Patient of the Week: Band-tailed Pigeon Returns to the Wild

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

During the last week of August, we received a young Band-tailed Pigeon from Amity, Oregon after a good Samaritan found them in the road near a large clear cut area. Their home had been destroyed.

Band-tailed Pigeons typically nest in coniferous or deciduous trees, building a