost. Decoying the bandtails into forest openings or 
fields is far preferable to shooting them at waterholes or gravel 
bars, pot-shooting perched birds out of dead snags, or to the aver- 
age mountain-pass shooting in rough, brushy terrain. 

PRESENT STATUS 

Under conditions that prevailed between 1932 and 1942 it ap- 
peared that the band-tailed pigeon held its own under the 15-day 



34 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

shooting season and low (10-bird) possession bag limit; there 
are those who state emphatically that in certain localities it was 
not maintaining itself, but was slowly decreasing. It is too soon 
to analyze the effect of the 30-day shooting season established in 
1942, as wartime conditions of ammunition shortage and gasoline 
and tire rationing markedly affected pigeon shooting. Where num- 
bers of the birds are to be found not far from hunting centers 
there may have been some reduction, but in other districts pigeon 
concentrations occur only in wilderness areas where during the 
war period few hunters could reach them. 

In several States where there is an open season, it is set at a 
period when many of the birds have already moved southward, 
and there has been local clamor for a change of the season to co- 
incide with the presence of peak populations. Such requests for 
changes in shooting seasons should be closely scrutinized for, if 
granted, they may lead to great increases in the kill in States in 
"which the pigeon population is too low. Seasons of good shoot- 
ing result in a great increase in the number of shooters afield ; re- 
ports of poor shooting soon result in decreased hunting. 

Earlier summaries of the status of the band-tailed pigeon are 
those of Chambers (1912), Grinnell (1913), and Taylor (1924). 
Owing to the extreme erratic nature of the species, accurate 
appraisal of its status over all the range is extremely difficult. The 
writer's own observations and reports of others are summarized 
for their interest in this connection. 

A. S. Einarsen in a report, dated January 6, 1936, stated that 
"regardless of what may be said to the contrary, the population 
of band-tailed pigeons in the Eraser Valley, the Puget Sound coun- 
try, the islands of Puget Sound, the river valleys west of the Cas- 
cade Mountains in Washington State, and in the favored nesting 
areas west of the Cascades in Oregon shows a tremendous de- 
crease from that of the 1934 season . . ." Pearse (1940) said that 
bandtails were reduced to a precarious state on Vancouver Island 
and blamed overshooting in the winter habitat. Miller, Lumley, 
and Hall (1935), writing of San Juan in Puget Sound, state that 
numbers are decreasing rapidly. 

Einarsen, in a letter of October 3, 1944, reported that "the mi- 
gration in Oregon, generally speaking, has not been as great as in 
previous years, but there have been a few birds passing through 
throughout the entire month." 

Field investigations in the Puget Sound area between Septem- 
ber 13 and 25, 1937, indicated that the population of bandtails 
was from 50 percent to less than 10 percent of what it had been 
at the same date in 1936. This means little, however, in the ab- 
sence of correlated data on weather and food conditions for the 
period concerned. In Whatcom County the 1936 population was 
reported as hea\^% that of the spring of 1937 as normal, and that 
of the autumn of 1937 as very light. Snohomish County estimates 
placed the 1937 population at about 10 percent of that of 1936. In 
Skagit County, although scattered groups of birds were present, 
no pigeon concentrations were observed in September 1937. 
San Juan reports indicated a normal 1937 season, except that 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 35 

the autumn migration had occurred earlier than usual. Similar 
reports were obtained from Thurston, Grays Harbor, and Mason 
Counties, Pacific County reported an increased population in the 
spring of 1937 and an early autumn departure. Pierce County 
had a very large spring population, which dispersed to nest and 
did not reassemble. Lewis County experienced a marked increase 
during the 10 years previous. In Clallam County there were large 
spring concentrations during 1935, 1936, and 1937, and in some 
areas an abundant summer population also. Officials agreed that 
there was an increase in the area known as the Black Hills dis- 
trict near Elma, Shelton, and Olympia. Game protectors in all 
the counties named (except two) reported annually increasing 
shooting. 

On September 27, 1937, United States Game Management Agent 
Gerow said that although numerous complaints of crop depreda- 
tions had been received, the consensus of opinion was that pigeons 
were decreasing in numbers in Oregon. Alex Walker, of Beaver, 
Oreg., reported on September 30, 1937, that at best the pigeon 
population in Tillamook County was standing still and on March 
30, 1940, he was of the opinion that the birds were definitely de- 
creasing. Coincident with the late 1939 autumn migration in Or- 
egon, a considerable increase in hunting was reported in some 
parts of the State. 

Allen C. Oberle, of La Verne, Calif., wrote on February 15, 1935, 
that in the San Dimas district of Los Angeles County there was 
a flock of about 350 pigeons where in 1926 there had been only 
three pairs. Lawrence W. Saylor (formerly with the Fish and 
Wildlife Service) wrote on January 15, 1940, that bandtails did 
not become at all common in the Ben Lomond section of the Santa 
Cruz Mountains of California until about 1932, when in a few 
seasons the flocks increased from a dozen birds to a hundred or 
more. Warden C. E. Holladay, of San Jose, Calif., said in 1934 
that the pigeon population of Santa Clara County had doubled in 
6 years. 

From these and numerous I'ecent reports it appears that the 
breeding population of band-tailed pigeons in California is hold- 
ing its own in all sections; each year there are reports of pigeons 
nesting in areas where they had not been known to nest for years, 
and these seem to indicate that the California breeding population 
is slowly increasing and extending its range. 

In Colorado, Bergtold (1928) called the bandtail an infrequent 
summer resident, and in the Denver area Niedrach (Niedrach 
and Rockwell 1929) reported the birds as regular summer resi- 
dents in small numbers. Studies of the past two or three seasons 
substantiate a statement by E. R. Kalmbach to the effect that 
these birds seem to have decreased in numbers in northern Colo- 
rado, for few birds have been observed in the northern half of the 
State. On the other hand, in the southern part of the State and 
in a few more northerly localities, the birds seem slowly to have 
increased. Frank F. Poley, United States Game Management 
Agent, believes that there has been a constant but small annual 
increase for the past 10 years, especially in southern Colorado; 



36 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

and Barry C. Park, of the United States Forest Service, says that 
the pigeon in Colorado is increasing slowly but constantly and is 
extending its range each year. 

Inquiry among game officials and sportsmen in Arizona from 
1938 to 1941 leads the writer to believe that the pigeon population 
of that State is slowly increasing. Recent seasons of drought 
caused food failure in many parts of Arizona, and this resulted 
in very erratic movements of the birds. Very few birds are shot 
in this State as the season opens after the bulk of the pigeons of 
the southern part of Arizona have moved into Mexico, and the 
birds are widely scattered. 

Ligon (1927) said that the bandtails did not appear to increase 
in New Mexico but remained at about a constant level, and that 
the population was insufficient to justify an open shooting season. 
No recent general statement is available, but the reports from 
various localities in New Mexico indicate that the bandtail there, 
as in Arizona, may locally be slowly increasing. 

From Texas, Ray Williams, of Alpine, wrote in November 
1940 : "For 25 years I have observed them in this territory and I 
do not see any increase in their numbers. They will never be too 
plentiful . . . They . . . just about hold their own." 

Winter populations are most difficult to appraise owing to the 
wandering habits of the birds and to the wide range of country 
in which concentrations may occur. No recent information from 
wintering range indicates a decrease, nor is there any reliable 
evidence of any marked increase. 

Considering actual pigeon populations alone, without reference 
to any other phase, it is felt that only in the Pacific Coast States 
are there sufficient numbers of birds to justify hunting. In Ari- 
zona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and Utah, the habitats and 
habits of the birds may be such that few birds are killed and little 
damage results from open shooting ; yet there is danger of again 
decimating the species. Shooting must be rigidly controlled. Local 
increases may easily be decimated by concentrated shooting in 
more southerly migratory or wintering areas. 

It is of the utmost importance that Federal and State wildlife 
officials proceed with caution in liberalizing shooting privileges on 
this species in any part of its range. It is even more important 
that they carefully note the year to year status of the species over 
its entire range so that the need for reduction in numbers made 
necessary by local conditions may be anticipated and hunting con- 
trol measures applied in sufficient time to prevent gross destruc- 
tion that would require a total closing of the season such as was 
necessary in 1913. 

MANAGEMENT POSSIBILITIES 

It is inevitable that during a study such as this many questions 
that relate directly to management of the species should be raised. 
From a few sources have come direct inquiries concerning meth- 
ods that might permit development of a sufficient population of 
band-tailed pigeons so that more shooting might be allowed. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 37 

Most important of all management practices must be the care- 
ful guarding of the species through continued stringent protec- 
tion, with short shooting seasons and small bag limits. Crop dep- 
redations must be controlled or prevented with the minimum 
destruction of the pigeons. The species cannot withstand liber- 
alized shooting in more than a few districts, and because of its 
restricted range, excessive liberalization at any point is undesir- 
able. 

Through cooperation of the local agencies concerned, most of- 
ten the United States Forest Service and the State Game Depart- 
ments, shooting should not be permitted at all in places where 
large concentrations of the birds are exposed to highly destruc- 
tive hunting, examples of which have been mentioned (p. 31). 

Normally, the bandtail is a native of the primitive forest and 
rough, wild country, usually at fairly high elevations. Manage- 
ment practices that in any manner assist in maintaining primitive 
areas in this country aid the bandtail ; among these are fire pro- 
tection, erosion control, restriction of human intrusion, and re- 
forestation. 

Few birds are controlled so completely by available food sup- 
plies as is the bandtail. Hence, management of food supplies might 
be expected to form part of any management program. Full 
study of the food habits of the bird, however, fails to elicit opti- 
mism as to the possibilities in that direction. 

If any area is to attract and hold a winter population of band- 
tails, it must afford a bountiful supply of acorns or piiion nuts. 
Although the pigeons feed upon wild fruits and berries, in part, 
throughout the winter, mast is necessary as winter food. Hence 
any program looking toward increasing the winter population of 
pigeons must include increases in the mast supply. 

During summer the food of the bandtail includes a wide range 
of wild and cultivated fruits and in some districts, acorns and 
grains. The use of cultivated fruits and grains may be largely 
eliminated from consideration as a practice intended to increase 
pigeon populations, for, except in local areas, an increase in plant- 
ing of these would entail reduction in the forest or would 
increase the depredation problem. 

In brief, it seems that only three practices are of real value in 
the management of the band-tailed pigeon : conservation of our 
present population ; presei^vation of primitive and marginal wil- 
dernesses and woodland to offer habitat ; and forestry, including 
fire protection and reforestation of already denuded lands, using 
wherever practicable species of plants that are of known value as 
bandtail foods. There are strong possibilities in the planting of 
wild fruits, such as mulberry, in high mountain park areas where 
these trees might thrive and where food is now scarce. 

AGRICULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS 
DEPREDATIONS 

Depredations on agricultural crops by band-tailed pigeons al- 
though sporadic may be serious. They are generally local and vary 



38 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AM) WH.DLIFE SERVICE 

greatly from season to season. They sometimes involve numbers 
of birds so large as to be amazing, and again may concern only 
a few pairs. Their occurrence is so erratic as to be impossible to 
forecast, although in some areas slight to moderate damage may 
be done annually. The supply of natural wild foods is a determin- 
ing factor in the occurrence of crop damage because of its effects 
on both pigeon concentrations and routes of migration. With nat- 
ural foods plentiful in the mountains and wilderness there is less 
necessity for the pigeons to feed extensively on cultivated crops. 

Many of the complaints against band-tailed pigeons come from 
ranchers whose production is relatively small, or they may con- 
cern only the loss of garden or orchard crops destined for home 
consumption. Noticeable attack on the products of large-scale 
farming operations is infrequent. Depredations on small acre- 
ages are more quickly noticed, have more vital importance, and 
concern a far greater number of individuals. Very frequently 
even a moderate loss in a cash crop like cherries may be keenly 
felt by the farmer concerned, and if the loss is heavy, it may mean 
financial disaster even though only a few trees are damaged. Even 
so, far too great a percentage of the complaints against the pigeons, 
as against other game birds, upon close analysis, are found to be 
unjustified. In many instances the desire to shoot pigeons for 
food will be found to be the underlying motive for the complaint. 

In the literature are a number of records of band-tailed pigeons 
feeding on agricultural crops or their residues but only a few can 
be mentioned here. Fisher (1893) reported bandtails foraging 
in barley stubble in 1891, and Oilman (1903) noted large flocks 
of them in barley stubble in Riverside County, Calif., in March 
1901. Grinnell (1913) mentions good-sized flocks on newly sown 
barley fields near Palo Alto in January 1901 and near Santa Mon- 
ica in February and March of that year, and Barnes (1916) dis- 
cusses alleged damage to grain. Anonymous news notes in 1924 
and 1930 reported damage to cherries and grapes. Burtch (1930) 
discussed damage to grapes, and McAtee (1932) abstracted com- 
plaints against the species. 

Taverner (1926) writes that "they are especially partial to 
peas and are said to pull up the sprouting seeds ... As they are 
large birds, each one intent on filling a capacious crop, their pow- 
er for damage is not small. In the autumn they alight upon the 
stooked grain and may take a considerable toll of it." 

Grinnell and Storer (1924) describe bandtails feeding near the 
edge of a newly planted grainfield on the floor of Yosemite Val- 
ley in April 1916. Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer (1918) cite a 
single bird taken near Crescent City, Calif., on May 15, 1916, 
whose crop contained 509 kernels of barley, 23 of oats, 6 of corn, 
and fragments of acorn. Jewett reported depredations on newly 
planted fields of oats in Tillamook County, Oreg. Grinnell, Dixon, 
and Linsdale (1930) record a few bandtails coming in pairs or in 
small groups to cherry trees near Manton, Tehama County, Calif. 
(June 4, 1936). Kobbe (1900) said that they fed in wheatfields in 
Pacific County, Wash. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 39 

Munro (1924) reported on an investigation of band-tailed pi- 
geon damage in British Columbia as follows : 

On June 9, 1923, I had occasion to investigate a report that band-tailed 
pigeons were causing damage to sprouted wheat on a small bush farm in 
the Sooke district. The farm in question was found to include a portion of 
a large beaver meadow — one of the few open areas in this heavily wooded 
region — the balance comprising rough timbered hillside, and a wooded ra- 
vine through which flows a small stream. About eight acres of the meadow 
had been seeded to wheat and oats by hand and as always is the case with 
this method of sowing, a large percentage of the seed was on the surface. 
This exposed seed had germinated. 

Pigeons commenced feeding on the wheat field shortly after my arrival, 
so, in order to study them at close quarters — for they are invariably wild 
when in the open — I made a careful stalk through the wooded ravine and 
reached, unobserved, a suitable hiding place at the edge of the field. From 
this position it was seen that 53 pigeons were feeding. Usually in flocks 
of this size small detachments from the rear keep flying over the main flock 
to alight in front of the foremost birds, but on this particular day the birds 
kept their formation — an undulating blue ribbon — and slowly moved 
across the field in my direction until a scant 60 yards distant, when they 
suddenly arose, circled several times, and then dropped on another part of 
the field — there to spread out immediately and commertce feeding as be- 
fore. From the several dead trees amongst the green timber behind me 
came other birds, singly as a rule, and joined the feeding band. Close ob- 
servation with binoculars showed that only surface seed was being taken, 
the young plants from buried seed were not pulled up. 

Mrs. Florence Merriam Bailey (1928) writes: 

On the west side of Moreno Valley, on July 4, 1919, Mr. S. E. Piper dis- 
covered that two or three thousand Pigeons had congregated along the bor- 
ders of a deep cove. He was attracted to the place by heavy shooting on the 
part of the ranchmen — mainly foreigners who said that the birds destroyed 
their young grain, especially barley. On examining several areas from which 
the birds rose, Mr. Piper could find no indication that they were either dig- 
ging or pulling the young grain: and barley found in the gizzard of one was 
old stained grain evidently gathered from the surface or about old stack 
or shock stands. It was evident that the hunters were seeking justification 
for shooting them, though several averred that they found them unfit to 
eat. 

The following accounts of band-tailed pigeon depredations were 
reported by ranchers, State game wardens, United States game 
management agents and other representatives of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service (formerly the Bureau of Biological Survey), and 
other persons. These reports include in some instances not only 
the original complaint but also a statement of the results of in- 
vestigations by officials. A few of them have appeared in print, 
but most of them have never before been published. 

CHERRIES, GRAPES, AND PRUNES 

On August 20, 1920, E. R. Kalmbach, of the Bureau of Biologi- 
cal Survey (now the Fish and Wildlife Service), recorded that 
ranchers near Lookingglass, Oreg., reported severe damage to cher- 
ries by band-tailed pigeons. 

Forest Supervisor Blair, writing from Glenwood Springs, Colo., 
May 29, 1920, transmitted reports of pigeon damage to cherries 
on several ranches in that area. One rancher who complained of 
very severe losses said that scarecrows were a failui'e and that 



40 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIF?: SERVICE 

men without guns could not keep the birds out. Mr. Blair quoted 
several other small ranchers as saying that the tops of the cher- 
ry trees were completely stripped of fruit. 

On June 27, 1921, W. F. Kubichek, of the then Bureau of Bio- 
logical Survey, made a study of the situation as reported in 1920. 
He described the area concerned as a narrow belt between the Col- 
orado River and the mountains beginning 10 miles east of the 
town and widening to the west. After a thorough inspection Ku- 
bichek reported (unpublished manuscript) that bandtails were 
seriously destructive in only a few orchards and in general were 
doing less damage than were other species of birds. In an orchard 
where severe damage had been reported he found a few pigeons 
feeding and was greatly surprised at their fearlessness and the 
extreme difficulty he had in driving them from the trees. His con- 
clusions were that in most instances it was the size and conspicu- 
ousness of the pigeons that alarmed the owners and that actual 
damage by the birds was not great. 

In May 1921, Charles C. Sperry, of the Biological Survey, in- 
vestigated complaints of depredations on fruits by birds in Oregon. 
In his report (unpublished manuscript) several complaints against 
bandtails are included. In Lane County, Oreg., three fruit grow- 
ers claimed measurable loss of cherries through damage by pi- 
geons, and in Douglas County, Oreg., two out of four growers in- 
terviewed made the same report. From Multnomah, Benton, Linn, 
Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Clackamas, Columbia, Washington, Was- 
co, Umatilla, and Jackson Counties no reports of damages were 
received. 

On June 25, 1923, Ray C. Steele, United States Game Warden, 
wrote of a visit to a cherry orchard near Riddle, Oreg. Pigeons 
were abundant, some trees being literally filled with them. They 
were very shy and flew when approached, preventing the collect- 
ing of specimens. The ground was covered with cherries, about 
10 percent of them showing bill marks, the remainder having 
been knocked from the trees as the birds alighted or fed in the 
branches. 

On July 20, 1923, B. R. Britton, United States Game Warden, 
reported damage to cherries in the Teseque Valley on the west- 
ern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. On 
July 12 on the Williams ranch, he saw trees that appeared bluish 
because of the many pigeons in them. On some trees the fruit 
was completely devoured, on others the tops were stripped. On 
this 84-acre ranch Britton estimated a loss of 20 to 30 percent of 
the cherry crop. Thirty trees near the margin were completely 
stripped. One bird was watched as it picked 20 cherries and 
dropped about one-third of them as it attempted to swallow them. 

On March 7, 1924, a fruit grower of Paradise, Calif., wrote to 
the Biological Survey regarding pigeon depredations: "My cher- 
ry season lasts six or seven weeks . . . Last season I spent forty 
dollars for ammunition and had to hire a guard for four weeks ; at 
that I lost over 1,500 pounds of cherries." Another orchardist of 
Paradise, also in 1924, reported: "For the last three years our 
cherry crop in this section has been destroyed by wild pigeons . . . 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 41 

I speak for about 20 growers who estimate their losses at from 
one-fifth to three-fourths of the crop." In a letter of June 24, 1925, 
an orchardist of Fortuna, Calif., said that pigeons had taken be- 
tween 1 and II/4. tons of cherries that year. 

In a letter of June 19, 1925, George Tonkin, United States Game 
Warden, reported several complaints against pigeons. The fol- 
lowing comments are abstracted from his letter: 

In the Paradise district, 80 miles almost due north of Sacramento, there 
are many pigeons. There is said to be a roost and breeding ground in the 
vicinity of this district and the pigeons are there nearly the entire year. I 
found only three farmers in this district who complained about the birds 
to any extent. . . . These ranchers have frightened the birds away even 
though they had, up to the time of my visit, been unable to get any old- 
fashioned black powder. One of them told me that a bullet from his 30-30 
rifle fired across the orchards had a very good effect. 

At another nearby ranch Tonkin found pigeons feeding in cher- 
ry trees close to the ranch house, and it was apparent no effort had 
been made to frighten them away. Five shots from his revolver 
drove fully 75 birds from the orchard. Upon investigating the 
complaint of a rancher near Inwood, Calif., in June 1925, Tonkin 
found the small cherry orchard in a wooded section completely 
surrounded by heavy forests. Near Mount Shasta a tenant re- 
ported pigeons attacking his strawberries. Here Tonkin saw many 
pigeons flying about, but as the ranch chickens had free access to 
the strawberry patch, he did not feel that the pigeons should be 
held responsible for the alleged damage. 

An orchardist of Dunsmuir, Calif., on May 7, 1926, wrote of 
the bandtails : "They are in this section by the thousands, and 
you can stand and shoot and they will fly away a few feet and 
circle right back. We have lost our entire crop of cherries but 
about 60 pounds out of 1,000 this year." 

On June 21, 1928, United States Game Warden Tonkin reported 
his investigations of several pigeon complaints. Near Garberville, 
Mendocino County, Calif., he inspected a small orchard of fine 
cherries completely surrounded by heavy redwood forests. The 
rancher was shooting at, and killing a few of the pigeons to pro- 
tect the crop. Near Fortuna, Scotia, and Carlotta, in Humboldt 
County, Tonkin visited other similar orchards. In one of them the 
rancher or his sons maintained constant patrol with a .410 gage 
shotgun. Pigeons were numerous ; wild berry patches in the tim- 
ber attracted large numbers, which at times invaded the cherry 
orchards. 

Recommending that an open season on band-tailed pigeons be 
permitted in California, Tonkin said : "It seems reasonable to be- 
lieve that the wild band-tailed pigeons have been (and are now) 
a serious menace to the cherry and grain crops in Humboldt Coun- 
ty. Under present conditions I do not believe that the killing of 
wild pigeons in the cherry orchards can be stopped so long as the 
farmers feel that it is impossible to drive them out by other 
means." 

A fruit grower of Gilroy, Calif., wrote on August 27, 1930: 
"This spring they (the bandtails) came in here by the hundreds 



42 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

and fed on green prunes, stripping some trees before we realized 
what they were doing. The State game warden estimated that in 
6 miles along the foothills they did damage amounting to from 
$2,000 to $2,500 to the prune orchards." 

The superintendent of a ranch near Arvin, Kern County, Calif., 
reported on March 18, 1930, that wild pigeons were damaging the 
extensive vineyards on the ranch. The local State game warden, 
county agricultural agents, and Biological Survey officials were 
notified. In 1929, a heavy tonnage of grapes had not been har- 
vested. These had dried to raisins on the vines, and in March were 
on the ground as the result both of natural fall and of the seasonal 
pruning of the vines. On March 21, 1930, deciduous fruit trees 
on the property were in full blossom and the grapevines had al- 
ready put out tender shoots that were from 2 to 4 inches long ; 
these shoots carry both the leaf and the blossom for the current 
season. The pigeons frequenting the vineyards were so numerous 
as to arouse great interest. Capt. E. P. Brownlow and Lester Ar- 
nold, Warden, of the California Division of Fish and Game, made 
a detailed study of the flight and estimated that 200,000 pigeons 
were involved. Investigation disclosed that the birds roosted on 
Bear Mountain, some 6 miles to the eastward, and that the acorns 
and other wild foods in the foothill area had been almost entirely 
cleaned up. In the vineyard the enormous flocks of bandtails would 
alight on the trellised grapevines, then drop to the ground to 
feed on the waste raisins; in doing this they broke ofl" the ten- 
der new growth carrying the current season's crop. In the near- 
by deciduous fruit trees they alighted at times in such numbers 
as to break branches and to knock off the blossoms. The defense 
measures undertaken are discussed under Methods of Crop Pro- 
tection (p. 46). The situation was described by Burtch (1930). 
The depredations of the pigeons continued from March 18 to and 
including April 2. Officials of the ranch estimated the loss of 
Malaga grapes alone at 500 pounds a day, and the loss of peaches 
and plums at 300 pounds a day. They estimated a total loss of 
$5,000 for the grapes and $1,000 for peaches and plums. In addi- 
tion, it was said the owners of the ranch and the State Division 
of Fish and Game together expended about $2,000 in attempting 
to drive the pigeons from the vineyards. 

County Game Warden Fredericksen, of Gilroy, Calif., reported 
that during May 1934 five prune orchards near Gilroy were dam- 
aged. In one of these the pigeons flew across nearly 2 miles of 
almost solid prune orchard and virtually destroyed the crop in a 
10-acre block of sugar prunes. 

For many years pigeons have attacked cherry crops in the vi- 
cinity of Mountain Park, Otero County, N. Mex., and during June 
and July 1939 J. S. Ligon, of the Fish and Wildlife Service, inves-. 
tigated conditions there. He reported that the pigeons were not 
so abundant as during some other years, but that damage was even 
heavier than usual owing apparently to a food scarcity in the 
Sacramento Mountains. Because of drought, less grain had been 
produced in the lower altitudes, and the pigeons concentrated on 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 43 

the cherries, which, in that locality, ripen before most of the nat- 
ural wild foods. 

At intervals late in June and early July of 1940 and 1941, J. C. 
Knox, United States Game Management Agent, of Albuquerque, 
inspected the Mountain Park cherry orchards. He reported dam- 
age to about 20 orchards, totaling about 2,500 trees, scattered 
about in narrow mountain canyons. During his 1940 investiga- 
tions he estimated that he did not see more than 250 pigeons, but 
"when 50 to 100 of them alight in one tree at a time, they either 
eat or bruise all the cherries in a very short time, and some of 
these cherries sell for 25 to 30 cents a pound." In 1941 there was 
a great increase in the number of pigeons attacking the cherry 
orchards, Knox estimated that there were 1,000 bandtails. 

GRAIN CROPS 

In August 1921, Webb Toms, Assistant Warden, of the Califor- 
nia Division of Fish and Game, reported depredations by band- 
tailed pigeons on wheat in the San Luis Rey Valley of San Diego 
County. One rancher claimed that wheat enough to fill 20 sacks 
had been taken. Damage was inflicted only while the wheat was 
in the shock, and pigeons covered the shocks so densely as to break 
off many of the heads which dropped to the ground and were wast- 
ed. In contrast, 16 years later (1937), E. H. Glidden, State Game 
Warden, of San Diego, Calif., said that "depredations by wild 
pigeons are unknown here," 

On July 22, 1923, B. R, Britton, United States Game Warden, 
investigated a complaint of pigeon damage near the top of the 
White Mountains of New Mexico, Thirty acres of winter wheat 
were ready to harvest. The surrounding country was in a wild 
state, covered with scrub oak and scattered pines; the elevation 
was about 8,000 feet. Britton estimated a 5-percent loss of the 
grain, mostly in small patches near the edges of the field close to 
large pine trees. In these places the stalks were beaten down, 
the heads broken away, and the grain stripped off. The owner 
later said that as soon as the grain was shocked the bandtails came 
in even greater numbers and stripped the shocks. 

On September 26, 1924, an agriculturist of Sumas, Wash., re- 
ported that he had 7 acres of fall wheat planted, that- the pigeons 
had been eating there since planting time, and that they were even 
pulling up sprouted plants. 

During April 1932, the writer recorded two instances in which 
migrating flocks of bandtails crossing the Sacramento Valley, Cal- 
if., alighted in a newly seeded rice field and ate the broadcast seed 
until driven out. In January 1934, a large flight of pigeons invaded 
the Pacheco Pass district of California. Ranches there are more 
or less marginal in nature, and complaints of severe damage to 
grain were received. Permits for killing the pigeons committing 
the depredations were issued, and local wardens reported 3,300 
pigeons killed, a far greater number than was justified by the 
damage. 

Frank Poley, United States Game Management Agent, on Sep- 



44 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

tember 26, 1941, investigated complaints of depredations on wheat 
in the Sanborn Park area near Norwood, Colo. On one ranch he 
estimated a loss of about one-third of the shocked wheat. Similar 
losses were noted on several adjacent ranches. 

From April 28 to May 15, 1925, Ira N. Gabrielson investigated 
alleged depredations by band-tailed pigeons in two Washington 
Counties, San Juan Island and the mainland areas in Whatcom 
County. Both areas were extensive pea-growing districts, total- 
ing from three to four thousand acres. Of the Sumas district of 
Whatcom County, Gabrielson wrote : "Whatever the condition may 
have been at other seasons, there was no damage at all in this dis- 
trict in the spring of 1925. There were no pigeons in the district 
nor had there been any up to the date of my departure (May 11) . 
Testimony agreed that when the pigeons came in, they ate all the 
peas left on top of the ground. The claim was made that these peas 
on top of the ground would grow if left there. Most of the farmers 
refuted this, saying that the peas on top of the ground, while they 
might sprout, would never make good plants." During his study 
Gabrielson observed a field in which there were many peas on top 
of the ground ; because of favorable weather, these had sprouted, 
but on the day of his inspection the sun shone brightly and the 
ends of the sprouts were blackening and shriveling. 

Residents of the Sumas area told Gabrielson that pigeons had 
been exceedingly abundant in the spring of 1924, and that this 
had led to numerous complaints. 

On the islands Gabrielson found a more difficult situation. Most 
of the peas were grown on San Juan Island, and only a few on Or- 
cas and Lopez Islands. The industry there had developed rapidly 
after its start in 1922, and in 1925, 1,000 acres of peas were being 
grown for the cannery. The soil was largely moisture-retaining, 
stiff clay, hence hard to work and cloddy, and the drills left more 
peas exposed than on lighter soils. This condition led to the nu- 
merous complaints against pigeons. 

It was the practice of most of the farmers to run a clod-masher 
over the fields after seeding was completed. The only loss attribut- 
able to the pigeons was the eating of peas from among the clods 
in the interval between seeding and clod-mashing. Farmers al- 
most unanimously agreed that peas left on top after the masher 
passed were valueless. 

Farmers on those islands who grew grain or peas for seed told 
Gabrielson that the bandtails did considerable damage at harvest 
time through alighting on the shocks and eating all the seed they 
could reach. 

An orchardist of Sequim, Wash., on April 17, 1935, said that in 
1933 he had suffered a total loss of five acres of peas and that he 
had a thin stand on the remainder of his planting ; also that many 
bandtails were present at the time of his reporting and severe 
damage would probably occur. When a Biological Survey investi- 
gator inspected the property the pigeons had already departed, 
but there was evidence that large patches of peas had been cleaned 
up. The orchardist told the investigator that he grew peas for 
seed and that the greatest damage was inflicted on the ripening 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 45 

seed crop in August when the birds alighted on shocks, bent the 
curing plants, and shelled them onto the ground. 

S. J. Handron, State Game Protector, of Hoquiam, Wash., re- 
ported on May 24, 1937, that between two and three thousand 
pigeons were feeding on pea plantings near Elma, Wash., and on 
September 21, 1937, Fred Rice, State Game Protector, of Port 
Angeles, Wash., told the writer that for the past 3 years the spring 
concentration of bandtails had been exceptionally heavy and that 
severe damage to oats and peas had been sustained. 

WALNUTS 

In February and March 1932, a large concentration of pigeons 
near Exeter, Calif., caused unusual damage. The birds gathered 
at dusk in an English walnut grove in such numbers as to break 
branches from the trees. By counting pigeons in several of the 
trees Capt. 0. P. Brownlow, in charge of the State Game Patrol 
in that area, estimated that at one time there were in excess of 
25,000 bandtails in that grove. 

METHODS OF CROP PROTECTION 

Methods of effectively and economically protecting crops from 
damage by band-tailed pigeons have been more or less extensively 
studied by certain farmers and by conservation officials. In the re- 
ports of field men of the Fish and Wildlife Service are numerous 
notes on this phase of the pigeon problem. 

Gabrielson in his 1925 report wrote of a rancher near Belling- 
ham, Wash.: 

He stated that the issuing of permits would not help any as the average 
farmer did not have the time to stand around and shoot these birds, and 
that they could not kill enough of them to make any difference. His belief 
was that some sort of frightening device would be of much greater value. 
He found that firing a gun from his front porch frightened the pigeons 
for an hour or two. He started in with a 12-gage shotgun . . . [he] found 
the 22 rifle just as effective. 

In 1926, George Tonkin, United States Game Warden, reported 
on a method of driving pigeons from cherry orchards : 

On the morning of May 16 I arrived at an orchard at Paradise [Calif.] 
before 5:30 a. m. I had a 10-gage shotgun and some shells loaded with 8 
drams of blaclc powder, known as the yacht cannon load. I demonstrated to 
several ranchers that day that a shot fired from this gun, loaded with black 
powder and without shot, would frighten the pigeons from their orchards 
and from the roosting places in the oak groves for a distance of one-third 
to one-half mile from the place w^here the gun was fired. But the birds either 
returned in a short time or another flock took their place, probably the 
latter case. At any rate, it is necessary for a rancher to keep a guard in his 
orchard from daylight until dark. On some days the pigeons appear to have 
left the country; perhaps on the following day a flock will visit the orchard 
every few minutes. It is a great hardship for farmers who have a large 
orchard some distance from their residence, as a few minutes' absence from 
the orchard may mean the stripping of cherries from several trees. 

B. R. Britton, United States Game Warden, thus described his 
attempts at protecting grainfields from pigeons in the Teseque 
Valley, near Santa Fe, N. Mex., in 1923 : 

I purchased some black powder shells and returned to the Williams 
farm, arriving about 2:30 p. m. 1 took the shotgun shells and cut the sliot 



46 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

portion of them away, and began patrolling the orchard, firing on the pigeons 
whenever I was close to them, but found this had little effect. Continuous 
patrol by myself and hired men had the effect of keeping the birds moving. 
At daylight on Friday morning 1 found the birds roosting in the cotton- 
woods adjoining the orchard, and slipping under these trees I fired blank 
charges up through them. This was continued all day, and I found that wlien 
I could get close enough to the trees in which the birds were roosting or 
feeding to get tlie smoke and report of tlie gun practically among them 
that it had a terrifying effect. I found that the pigeons would avoid a tree 
in which they had been disturbed in this manner. 

Constant patrol was maintained from 5 a. m. to 7 p. m., someone being 
in the orchard all the time. I mysel': gave particular attention to the resting 
places of the birds along the edge of the orchard. Part of the time 1 used 
a revolver and part of the time a 30-4 rifle, simply discharging them into 
the air. I found tliat the report of the rifle or revolver had a more terrifying 
effect on the birds owing possibly to the sharper report. I also tried fluting 
or cutting the revolver bullets, which resulted in a screeching sound as they 
passed through the air. By Monday the birds had practically deserted the 
Cottonwood trees adjacent to the orchard as resting places (except in the 
very early morning) and rested in the scrub cedar and pifion trees on the 
hillsides. Prom there they were routed by firing the rifle into the dry 
hillside in the vicinity af the roosting trees; this caused a cloud of dust 
which kept the birds moving. The birds then moved into a canyon behind 
a hill, and I followed them there and finally succeeded in driving them out 
of there. By Wednesday morning there apparently remained only about 30 
or 40 birds and these were very wild, fiying high, and if they dropped into 
the orchard, would rise on the approach of any one. On Wednesday after- 
noon there was a violent thunder storm accompanied by a high wind, and 
about 5 p.m. a flock of about 2 00 pigeons appeared and were persistent in 
settling in the orchard, acting in the same manner as those found in the 
orchard at first, having to be driven from the trees in which they settled 
to feed. I might state that the orchard as viewed from the hillsides ap- 
peared like the madrone woods in California, which were favorite feeding 
places for the wild pigeons; and in my opinion it was this bright coloring 
that attracted passing birds. Thui'sday morning there appeared only the 
remnants of the flocks that were at first present, the fiock of birds that had 
appeared on Wednesday evening apparently having passed on. 

In July 1937, the writer was collecting specimens of bandtails 
in the mountains near Santa Cruz, Calif. One mountain ranch 
visited contained about 20 fine trees of sweet cherries, all loaded 
with a heavy crop of good fruit. Among the birds, of six species, 
noted feeding on the cherries were approximately 30 to 50 pigeons. 
In one instance about a half dozen of these birds alighted in the top 
of a tree on which two fruit pickers on short ladders were work- 
ing. They fed until one of the pickers, after drumming on his pail 
and yelling, descended to the ground and threw clods at them. 
Shooting incident to collecting specimens continued intermittently 
for an hour, and the pigeons at no time retreated farther than 
the tops of some tall sequoias and other conifers adjacent to the 
cleared farm land, 

James A. Blair, Forest Supervisor, at Glenwood Springs, Colo., 
writing on May 29, 1920, quoted a rancher in that area as having 
tested the effectiveness of scarecrows in preventing damage by 
pigeons. The rancher said that his cherry pickers tried to frighten 
away the pigeons, but that no method except the use of a shotgun 
would cause them to do more than circle to another part of the 
orchard. 

In attempts to frighten away the enormous flocks of pigeons that 
were damaging the vineyard on the ranch in Kern County, Calif., 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 47 

in 1930, previously mentioned (p. 42), various methods were 
tested. Among these was that of trying to feed the pigeons in the 
mountains near their roosting grounds. There 1,000 pounds of 
barley and 500 pounds of raisins were scattered. The pigeons are 
said to have taken this food, but they were so numerous as to make 
the method ineffective. An airplane was then used in an attempt 
to drive the birds from the vineyard, but without success. The 
California Division of Fish and Game and the owners of the ranch 
cooperated in hiring 16 men to patrol the vineyards and in furnish- 
ing the necessary ammunition. After a week's trial, the flocks 
appeared to be little diminished in numbers and the damage was 
said to be increasing, owing to the increasing length of the grape 
shoots and the budding out of later varieties of grapes. 

On March 30, fifty sportsmen were invited to assist in the drive. 
A number of pigeons were killed and although the rest were kept 
stirred up, they were not discouraged but kept alighting in the 
vineyard. As a result of publicity some 300 sportsmen assembled 
on March 31 and April 1 ; yet the birds continued to come in by the 
thousands. On April 2, about 500 men appeared at the vineyard 
with about 200 rounds of ammunition each, and it was said that "a 
bombardment such as has not been heard since the First World 
War took place from daylight to about noon." Not a pigeon was 
given a chance to alight. 

On April 3, hundreds of hunters appeared but no pigeons came. 
A survey of the vineyard by officials revealed fewer than a dozen 
birds during the entire forenoon, and inspection of the roost indi- 
cated that they had deserted the area. It was estimated that be- 
tween 5,000 and 7,000 pigeons were killed. 

These reports indicate the problems that develop in herding off" 
pigeons by gunfire when they range in numbers from a few Ijirds 
to almost a quarter million. As intimated by Tonkin and Britton, 
and fully substantiated by the experience of countless farmers 
and game officials, timing the protective efi'ort is most important. 
Control work should be started at the first evidence of crop loss, 
not after the pigeons have fed long enough to become accustomed 
to the area. It is far easier to discourage the birds at the begin- 
ning of an attack than after the flight has developed to large 
proportions. 

Herding off pigeons with gunfire remains the standby, with 
advantages and disadvantages as herein pointed out. It is costly ; 
it requires a large quantity of black-powder ammunition and con- 
stant patrol by gunners whose numbers depend on the size of the 
area to be patrolled. Rifle fire, although eff"ective, is too danger- 
ous in most localities. 

As already reported, scarecrows appear to have no effect on 
the pigeons. Airplane herding was of no avail. Feeding the pi- 
geons in their mountain haunts proved possible, but was so costly 
that it was impracticable. 

John C. Knox, United States Game Management Agent, in June 
and July of 1940 and 1941, made extensive and fairly successful 
tests of frightening devices in the cherry orchards of Mountain 
Park, N. Mex. He described the results obtained with the use of 

695766° ^7— 4 



48 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

the automatic acetylene flash gun'- known to be of vahie in pre- 
venting depredations by various species of birds. 

One of these "guns" was operated near High Rolls in an or- 
chard of 30 cherry trees. Before its installation 40 pigeons had 
fed in these trees morning and evening for more than 10 days. 
When the exploder was timed so that explosions occurred at 10- 
minute intervals, the pigeons were kept away from the trees, and 
when it was regulated so that explosions occurred every 3 minutes 
the jays, robins, orioles, and grosbeaks were controlled to an esti- 
mated 80 percent. At the end of the 1941 test, Knox concluded 
that the use of 10 or 12 acetylene flash guns together with a 
limited amount of concurrent shotgun shooting would effectively 
solve the problem in that area. 

An adaptation of the "flagging" system commonly used against 
horned larks in truck crops in California^ was tested. In 1940, in 
an orchard of 150 trees a cord was stretched over the tops of 
the trees in each row. Between and near each tree streamers made 
of white wrapping paper were tied to the cord so that they waved 
in the rather constant breeze and made considerable noise. For 
7 days after the installation of this device, no pigeons fed in the 
orchard. Then a severe rain and wind storm destroyed the papers. 
In 1941 streamers made from a durable kraft crepe paper with 
an asphalt inner binding were tested. This paper proved very 
successful during dry weather in frightening the pigeons. It with- 
stood rain and wind, but when wet it made no noise. Apparently 
it was the crackling and popping of the streamers rather than 
their motion that frightened the pigeons, for when the crepe paper 
streamers ceased to make noise, they lost their effectiveness and 
the pigeons returned. 

A spotlight beacon useful in frightening away night-feeding 
ducks^was tested against the day-feeding pigeons, but proved in- 
effective, as did also strips of paper, cloth, and bright tin hanging 
in the trees. 

Knox demonstrated that tree covers made of tobacco cloth were 
both effective and economical. Cover for trees of various sizes were 
made at costs ranging from 50 cents to $3 each. Because pigeons 
prefer the higher branches, the covers were so constructed as to 
cover only the upper parts of the tree, but where other birds are 
plentiful extension of the covers to protect the entire tree might 



2 The acetylene flash gun is a commercially manufactured device consisting: of a carbide, 
water, combustion, and flash chambers. A controlled flow of water entering; the carbide 
chamber forms acetylene gas. Wlien pressure forces release of the gas, it is ignited by 
a pilot light and explodes with a report similar to that of a shotgun, and with a blinding 
flash of light. By means of the valve controlling the water flow, the apparatus can be 
set to explode at almost any desired frequency. Information on where this and other bird- 
frightening devices can he obtained can be furnished by the Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Department of the Interior, Chicago 54, 111. 

8 Protecting crops from damage by horned larks in California. By Johnson A. Netf, 
Biologist. U. S. Dept. Agr., Bureau of Biological Survey Wildlife Research and Manage- 
ment Leaflet BS-64, 10 pp., illus., September 1936. [Processed.] 

* Protecting field crops from waterfowl damage by means of reflectors and revolving 
beacons. By F. M. Uhler, Biologist, and Stephen Creech, Game Management Agent. U. S. 
Dept. Int., Bureau of Biological Survey Wildlife Leaflet BS-149, 6 pp., illus. November 
1939. [Processed.] 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 49 

be well worth while. As the covers would be in use only about 30 
days of each year, if carefully handled they should last for several 
seasons. The writer on many occasions has observed similar covers 
used to protect vines and fruit trees, the most elaborate being a 
gas-pipe-chicken-wire structure covering large sweet cherry trees. 

Near Hermosa, Colo., in 1942, Game Management Agent Foley 
found the acetylene flash gun very ineffective unless it was moved 
about the orchard several times daily and was accompanied by 
liberal gunfire. Pigeons were seen feeding in the tree adjoining 
the flash gun after it had been operating for almost an hour. In 
the same area, in 1943, white Very signal flares were tested and 
proved most effective in frightening pigeons from the orchard. 
Their use was restricted by the great fire hazard in all places 
where the ground cover was inflammable. Pyrotechnic 3-inch flash 
bombs such as are widely used for frightening ducks were also 
tested in cherry orchards and proved to be very satisfactory, hav- 
ing greater value than gunfire. 

Studying the depredations on cherries at Cloudcroft, N. Mex., 
Frank C. Knox, Game Agent, found that a small number of wild 
mulberry trees grew in the mountain canyons near the cherry 
orchards. The fruit on these trees normally ripened about 2 weeks 
after the earliest cherries were ripe, but before the late cherries 
ripened. He first noticed that the pigeons were more easily driven 
from the cherry orchards after the mulberries began to ripen. 
Then, in 1943, weather conditions caused the early cherries and 
the mulberries to ripen at the same time; a large part of the pi- 
geons remained in the canyons feeding on mulberries and did not 
come to the cherry orchards until the mulberry crop was exhausted, 
at a time when most of the cherry crop had been harvested. Simi- 
lar conditions existed near Paonia, Colo., in 1945. 

Knox's observations led him to believe that the planting of early 
ripening mulberries in the canyons of the Cloudcroft area would 
go far toward reducing the cherry damage there. Such a method 
of prevention might well be practicable in districts in which the 
pigeon population is moderate to small, but it is the writer's opin- 
ion that it would not prove effective in areas in which the pigeon 
population is very large, for severe crop depredations have been 
noted in many instances in areas where pigeons were abundant 
and where the native wild food supply was far greater than was 
necessary for the birds. The effectiveness of the hiethod prob- 
ably depends largely on local conditions. 

Studies of methods of crop protection by means of deterrent 
and frightening devices have not kept pace with field needs, and 
further extensive experimentation is desirable. Man's ingenuity in 
devising noise-makers and frightening devices has scarcely been 
tapped, and much can doubtless be accomplished along this line. 

Each complaint of pigeon depredations should be carefully in- 
vestigated by either State or Federal officials, and when damage 
is found to have occurred, the victims should be given every prac- 
ticable assistance. 

Because of the fondness of band-tailed pigeons for agricultural 
crops, good management decrees that the pigeon population should 



50 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

not be permitted to increase unreasonably; therefore carefully 
planned open seasons should be continued so that shooting will act 
as a population control, particularly in areas in which pigeons are 
abundant and depredations severe. Open shooting seasons, how- 
ever, are not the remedy for specific instances of depredation for 
because of the habits of these birds control of depredations by 
hunting could be realized only through general and widespread 
population reduction, which is undesirable. 

The issuance of permits to kill pigeons that are damaging crops 
has never been completely successful. Earlier authorizations al- 
lowed the owner or lessee to use the birds so killed for food, and 
as a result a great demand for permits developed, the desire to 
hunt being the primary motive. Hence permits no longer include 
the privilege of utilizing the birds killed as food, and significantly 
there has been a great decrease in the number of complaints. Dur- 
ing recent seasons it has been possible in some areas through agree- 
ment between Federal and State officials to require the permit- 
tee to preserve the pigeons killed for delivery to charitable institu- 
tions or hospitals. This has effected further decrease in the num- 
ber of requests for permits. 

Another defect of the permit system is that shooting usually is 
allowed only on the area on which damage is occurring; but, as 
has been pointed out by Britton in New Mexico, shooting the pi- 
geons at their roosting and perching sites may aid greatly in reduc- 
ing the damage. These roosts and daytime perching trees may 
be near the crop attacked or may be miles distant. 

Where important crop losses occur, it would often facilitate pro- 
tection if the owner were permitted to shoot the birds on his prop- 
erty while at the same time game wardens or men under their im- 
mediate and close supervision traced the flight of the pigeons and 
continued the frightening process at perching and roosting places 
until a change in flight lines or the habits of the birds brought re- 
lief. This procedure, however, would require a large personnel 
and a great expenditure of funds. 

There can be no question that serious agricultural losses sus- 
tained by persons on account of depredations by band-tailed pi- 
geons must be controlled. On the other hand, conservation sentiment 
demands that there be no excessive or unwarranted destruction of 
the birds. Pigeon depredations affect a large number of persons, 
especially in mountain, valley, or wilderness areas close to abun- 
dant bandtail populations. In many cases there is a distinct loss, 
but in many others the damage is magnified. Regardless of the 
degree of damage incurred or of the justification for control of 
the birds on the individual farm, studies of methods of prevention 
of damage have lagged, and there are few economical, practicable, 
and highly successful methods that can be recommended. Where 
the farmer will get out with his gun at daylight and keep the 
pigeons from feeding in his field until dark usually only one to 
three days are required to break up even the worst of the normal 
pigeon attacks. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 51 

FOOD HABITS 

GENERAL 

The literature on the band-tailed pigeons contains many refer- 
ences to their feeding habits, mostly based on field observations. 
Huey (1913) describes their feeding on manzanita berries in Cali- 
fornia, Willard (1916) on acorns of Quercus emoryi in Arizona, 
Oilman (1903) in grain stubble in California, and Taverner 
(1934) on peas and grain in British Columbia. Bendire (1892) 
quotes Carpenter relative to the feeding of the pigeons on the salm- 
onberry (Rubus nutkanus) along the Columbia River, and Kobbe 
(1900) confirms the report. Belding comments on their feeding 
on acorns and oak buds in California, Ankeny on their eating 
acorns in the Rogue River Valley of Oregon, and Lloyd on their 
consumption of wild grapes in western Texas and of acorns there 
and in Mexico. From Arizona Benson reported to Bendire that 
acorns were taken after July 15, and Poling mentioned mulber- 
ries, although not definitely stating that the fruits were eaten. 

Dawson (1923) said the bandtails f ed on elderberries (Sambu- 
cus), cascara (Rhamnus pursJi iana) , cof^eeherries {Rhamnus cali- 
fornicus), huckleberries (Vnccinium), salal {Gaultheria), salm- 
onberries (Rubiis), madrona berries {Arbutus), and Christmas- 
berries (Photinia) , but that acorns were their favorite food. 

Gabrielson and Jewett (1940) summarize the food of the birds 
in Oregon as consisting of acorns, mountain ash berries, berries of 
various species of Rubus, elderberries, and currants ; kinnikinnick, 
dogwood, and other fruits; grains; and peas and other legumes. 
They mention that after nesting time, when the birds flock to- 
gether, they feed on the fruits of salal, salmonberry, blackberry, 
and other wild fruits ; Jewett has stated that they are particularly 
fond of the cascara berry (Rhamnus purshiana) ; and Gabrielson 
frequently observed them apparently feeding on the seeds of Lv/- 
pimis lyalli. 

Mrs. Bailey (1928) summarizes the food of the species as fol- 
lows : "Mainly nuts, especially acorns, and berries, including wild 
currant, chokecherry, wild cherry, juniper, madrone, manzanita, 
raspberry, blackberry, elderberry, huckleberry, salmonberry, cof- 
feeberry {Rhamnus calif ornica) , Christmasberry, and black goose- 
berry; wild grapes, flowers and leaf buds, sycamore balls, pine 
buds, seeds, and needles, and grain (mostly waste) ; together with 
grasshoppers and other insects." 

Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer (1918), in Game Birds of Califor- 
nia, say that "the amount of food available to the pigeon appears 
to be the main controlling factor in its distribution. This is more 
particularly true in winter, though probably to some extent in sum- 
mer also." They pointed out that the food consisted mainly of 
nuts and berries, and that the plants that bear these are frequent- 
ly alternate-year, or intermittent, crop-bearers. 

Of 22 food records summarized by these authors, 10 give acorns 
as the chief item. Specifically, these included the acorns of Quer- 
cus ngnfolia, Q. wislizenii, Q. kelloggii, and Q. chn/solepis. Ber- 
ries of the madrona {A7'butus menzies'ii) were said to be an at- 



52 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

tractive autumn food. Fruits of certain species of manzanita(Arc- 
tostajjhylos) were reported as taken from the time they were first 
formed until very late in the season when fully ripe. During the 
autumn, fruits of the coffeeberry, elderberry {Sambucus glauca) , 
and chokecherry (Prunus demissa) were mentioned as favored 
foods, and in the winter, berries of the toyon (Photinia arhutifo- 
lia) were taken. 

Buds and blossoms also were taken. Dean (1904) reported the 
bandtails feeding on manzanita buds, and there are many records 
of their eating oak buds and flowers. Evermann (1886) found 
35 of the ball-like flowers of the sycamore in the crop of a single 
pigeon. Pine seeds were recorded as bandtail food by Belding 
(1890) and Grinnell (1905). Cultivated grains, including wheat, 
barley, oats, milo maize, and field corn, have been listed in nu- 
merous instances. Many miscellaneous items are recorded, includ- 
ing wild peas, dogwood berries, hazelnuts, alder seeds, and juni- 
per berries. In New Mexico, H. W. Henshaw (1886) observed the 
pigeons feeding on fruits of the elder {Sambucus racemosa) and 
acorns of the scrub oak (Querctis undulata) . 

J. A. Munro, Chief Federal Migratory Bird Officer, of British 
Columbia, reported in 1941 on the examination of the food of 13 
bandtails collected in British Columbia between 1923 and 1933. 
The crop of a bird collected in June contained approximately 346 
kernels of wheat. Of 12 birds collected in September, the crops 
of 6 contained field peas, and those of the others such items as 
acorns of Quercus garryafia, seeds of Conius nuttalli, Sa/mbucus 
glauca, Gaultheria shallon, and oats. 

Several writers have commented on the great volume of food 
that can be taken by a single pigeon. Grinnell, Bryant, and Storer 
mention an acorn dropped by a flying pigeon that measured nearly 
1 by IV2 inches, and also record a pigeon killed in Del Norte Coun- 
ty, Calif., whose crop contained 534 kernels of barley, oats, and 
corn. 

Van Rossem (1914) reported finding pigeons in a dying condi- 
tion, their crops pierced by acorns that they had swallowed. John 
G. Traub, of the Fish and Wildlife Service, who ranched for a 
time in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., told the writer of killing 
apparently healthy pigeons that upon examination were found to 
have points of acorns protruding through the crop wall ; the feath- 
ers were matted with crop juices, an indication that this condition 
had existed for several days, yet the pigeons had apparently con- 
tinued to feed and fly vigorously and normally. 

E. H. Glidden, State Game Warden, of San Diego, Calif., wrote 
on December 10, 1937, "You will find the chief diet of wild pigeons 
at this time of the year in this district to be acorns ; however, one 
may at times find the young shoots of pines in their crop, especial- 
ly on Palomar and the Mesa Grande Mountain. During the spring 
they feed almost entirely on elderberries." 

W. H. Ransom, United States Game Management Agent, said in 
1937 that madrona and mountain ash berries were supposed to be 
choice winter foods for the small number of pigeons that wintered 
about Seattle, Wash., and that in June the bandtails fed on ripened 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 53 

wild strawberries in great numbers, especially on Sand Island 
near Willapa Harbor. 

Lawrence W. Saylor wrote: "I once kept an injured bandtail 
for two weeks . . . and it would eat as many as 30 madrona berries 
a day; it also accepted and ate huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum), 
coffeeberries, cultivated currants, and strawberries, and on several 
occasions readily took grasshoppers when offered. . . . Apparently 
the tips of Douglas fir branches are eaten (by the wild birds), as 
I have stood under the trees and watched the birds pick at and 
swallow the tender tips of the twigs." 

There is frequent mention of insects as food of these pigeons, 
but it would seem that most of these references trace to a field 
examination made by Vernon Bailey, on July 29, 1903, of a pigeon 
killed by him at Pecos Baldy, N. Mex., of which he said, "The giz- 
zard was full of insects, mainly grasshoppers and the larvae of a 
wasplike insect." Despite this observation, and those of Saylor 
just mentioned, pigeons as a group eat little animal food. 

Several writers have described feeding mannerisms of band- 
tails. Gilman (1903) says that "instead of spreading out they 
kept together alternately walking and flying. Those behind would 
fly a few feet ahead of the advance line, alight, and walk along 
picking up grain until other rear ones would fly ahead and it came 
their turn again." 

Huey (1913) stated that a flock observed feeding on manzanita 
in San Diego County arrived a little after sunrise and left be- 
tween eight and nine o'clock in the morning ; in the afternoon the 
birds returned about four and left again at dusk. Willard (1916) 
described the bandtails feeding on acorns in Arizona : "They would 
walk out on the slender branches till they tipped down, then, hang- 
ing by their feet, would secure an acorn, and drop off to alight on 
a branch lower down." 

In mid-June 1941, pigeons numbering possibly 12 to 20 came 
from the Pinaleno Mountains to a group of mulberry trees on a 
ranch 7 miles south of Pima, Ariz., to feed upon the ripening 
fruits. The distance from the mulberry trees to the oak-pine zone 
high up the side of Mount Graham must be at least 10 miles. Two 
specimens of bandtails were obtained here, giving the first rep- 
resentation of mulberries in stomachs in the entire study although 
this fruit was known to be well accepted. 

In May 1932, the writer saw two migi-ating bands of pigeons 
flying across the broad Sacramento Valley of California stop to 
feed upon seed rice in two newly planted fields. 

During the course of intermittent field work on band-tailed pi- 
geons extending from 1936 through 1941, the writer has personally 
observed, or has received reports from cooperators who have ob- 
served, the birds feeding on most of the food already mentioned 
in the abstract of the literature on pigeon foods. In some instances 
no specimens of bandtails were obtained, hence the particular item 
does not appear in the tabulations of the result of stomach exami- 
nation ; in other cases the item may be represented in unnaturally 
small ratio owing to lack of adequate collecting in a habitat pro- 
viding that particular food. 



54 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

USE OF MINERAL SALTS 

In 1937, many Puget Sound observers noted that the pigeons 
frequently flew to mud flats at the margin of the Sound to drink 
salt water even though fresh-water streams were available. In 
this connection W. H. Ransom (in a letter of April 15, 1939) 
writes : "Near Cathlamet, Wash., along the Columbia River there 
is a cliff containing saline deposits of some sort, and the game 
protector stationed there a few years ago told me of seeing scores 
of pigeons gathered there in late summer, while groups of them 
fluttered in the air as close to the vertical cliff as they could get, 
all the while picking at the salt-bearing earth." 

Frank B. Wire, of the Oregon Game Commission, told the writ- 
er that many years ago he had frequently hunted pigeons at a 
salt spring that attracted the birds in considerable numbers. Ben- 
dire (1892) quotes Anthony relative to a large salt spring south 
of Beaverton, Oreg., where pigeons were always to be found in 
large numbers. Kloppenburg (1922) writing of the bandtails in 
the Plumas National Forest in California says that "they can usu- 
ally be found near mineral springs, especially soda and sulphur 
springs." 

This habit may be analogous to that of the mourning doves that 
are attracted to salt in the Southeastern States to such extent 
that the use of salt is included as a prohibited method of baiting. 
In Arizona the writer has observed western white-winged doves 
picking at salt blocks in cattle feed lots. Salt was used as bait also 
in connection with the shooting of the now extinct passenger pi- 
geon. 

RESULTS OF LABORATORY EXAMINATIONS 

The following report covers the laboratory examination of 691 
band-tailed pigeon crops and/or stomachs. This material admittedly 
is inadequate, some States being represented by only a few speci- 
mens. In California, the pigeons occur at some time of year in 
most of the more than 50 counties, but only 18 of them are repre- 
sented in this study, and 194 out of 267 stomachs were salvaged 
from the bags of hunters during the 15-day December open season ; 
likewise, 113 of the Washington specimens were procured from 
hunters during the 15-day September open season, in 1937. 

For the purpose of this report the crop and stomach, or the crop 
or stomach, of an individual bird is considered a unit specimen. 
Every effort was made to obtain both crop and stomach, but since 
many specimens were obtained from hunters, it was found diffi- 
cult to obtain both, and in many instances only the crop or the 
stomach was obtained. Regularly cooperating observers, how- 
ever, sent in both crop and stomach. 

The food percentages in this report have been computed by the 
standard volumetric method described by Cottam,5 each item be- 



5 Economic ornithology and the correlation of laboratory and field methods. By Clarence 
Cottam, Biolocrist. U. S. Dept. Agr., Bureau of Biolog-ical Survey Wildlife Research and 
Management Leaflet BS-30, 13 pp., illus. January 1936. [Processed.] 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



55 






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56 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 





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THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



57 



ing measured after drying. Although representation varies 
greatly, the month is used as the period for the computations. For 
plant names the most recent publication on taxonomic botany for 
each of the States has been used. 

Of the specimens available, 25 had such incomplete data that 
they were useless, although information obtained from them may 
be mentioned ; 27 others were so nearly empty that they were 
eliminated from the tabulations. Hence the percentages of food 
volume and frequency of occurrence are based on the remaining 
639 specimens. 

In the examination of these, 76 separate classes of plant food 
items were listed, including unidentified mosses, vegetable debris, 
unidentifiable vegetable fragments, and rodent scats composed en- 
tirely of vegetable debris. The identified plant-food items repre- 
sent 26 plant families. In addition, 10 occurrences of insect frag- 
ments, comprising only a trace of the whole food, were recorded. 
Hence the species may be considered almost wholly vegetarian. 
Gravel in stomachs is figured in its ratio to the total content, while 
food item percentages are calculated after the grit has been re- 
moved. 

In table 4 is summarized by States the material available for 
each month ; the number in parentheses following the name of the 
State refers to the number of counties represented by the stom- 
achs collected. 

In table 5 are listed the general classes or families of food items 
represented, by months, with the composite percentage by volume 
of all species within the family, based on a total of 639 stomachs 
and crops. An added column gives the percentage of frequency of 
occurrence of the combined species of each family. 

The percentages by volume and frequency of occurrence of the 

Table 6. — Percentage iy volume and frcqurncij of occurrence of the food itons 
that totaled one percent or more of the annual food of (i.W bandtails, based 
on the examination of their stomachs and crops 



Food item 



QuercKs ayrifoliu, live oak acorns 

Oi(ercus sp., unitlentifled acorns 

Avetid sativa, cultivated oats 

Pr>inus, cultivated cherries 

Pi^um sfitiviiin, jyarden peas 

Triticuiii (ifstivton. wheat 

Piutm ediilin, pinon nuts 

Qi(.erri(s kcllofjgii, California hlack oak acorns.. 

Querriix sp., blos.soins of oak 

Khanniiis purshiana, cascara fruits 

Arhiitux yni-nziesii, inadrona berries 

Pruinix flovtestiriis, cultivated jirunes 

Corniifi iiiitfnllii. doprwoinl fruits 

Arctosfiiii/ii/ltis, sp.. manzanita seeds and llower: 
Qucrcii.^ wi.tlizi'iiii, interior live oak acorns.... 

Pinii.^ ponderosft, yellow pine seeds 

Snmhucii.f {lUiiirn, elderberry fniits 

Qiierrus imrri/nmi, Oregon white oak acorns... 

Pnniii.i sp., wild cherry fruits 

.Miscellaneous vcfretable debris 

(l(U(lth)'r\n xlinllnn. salal fruits 

Qnerciis emorm, Emory oak acorns 



I'ercentape by 


Percent; 


ge by frequency 


volume 


of 


occurrence 


17.5 




11.1 


13.4 




18.2 


7.4 




5.8 


7.1 




12.4 


4.8 




7.4 


5.0 




10.3 


4.0 




1.9 


8.9 




1.6 


3.5 




1.8 


8.0 




2.8 


3.0 




6.1 


3.0 




3.0 


2.8 




11.7 


2.6 




3.1 


2.2 




2.0 


2.0 




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1.8 




6.4 


1.7 




.8 


1.5 




6.0 


1.5 




4.4 


1.0 

l.ii 




3.8 

1.7 



58 NORTH A.MERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

food items that totaled 1 percent or more of the annual food of 
the bandtails, as based on the examination of the 639 stomachs 
and crops, are shown in table 6. 

Pinaceae (64 percent). — Buds of the Sitka spruce (Picea sit- 
chensis) were found in a May-killed Oregon bird, and staminate 
aments of an unidentified conifer in another. Unidentified pine 
seeds were found in one California bird killed in December. Seeds 
of the yellow pine (Pmits ponderosa) were found in two Califor- 
nia birds collected in June and December, respectively. One bird 
obtained in July in the Kaibab National Forest, Ariz., contained 
625 seeds of this pine, measuring 47 cubic centimeters (4 cubic 
centimeters=l teaspoonful) . 

Nuts of the piiion {Pinus edulis) were found in 12 Arizona 
birds collected in September, October, and November. These nuts 
were the only food in 11 of the birds and composed 94 percent of 
the food of the other. Nuts of the single-leaf pirlon {Pinus mono- 
phylla) composed the entire food of 9 pigeons and 90 pertent of 
the food of a tenth collected in California in December. One bird 
had taken 60 of the nuts which displaced 45 cubic centimeters. 

Cupressaceae (trace). — One pigeon killed in Arizona in Sep- 
tember contained 270 staminate buds of an unidentified juniper 
(Junipe^ms) . 

Gramincae {12.8 percent). — Cultivated grains make up a mod- 
erate portion of the food of the band-tailed pigeon in or near farm- 
ing areas. Wheat occurred in 66 birds collected during 7 months 
of the year in 4 States and averaged 5.0 percent of the annual 
food. Oats were found in 37 birds collected in 3 States during 5 
months and formed 7.4 percent of the annual food. Barlej^ oc- 
curred in 12 birds collected in 2 States during 4 months and 
formed 0.4 percent of the annual food. Field corn was found in 
only 2 September birds from Colorado. 

Unusual quantities of grain M^ere found in a few crops ; one 
contained 725 kernels of wheat, one 200 kernels of barley, and 
another 660 whole kernels of oats. 

Seeds of Poa sp., wild oats {Avena fatiia), darnell {Lolium 
temidentum), and needlegrass (Stipa sp.) were each found in 
single stomachs of birds taken in April, May, and June in Oregon 
and California. The family Gramineae contributed 12.8 percent of 
the annual food. 

Liliaceae {0.5 of 1 percent). — Seeds of an unidentified yucca 
were found in one California bird collected in June, and seeds of 
sotol {Da.'^ijJirion irhecleri) (fig. 9) in three August and two Sep- 
tember birds from southeastern Arizona. Combined they made 
up one-half of 1 percent of the annual food. 

AmcuijUidaceac {0.8 of 1 percent). — Ten birds collected in July 
and August in southern New Mexico contained the anthers of an 
agave {Agave parrtji) (fig. 10), aggregating 0.8 of 1 percent of 
the annual food, and one Arizona bird killed in August contained 
125 seeds of a Smilacina, probably steUaria. 

Fagaceae {US. 7 percent). — The acorns and flowers of oaks con- 
stitute the major food of the band-tailed pigeon. Staminate flow- 
ers of oak were found in four January and four March birds from 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



59 




FiGTTUK 9. — Pigeons from the oak canyons of the Southwest 
often feed on the seeds of the sotol (DfiKiilirion ichcelcri), 
which grows in the adjacent high desert. Pinal County, 
Ariz. (Photographed by H. L. Croclcett, July 1041.) 

California. Acorns or fragments of acorns were found in 233 
birds collected during 10 mon i;hs and from every State represented 
except Texas. Oak products totaled 43.7 percent of the annual food. 
Acorns of the California live oaks were most frequently taken ; 
those of the coast live oak (Qncrcus agrifolia) occurred in 71 
stomachs and averaged 17.5 percent of the year's food, and those 
of the interior live oak (Q. wisU^^nii) were found in 13 birds col- 



60 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 




Figure 10. — The flowers of this tree-like agave {Agave parryi) 
furnish summer food for pigeons in the Southwest. The 
agaves grow in the higher desert mountains, sometimes very 
close to pigeon-nesting habitat. Head of Mills Canyon, Pinal 
Mountains. Ariz. (Photographed by H. L. and Ruth Crock- 
ett, July 2G, 1936.) 

lected during the period November to March. Other species repre- 
sented ^yere the California black oak (Q. kdloggii), blue oak (Q. 
douglasii), Oregon white oak (Q. garryami) , Emory oak (Q. em- 
oryi), white-leaf oak (Q. hypoleuca) , and the valley oak (Q. lo- 
bata). Fragments of acorns not further identified were found in 
116 birds and averaged 13.4 percent of the annual food. The abil- 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 61 

ity of these birds to consume quantities of acorns has been de- 
scribed. The crop of one specimen examined contained 22 acorns 
of the coast live oak, displacing 38 cubic centimeters. 

Juglandaceae (trace). — One California bird killed in January 
contained flowers of the walnut (Jiiglans) . 

Myricaceae (trace). — Parts of the seeds of the wax myrtle (My- 
rica californica) occurred in one California specimen. 

Ulmaceae (trace). — Seeds of an unidentified hackberry (Cel- 
tis) were taken from the stomach of a bird collected at Uvalde, 
Texas, in December. Pigeons collected in the Capitan Mountains 
of New Mexico had eaten fruits of Celtis reticulata. 

Loranthaceue (0.2 of 1 percent). — The pine mistletoe (Arceuth- 
ohium) was represented in nine December stomachs from Cali- 
fornia and three July stomachs from New Mexico by fragments 
of both fruiting and vegetative parts. 

Mo7^aceae (0.1 of 1 percent). — Fruits of the mulberry (Morus 
alba) occurred in two June birds from Arizona, and seeds of an 
unidentified mulberry in one July bird from New Mexico. 

Rosaceae (13.6 percent). — This family, producing many famil- 
iar wild fruits and berries, is well represented in the bandtail's 
diet. Seeds of wild blackberries or raspberries were found in 14 
birds; eight were unidentified; and salmonberry (Ruhus spectcu- 
bilis) occurred in four, and a wild blackberry (Ruhus macrope- 
talus) in two birds. Rose hips were found in one stomach. 

Wild cherries, including Prunus emarginata and P. melanocar- 
pa, were found in 44 specimens collected in Washington, Oregon, 
Colorado, and New Mexico. Fruits of Prunus emarginata oc- 
curred in 38 Washington specimens taken in July, August, and 
September, and averaged 1.5 percent of the annual food. 

Seeds of the serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifoUa) occurred in 
five September birds, and those of the hawthorn (Crataegus doug- 
lasii) in four July birds from Oregon. Seeds of the wild straw- 
berry (Fragaria) were found in two May specimens, and fruits 
of the toyon (Photinia nrbutifolia) in four December birds. 

Cultivated prunes were found in 19 birds collected in May in 
the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and averaged 3 percent of the 
annual food. Cultivated cherries occurred in 79 birds collected 
from May to August in Washington, Oregon, California, New 
Mexico, and Colorado, and formed 7.1 percent of the total food. 
Both the sweet cherry (Pninus avium) and sour cherry (P. cer- 
asMs) were represented. The Pacific coast fruits were entirely 
sweet cherries, but in Colorado and New Mexico both varieties 
were included in the food of the pigeons. The combined products 
of the Rosaceae family averaged 13.6 percent of the annual food. 

Leguminosae (U.8 percent). — Seeds of clover (TrifoUum), lu- 
pine (Lupinu-s), and trefoil (Lotus), and leaves of Trifoliwm were 
all found in the crop of a single California bird. 

Cultivated peas had been taken by 44 bandtails collected in 
Washington. Those found in seven April and May stomachs had 
been gleaned from freshly seeded fields and averaged slightly more 
than 2 percent of the annual food; the significance of such feed- 
ing has already been discussed (p. 44). During July, August, and 



62 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

September peas are taken mostly from the stubble of harvested 
fields. Occasionally the birds may attack a field that is to be har- 
vested for seed, causing severe losses. For the entire year, culti- 
vated peas, waste or valuable, averaged 4.8 percent of the food. 

Gcraniaccae {trace). — A few tiny leaves of the alfilaria {Erodi- 
um) had been eaten by one California bird. 

Euphorbiaceae {trace). — Seeds of the turkey mullein {Eremo- 
car^us setigertis) were found in one specimen. 

Ami-card iaceae {0.5 of 1 percent). — Seeds of two species of su- 
mac were found. Those of Rhus emoryii occurred in the stomachs 
of five specimens from New Mexico, and those of R. trilobata in 
one bird from Arizona, making up 0.5 of one percent of the an- 
nual food. 

Rhamnaceae {3.1 percent). — The berries of the cascara {Rhani- 
nus purshiana) are a favorite food in Oregon ; these fruits were 
taken from 18 Oregon specimens collected from June to Septem- 
ber and averaged 3 percent of the annual food. Seeds of the coffee- 
berry {R. californica) occurred in one California stomach. Fruits 
and seeds of the lote bush {Condalia lycioides) were identified 
from a single Arizona specimen. Products of this family averaged 
3.1 percent of the annual food. 

Vitaceae {0.7 of 1 percent) . — Fruits and seeds of the wild grape 
{VHis arizonica) composed the major food of three August speci- 
mens collected in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona, and formed 
0.7 of one percent of the annual food. 

Malvaceae {trace). — A single seed, determined as Sidalacea sp., 
was found in one Oregon specimen. 

Araliaceue {ti^ace) . — A number of green berries of Aralia hu- 
milis were identified from the stomach of a single Arizona bird. 

UmhelUferae {trace). — Seeds of the gambleweed {Sanicula 
menziesn) occurred in one California specimen taken in Decem- 
ber. 

Cornaceae {2.8 percent) . — The fruits of the dogwood are a 
highly favored food, being found in 75 stomachs from Washing- 
ton and Oregon, and averaged 2.8 percent of the annual food. 
Those of the mountain dogwood {Cormis nuttaUii) are the most 
commonly taken. 

Ericaceae {6.7 percent). — The heath family includes four 
groups, the fruits of which are relished by band-tailed pigeons 
and averaged 6.7 percent of the annual food. 

In the Pacific Northwest the fruits of the salal {Gaultheria shal- 
lon) were taken by 24 birds from Washington and Oregon and 
averaged just 1 percent of the annual food. Fruits of the madrona 
{Arbutus menziesii) were eaten by 39 California birds and com- 
posed 3 percent of the annual food. 

Flowers and fruits of the manzanita {Arctostaphylos) occurred 
in 20 specimens taken during every month from March to August 
in Oregon, California, and Arizona, and furnished 2.6 percent of 
the annual food. Fruits of two species of huckleberry ( Vaccinium 
ovatum and V. delicosum) were identified, the first from a single 
Oregon bird, the second from two Washington birds. 

Sokmaceae {trace). — Seeds of Solanum sp., were found in one 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 63 

Colorado specimen. 

Caprifoliaceae {3.2 percent). — Fruits and flowers of the elder- 
berry (Sambucus) were found in 70 stomachs and averaged 3.2 
percent of the annual food. Of these, the fruits in 41 specimens 
were identified as those of the blue elderberry {Samhuctis glauca) 
and averaged 1.8 percent of the food; fruits in seven other speci- 
mens were identified as red elderberries {Samhucus callicarpa). 

Compositae (trace). — One pigeon collected in California in De- 
cember contained seeds of the tarweed (Madia). 

MiifceUaneous (1.5 percent). — Bits of moss were taken from 
one specimen. Fragments of oak galls were often found in pigeons 
that had been feeding on acorns. Unidentifiable vegetable frag- 
ments and debris were recorded from 17 specimens and averaged 
1.3 percent of the annual food. One Oregon bird contained 12 
whole rodent scats; the scats were entirely vegetable in compo- 
sition and were tentatively identified as those of the wood rat 
(Neotoma). 

Animal Foods. — All the insect material in the stomachs appeared 
to have been accidentally or incidentally taken ; it was present in 
only 10 stomachs or crops. 

One oak twig gall very similar to an acorn in size and appear- 
ance was found to contain larvae of gall flies (Cijnipidae) . A 
staphylinid larva (rove-beetle) and an adult Anthrenus (skin 
beetle), each in single stomachs, might have been taken inciden- 
tally in feeding on other items. 

One stomach contained 7 honey ants (Prenolepis imparis) and 
a quantity of tiny leaflets of clover, and it is reasonable to assume 
that the ants were upon the leaflets when they were taken. One 
fire ant (Solenopsi.s) occurred in a crop otherwise filled with wild 
berries, and one acrobat ant (C remastogaster) was also identi- 
fied ; both are frequently found about ripe fruits. 

The larvae of a Tineid moth were found in one crop, traces of 
cocoon silk in two, and fragments of the el.\i;ra of a beetle in one. 
With all confidence the conclusion may be drawn that the band- 
tailed pigeon feeds only rarely upon insects. 

SEASONAL FOOD PREFERENCES 

In order to set forth more clearly the relation of foods to band- 
tailed pigeon migration and distribution, food items identified 
in the present study have been segregated and tabulated in four 
seasonal classifications : winter, spring, summer, and autumn. The 
seasons, arbitrarily designated, are most nearly accurate for the 
California district. 

WINTER 

The period designated as winter includes the months of Novem- 
ber, December, and January. Normally, by November most of 
the pigeons of the Pacific coast have reached California and are 
settled in their winter habitat, except for descent from higher to 
lower elevations caused by snowfall. Soon after the end of Janu- 
ary a movement northward includes pail of the wintering popu- 

695766'— 47— 5 



64 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

lation. 

The stomachs and crops of 214 birds collected in four States 
during this period were available for examination. Acorns were 
taken by 172 of the 214 birds and averaged 77.2 percent of the 
winter food, with oak blossoms adding another 2.2 percent. Pine 
nuts also played an important part, contributing 8.5 percent to 
the winter food. Fruits of the madrona (Arbutus menziesii) were 
found in 37 of the birds and formed 4.8 percent of the season's 
food. Christmasberries, or toyon berries [Photinia arhutifolia) , 
made up 3.4 percent, and wheat from stubblefields 2.3 percent, of 
the winter food. These were the only foods that averaged more 
than 1 percent. 

Consideration of all data, both field and laboratory, leads to the 
conclusion that mast, acorns, and pine nuts are the basic foods 
necessary to maintain a population of band-tailed pigeons through 
the winter, and that these birds will not remain in numbers in 
areas that do not provide these foods. 

SPRING 

The period designated as the spring season covers February, 
March, and April. Beginning usually during February, the con- 
centrations of bandtails that winter in central or southern Cali- 
fornia start to move slowly northward, and by the end of the pe- 
riod thei majority of the pigeons of the west have reached their 
breeding range or are close to it. 

Only 21 specimens were available for this period, collected in 
three States. Oak products, chiefly acorns, led in the spring foods ; 
they were found in 13 specimens and averaged 62.2 percent of the 
season's food. Cultivated grain, including wheat, oats, and barley, 
and cultivated peas made up 25.4 percent of the food. This season 
covers at least part of the seeding period for certain of these crops, 
and in other areas winter wheat and barley is ripening by the end 
of the spring. 

Other foods that averaged more than 1 percent during this peri- 
od included fruits of the manzanita (Arctostaphijlos) , 4.8 percent, 
and of the madrona {A^-butus menziesii), lA percent, the latter 
being found in only two stomachs. 

SUMMER 

During the summer period (May, June, and July) the majority 
of the pigeons are nesting, though some may not begin to nest 
until June, and may continue brooding until well after the end of 
July. Others may begin nesting before May and may be away 
from the nest and moving about before the end of July. 

Examination of 197 specimens collected in six States furnished 
the data for the calculations for the summer period. Cultivated 
grains—wheat, oats, and barley—ranked high, averaging 25.7 per- 
cent, and were found in 80 specimens. It is certain that much of 
the grain was gleaned from stubblefields after harvest, and was 
therefore of little economic value. Cultivated cherries and prunes 
averaging 40.2 percent, led the summer food items, and occurred 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 65 

in 95 specimens; domestic prunes were taken during May while 
still very small ; the cultivated cherries included both sweet and 
sour varieties and were taken at ripening season. Complaints 
against pigeons arise most frequently from their pilfering in cher- 
ry and prune trees. 

Wild fruits of many kinds ripen during this period, and they 
are taken in wide variety. These include blackberries, raspberries, 
wild cherries, strawberries, elderberries, and fruits of the dog- 
wood, hawthorn, lote-bush (Condalia) , and others. Individually 
they composed from 1 to as high as 3 percent, and collectively 16.9 
percent, of the summer food. The blossoms and berries of the man- 
zanita and the berries of the sumac form an additional 5.8 percent. 

Acorns comprise 5.6 percent of the summer food ; some of these 
are gleaned from the ground under the oaks, but in the southern 
part of the range the acorns of the Emory oak and other species 
are reaching maturity and are taken from the trees. Pine nuts 
also enter the diet again as the new crop becomes available. 

AUTUMN 

During August, September, and October, the arbitrarily desig- 
nated autumn period, migration on the Pacific coast is under way 
and in many cases is completed ; to considerable extent the same 
is true in the Rocky Mountain States and the Southwest. The 
crops and stomachs of 207 specimens collected in six States were 
available for this period. 

With the ripening of the new acorn crop, these nuts rose in im- 
portance once more to 26.5 percent of the food and were found in 
35 birds. Pine nuts made a further advance in the diet, averag- 
ing 9.2 percent and being found in 11 birds. Cultivated grains 
(wheat, oats, and barley) and cultivated peas were found in 71 
specimens and averaged 13.7 percent of the food ; most of this 
grain is taken from stubblefields. Wild fruits of many varieties 
continued to play an important part in the pigeon's diet. Fruits 
of the dogwood (Cornus) rose to 11.3 percent, elderberries to 7 
percent, cascara (Rhamnus) to 8.2 percent, salal (Gxiulthena) to 
3.3 percent, wild grape (Vitis) to 2.8 percent, wild cherries to 6.0 
percent, and a number of others ranked above 1 percent. 

DISCUSSION 

The seasonal food preferences of band-tailed pigeons as deter- 
mined by the examination of 639 stomachs and ci'ops are shown 
in table 7. The table lists the items that totaled 1 percent or more 
of the food for each of the four seasons and gives the percentage 
of their frequency of occurrence. The number in parentheses aft- 
er the designation of the season refers to the number of specimens 
examined. 

It will be noted that during three of the four seasons, oak prod- 
ucts, largely acorns, and pine nuts, combined, led all other food 
items by a considerable margin. The availability of these nuts 
to a very large degree determines the distribution of the band- 
tailed pigeon ; a number of the oaks bear acorns only at two-year in- 



QQ NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 



E'o t 






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THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



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Ericaceae : 

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68 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

tervals, and both the acorn and the pine nut crops are frequently- 
affected by adverse weather conditions. The winter range of the 
pigeon and its migration routes both northward and southward 
are directly influenced by the presence or absence of these nuts. 
Band-tailed pigeons have developed a liking for cultivated 
grains and peas, as well as for cultivated prunes and cherries, and 
are sufficiently adaptable to have learned to congregate in areas 
where these crops are grown ; yet study of the data available does 
not indicate that these crops are at all necessary for the mainte- 
nance of the present population. Wild fruits during the summer 
season and a plentiful supply of mast suffice to maintain them. 

USE OF GRAVEL 

As mentioned earlier, the grit or gravel found in the stomachs 
examined was measured according to its ratio to the total stomach 
content. Reference to table 5 shows that the volume of grit ranged 
from 7.5 percent in July to 31.4 percent in December. In exam- 
ining stomachs of band-tailed pigeons, it becomes evident that the 
birds do not use gravel in the digestion of foods that have a hard 
pit, as wild and tame cherries and seeds of dogwood ; only rarely 
do stomachs containing these pits also contain gravel. Apparently 
the pits are softened by the digestive juices and broken by mus- 
cular action, the fragments then serving as grinding material. 

INFLUENCE OF AGE OR SEX 

No nestlings were included in the present food study. A small 
number of flying juveniles were examined, but a survey of the 
tabulations showed no diff"erence in their feeding habits from those 
of adult birds, nor did the feeding habits of the adult male differ 
from those of the adult female. 

FEEDING MANNERISMS 

During this study the writer observed feeding mannerisms that 
have been described by others. The alternate walking and flying 
manner of feeding in grain stubble as described by Oilman (1903) 
was noted in several localities, and the birds hanging by their feet 
to reach food at the tips of branches, as recorded by Willard (p. 
53) was observed in connection with their feeding on acorns and 
elderberries. 

With respect to feeding hours, in some instances at least, Huey's 
statement (p. 53) was found to be correct. At other seasons feed- 
ing appeared to be intermittent all day long, periods of feeding to 
satiation alternating with hours of perching quietly in some tall 
dead tree. 

QUANTITY OF FOOD TAKEN 

The quantity of food that can be taken at one feeding is almost 
beyond belief, and after heavy feeding a digestive period of 2 or 3 
hours is needed before the bird is able to fly about in normal fash- 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 69 

ion. Owing to the usually contracted state of the stomach, it is 
difficult to estimate the normal capacity of the organ ; however, it 
appears that few band-tailed pigeon stomachs contain more than 
10 cubic centimeters of food and gravel, and that about 15 cubic 
centimeters is the maximum (4 cc.=l teaspoonful). 

The following itemizations are of actual crop contents measured 
by displacements when fully dried, and indicate the volume of food 
that a pigeon crop can hold : 227 whole garden peas, 67.6 cc. ; 622 
seeds of Pinus ponderosa, 47 cc. ; 60 seeds of Pinus monophylla, 
45 cc. ; 86 seeds of Pinus edulis, 34 cc. ; 22 whole California live oak 
acorns, 38 cc. ; and 56 whole Emory oak acorns, 40 cc. Unmeas- 
ured, but in every instance forming the entire content of a single 
crop were the following items, each the largest of its group: 725 
whole kernels of wheat, 660 whole kernels of unhulled oats, 104 
whole berries of toyon, or Christmasberry, 270 whole berries plus 
550 seeds of elderberry, 56 whole fruits of madrona, 26 whole cul- 
tivated cherries, 69 whole wild cherries, 104 fruits of cascara sa- 
grada, and 80 whole fruits of dogwood. 

SUMMARY 

This report on the band-tailed pigeon (Columba fasciata fnsci- 
ata) , largest member of the pigeon family now found in the United 
States, is based on field studies in Arizona, California, Colorado, 
New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, and on reports from ob- 
servers in Nevada, Texas, and Utah. Observations from British 
Columbia and Mexico are also included. 

Personal observations and reports received indicate that in Ore- 
gon, Washington, and California the bandtail either has shown a 
definite decrease or its numbers are static. In California the sum- 
mer population seems to be increasing, but the winter population 
is no more than holding its own. In Arizona, Utah, and New Mex- 
ico the species appears to be slightly on the increase. In Colo- 
rado it seems that the population may be dropping back slightly 
from a moderate high reached two or three seasons back. In Tex- 
as the evidence indicates that the birds have not increased in the 
past 25 years and are barely holding their own. 

On California largely depends the future of the band-tailed pi- 
geon, as the bulk of the population spends the winter in that State. 
Owing to the response of the birds to an abundance of food, con- 
ditions may arise permitting excessive slaughter. Recognition 
should be made of this fact in designating bag limits, seasons, and 
shooting areas. 

Adult bandtails weighed during this study ranged from 10.3 to 
15.5 ounces. In length, the bird averages about 15 inches. 

Within the United States the nesting season varies with the 
climate of the district inhabited, and in the 8 States where nest- 
ing is now known to occur specific records cover every month from 
March through October. There was no authentic nesting record 
for Colorado until 1945, when two nests were discovered. Nesting 
locations vary almost as widely as does the forest cover within the 
range. The nest is typical of the frail nests of all members of the 



70 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

dove and pigeon group. 

Normally only one egg is laid. Incubation is said to be 14 to 18 
days. For 20 days after hatching, the adults carefully brooded 
the squabs under observation in Colorado in 1945. The male came 
to the nest about 9 a. m. and cared for the squab until between 4 
and 5 p. m., when the female returned and cared for the youngster 
until the next morning. When the squab was 20 days old both par- 
ents ceased brooding, and thenceforth each came to the nest only 
once daily to feed the young bird. 

At 17 days of age the nestling weighed 4.9 ounces, and its middle 
tail feathers measured only 28 mm. ; at 26 days of age it weighed 
8.5 ounces and the tail measured 75 mm. as compared with the av- 
erage 140 mm. of the adult bird. The squab left the nest between 
its 28th and 30th days. 

Discussion of food habits and economic status covers testimony 
obtained from numerous field observers as well as the results of 
the laboratory examination of 691 stomachs and /or crops. Of the 
stomachs and /or crops examined 639 contained sufficient food to 
serve in computations of the diet. 

Mast (largely acorns and pine nuts) furnished the largest single 
element of the food of the bandtail ; it was present in 268 of the 
specimens studied and averaged 50.1 percent of the total food. 
So important is mast to the welfare of the bandtail that it deter- 
mines not only the bird's route of migration and wintering 
grounds, but indirectly the nature and extent of the damage these 
birds inflict on crops. 

The birds' fondness for cultivated cherries and prunes was in- 
dicated by the presence of these fruits in 98 of the birds exam- 
ined, comprising 11 percent of the diet. Other related fruits ob- 
tained from wild sources (blackberries, strawberries, serviceber- 
ries, and berries of toyon and hawthorn) increased the percentage 
of food referable to the family Rosaceae to 13.6. 

Cultivated grains (wheat, oats, and barley) comprised 12.8 per- 
cent of the food, and their consumption reflects the bird's ability 
to adapt itself to the changing conditions of agriculture. A liking 
for cultivated peas, which composed nearly 5 percent of the food, 
is the basis for local concentration of the birds and at times the 
cause of damage. 

Other items of vegetable origin acceptable to the bandtails are 
huckleberries, fruits of salal and other members of the heath fam- 
ily (Ericaceae), elderberries (Caprifoliaceae), and fruits of dog- 
wood (Cornaceae) and cascara and other kinds of Rhamnaceae. 

The animal food ingested by the adult bandtail appears to be 
taken accidentally ; it comprises less than one-fourth of one per- 
cent of the total food. No nestlings were examined, but juveniles 
that had left the nest showed food preferences similar to those of 
the adults. 

Establishment of isolated farms in otherwise primitive areas 
invites the possibility of damage by pigeons as well as other wild 
creatures and should be discouraged. Farmers now located in areas 
where pigeons cause damage to crops can adequately protect their 
crops by diligently following procedures recommended. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 71 

As the reproductive potential of the bandtail is low (in some 
parts of its range only one clutch is laid and this normally is com- 
posed of one egg) , it cannot withstand severe drains on its num- 
bers. For that reason demands for more liberalized shooting 
should be carefully scrutinized. 

Management of the bandtail must be built on the premise of 
safeguarding the species from threatened decimation, yet there 
should be recognition of the fact that severe crop damage may be 
inflicted and effective remedial measures must be available. 

Looking toward a long-time program of management, the basic 
population must be carefully watched and undue decimation 
through hunting prevented. Those accepted principles of forestry 
that will prevent forest destruction, and that will preserve the 
oaks and pines, and the wild fruits and berries that supplement 
mast as a food, will be advantageous to the band-tailed pigeon. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Abbott, Clinton Gitbekt. 
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121-123, 

Alcorn, J. Ray. 

1941. New and additional Nevada bird records. Condor 4.S : nS-n9. 
Batley, Florence MERKiA^r. 

1902. Handbook of birds of the western United States. 511 pp., 

illus. Boston. 
1923. Birds recorded from tlie Santa Rita Mountains in southern 

Arizona. Pacific Coast Avifauna 15, 60 pp., illus. 
1928. Birds of Now :\rexic(). S(»T pj... illus. Santa Fc, N. Mcx. 
Barnes, E. P. 

1916. Band-tailed pigeons alleged destruction of grain. Calif. 
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Bartol, Mary. 

1940. High, wild. :iiid b:iiidso;no. Outdoor TJfe S.". (4) : 2i;-2T. 107-10:>. 
Bejlding, Lym.w. 

1879. A partial list of the birds of central California. U. S. Nat. 

Mus. Proc. 1: 388-499. 
1890. Land birds of the Pacific district. Calif. Acad. S'ci. Occas. 
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Bendire, Charles Kmii.. 

1892. Life histories of North American birds with special reference 
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Benson, Seth Bertkam. 

1935. Biological reconnaissance, Navajo Mountains, Utah. Univ. Calif. 
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Bent, Arthur Cleveland. 

1932. Lffe histories of North American gallinaceous birds. U. S. Nat. 

Mus. Bull, 162, 490 pp., illus. 

Bergtold, Willl\m Hai:i:y. 

1912. October birds of the Gila River, New Mexico. Auk 29: 331. 
1928. A guide to the birds of Colorado. 207 pp., illus. Denver. 
Brooks, Allan Cyhh,. and Swarth. Harry Sciiklwaldt. 

1925. A distributional list of the birds of British Columbia. 
Pacific Coast Avifauna 17, l.^S pp., illus. 
Burtch, I.ewts. 

1930. Wild pigeons — Kern County, California. Calif. Dept. Agr. 
Monthly Bull. 1!) {'^) : 37r)-.376. 



72 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDIJFE SERVICE 

Chambers, Willik Lice. 

1912. Who will save the band-tailed pigeon? Condor 14: 108. 
Cooper, James Graham. 

1880. On the migration and nesting habits of West Coast birds 
U. S. Nat. Mus. Proc. 2: 241-251. 
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1941. Indigo bunting and band-tailed pigeon in Utah. Candor 4?.: iLlii. 
Davis, John M. 

1938. Nesting dates in Humboldt Bay region. Condor 40: 182-183 
Dawson, William Leon. 
19l'3. The birds of Talifornia. Student's ed. 3 vols.. 2.V2\ pp. 
illus. Los Angeles. 
Dean, W. F. 

19 04. A few notes on bird life at Three Rivers, Tulare County, 
California. Condor 6: 110-111. 
Derby, Willia:^! V. 

1920. Band-tailed pigeon nests in Sequoia National Forest. 
Calif. Fish and Game 6: 182. 
Evermann, Barton Warfex. 

18 86. A list of the birds observed in Ventura Countv, California 
Auk 3: 86-94. 
Fisher. Albert Kendihck. 

1893. Birds of the Death Valley expedition North Amer. Fauna 7 
158 pp. 

Fowler, Frederick Hall. 

1903. Stray notes from southern Arizona. Condor 5: 68, 71. 
GabbiEiLSON, Ii!a Noel, and .Tewett, Stanley Gokdon. 

1940. Birds of Oregon. 650 pp., illus. Portland, Oreg. 
Oilman, Marshall I'rench. 

1903. More about rlio l)and-tailed pigeon (CohiDiba fasciatd). 
Condor 5: 134-135. 

GRINNE3X, Joseph. 

189.^. Birds of the Pacitic slope of Los Angeles Countv. Pasadena 

Acad. Sci. Pub. 2, 52 pp. 
1905. Siummer birds of .Mount Pinos, California. Auk 22: 378-391. 

1913. The outlook on conserving the band-tailed pigeon as a game 

bird of California. Condor 15: 25-40. 
1915. A distributional list of the birds of California. Pacific 

Coast Avifauna 11, 217 pp. 
1928. September nesting of the band-tailed pigeon. Condor 30: 126. 

Bryant. Harold rHir.ii: and Stoker, Tracy Trwtn. 

1918. The game birds of California. 642 pp. Berkeley. 

DixoN. Joseph Scattergood : and Ltnsdale. .Tean Myron. 



1930. Vertebrate natural history of a section of northern California 

through the Lassen Peak region. Univ. Calif. Pub. Zool. 35. 
594 pp. illus. Berkeley. 

and Stoi!et!. Ti;a( y Irwin. 



1924. Animal life in the Yosemite . . . 741 pp., illus. Berkeley. 



and Wythe. Margaret Wii.helmtna. 



1927. Directory to the bird life of the San Francisco Bay region. 
Pacific Coast Avifauna 18, 160 pp., illus. 

Hagen stein, Walter M. 
1936. Late nesting of the band-tailed pigeoiL Murrelet 17: 21-22. 

Henshaw, Henry Wetherbee. 

1886. Birds of the Upper Pecos River, New Mexico. Auk 3: 80. 

HuEY, Lawrence Maijkham. 

1913. With the band-tailed pigeon in San Diego County. Condor 15: 
151-153. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 73 

HrxTER, Joseph Si.ayton. 

1936. Kill of game in State is compiled (1934-35 fiscal year). 

Calif. Conserv. 1 (8): 3. 

1937. Kill of game in State is compiled (1935-36 fiscal year). 

Calif. Conserv. 2 (8): 20. 

Jewett, Stanley Goi don. 

1941. Late nesting of the band-tailed pigeon. Condor 43: 78. 

and Gabrielson, Ira Xuel. 

1929. Bii'ds of tlie I'ortland, Oregon, area. Pacific Coast Avifaima 19, 
55 pp., illus. 

Johnson, O. B. 

1880. List of the birds of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Amer. Nat. 
July, pp. 638-639. 

Kloppenbukg, H. a. 

1922. Band-tailed pigeons abundant in Plumas National Forest. Calif. 
Fish and Game 8: 57. 

Kobbe, William HoFFirAN. 

1900. The birds of Cape Disappointment, Washington. Auk 17: 349-358 

LiGON, James Stokely. 

1927. Wildlife of New Mexico: its conservation and management. 
212 pp., illus. Santa Fe. 

McAtee, Waldo Lek. 

1932. The need for studies in bird control in California. Calif. 
Dept. Agr. Monthly Bull. (4-5-6) : 269-280. 
McLean, Donald Dudley. 

1925. A western goshawk scatters Yo.semite's band-tailed pigeon colony. 
Yosemite Nature Notes 4: 103. 

MicHAEX, Charles Wilson. 

192 8. Nesting time of band-tailed pigeons in Yosemite Valley. 
Condor 30: 127. 

Miller, Robert CiTNNiNGHA^r : Lumley, Elt,.swoi;th L. ; and IIai.i . V. S. 
1935 Birds of the &a.n Juan Islands, Washington. Murrelet 16 (3): 
51-65. 

MoEiVN, Nathan. 

1919. Nesting of the band-tailed pigeon. Calif. Fish and Game 5: 160. 

MUNRO, James Aiexandei;. 

1922. The band-tailed pigeon in British Columbia. Canadian Field-Nat. 

36: 1-4. 
1924. Miscellaneous bird notes from Vancouver Island, 1923. 
Canadian Field-Nat. 38: 149-150. 
Nice, Margaret IMorse. and Nice. Leonard Bi aine. 

1924. The birds of Oklahoma. Univ. Oklahoma Bull., new series 28, 
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NiEDRACH, Robert J., and Ro( kwlll. Ko'ikrt B. 

1929. Birds of Denver and Mountain Parks. Colo. Mus. Nat. Hist. 
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NOACK, H. It. 

1916. Band-tailed pigeons bred in captivity. Calif. Fish and Game 2: 
212. 

Obikhoi,se3{. Harry Chtk( h. 

1902. Some notes from west Texas. Auk 19: 300. 

Pearse. Tiiei';d. 

1935. Display of the band-tailed pigeon. Murrelet 16 (3): 71-72. 
1940. Precarious status of the band-tailed pigeon on Vancouver 
Island. Murrelet 21: 10-11. 

Presnall. Cltfkoim) Charles. 

1935. Birds of Zion National Park. Utah Acad. Sci. 12: 201. 

RIDGWAY. ItOBKRT. 

1916. The birds of North and Middle America. U. S. Nat. Mus. P.ull. 
50, part 7, pp. 288-291. 



74 NORTH AMERICAN FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

Shufeldt, Robert Wilson. 

1912. The band-tailed pigeon in North Dakota. Auk 29: 539-540. 

Stillhunter. 

1907. South coast shooting. IX: The band-tailed pigeon. Western 
Field 11: 200-202. 

Stillman, a. E. 

1928, Nesting of the band-tailed pigeon. Amer. Forests. May, 
pp. 267-268. 
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fauna 4, 70 pp. 
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Avifauna 10, 133 pp. 
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Memorial Mus. Bull. 41 (Biol. Ser. 10), 380 pp., illus. 
Ottawa. 
1934. Birds of Canada. Canada Dept. Mines, Nat. Mus. Bull. 72 (Biol. 
Ser. 19), 445 pp., illus. Ottawa. 
Taylor, Walter Petvn. 

19 24. The present status of the band-tailed pigeon on the Pacific 
coast. Calif. Fish and Game 10: 1-9. 

Van Denbukgh, John. 

1899. Notes on some birds of pianta Clara County, California. Amer. 
Philos. Soc. Proc. 38: 157-180. 

Van Rossem, Aurian Joseph. 

1914. Notes from the San Bernardino Mountains. Condor 16: 145-146. 

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1913. Some late nesting notes from the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona. 

Condor 15: 41. 
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WiLLET, George. 

1933. A revised list of the birds of southwestern California. Pacific 
Coast Avifauna 21, 204 pp. 



THE BAND-TAILED PIGEON 



75 



INDEX 



Abundance, early day, 2. 

present status. 33. 
Acetylene flash gun, 48, 49. 
Agricultural relationships, 3, 37-45. 

Beliavior, 6. 

calls, 5. 

courtship, 5. 

flight, 6. 

flocking. 6. 

perching, 6. 
Berries as food, 38-43, 51-53, 55-63. 

Calls, 5. 

Care of young, 13-15. 
ColuDiba fasciata fasciata, 1. 
Communal nesting, 11, 12. 
Control of Damage, 45-50. 

by acetylene flash gun, 48. 49. 

by flash bombs, 49. 

by paper streamers, 48. 

by shooting, 45-47. 

by signal flares, 49. 

by tree covers. 48, 49. 

permits for, 3, 49, 50. 

proper timing, 47. 
Cooper's hawk, 17. 
Courtship, 5. 

Decoys, use of, 33. 
Depredations, clierries, 3, 38-43. 

grains, 3.S, 43-45. 

grapes. 42. 

prunes, 42. 

walnuts, 45. 
Description, adult, 4. 

nestling, 5. 
Development, feather. 15. 
Disease, 17. 
Distribution, general, 17. 

map, 18. 

summer, 18. 

winter, 24. 

Eggs, 12. 

description, 12. 

discovery, 2. 

number, 6, 12. 

size, 12. 
Enemies, 17. 

Falcon, prairie, 17. 
faftciata fasciata. Cohimba, 1. 
Feather development. 15. 
Feeding mannerisms, 6.S. 
Flash bombs, 49. 
Flight, 6. 
Flocking, 6. 
Food, autumn, 65. 

berries, 38-i3. 51-53. 55-68. 

general, 51-71. 

grains, 43-45, 51-53, 55-58, 63-68. 

insect, 53, 63. 

mast, 37, 38-43, 51-53. 55-59, 63-6'S, 

quantity taken, 68, 69. 

seasonal preferences, 63. 



spring, 64. 
summer. 64. 
winter, 63. 

Grains as food, 43-45, 51-53, 55-58, 

63-68. 
Gravel, use of, 68. 
Growth of young, 13-15. 

Hawk, Cooper's, 17. 

goshawk, 17. 

prairie falcon. 17. 

sharp-shinned, 17. 
Hunting. 2. 30, 31, 32. 33. 

bag limit, 3. 

effects of, 2, 31, 32. 33. 

practices, 2. 3, 30-33. 

season trends, 34, 36. 

seasons, 3, 30. 

wastage in, 31-33. 

Incubation period, 12. 
Kill, records of, 31-33. 
Location of nests, 9. 

Management, 36. 

tire prevention. 37. 

increasing food supply. 37, 49. 

reforestation. 37. 

stringent protection. 37. 

wilderness maintenance, 37. 
Mast as food. 37-43, 51-53, 55-.59, 

63-68. 
Measurements. 4, 5. 
Migi'ation, autumn, 27. 

routes of, 29. 

spring, 26. 
IMolts, 5. 

Nesting, 6-12. 

seasons, 6-7. 
Nest location, 9. 

structure, 9-10. 

Paper streamers, 48. 
Parasites, internal, 17. 
Perching, 6. 

Permits for control, 3, 49, 50. 
Pigeon, band-tailed, 1. 

discovery of, 2. 

blue. 1. 

blue rock, 1. 

historv, 2. 

milk. 13, 16. 

wild, 1. 
Plumages, adult, 4. 

nestling, 5. 
Prairie falcon, 17. 
Predators, 17. 
Protection, 3, 30, 36. 

Quantity of food taken. 68. 69. 

Range, summer, 18. 

winter. 24. 
Records, banding, 29. 



76 NORTH AMFHICAX FAUNA 58, FISH AND WILDIJFK SEHVICF 



Knutes of mifiratioii, 29. 
Salt, use of, ~>-i. 
Season of nesting. H-T. 
Sharp-shinned hawlc. 17. 
Shooting, control by. 4'i- 
Signal flares. 49. 
Squirrel, gray. IT. 
Streamers, paper, 48. 
Structure of nests. 9. 10. 

Tree covers. 48. 49. 

T'se of decoys, ,')3. 
gravel. 68. 



salt. .->4. 
Value as game. 29. 

Weights, 4. 1,~). 
Western goshawk. 17. 

Young, 13-lG. 

activity of. 1.". 
brooding of, 15. 
care of, I.S-Ki. 
feather growth. 15. 
food of. 13. 
growth of. 13-16. 
we:'ght of. 4, 15. 



* U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1947-695766 



OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE LIBRARY ^^^^^ 

' ''Va°bftl food, and economic st/Neff John 




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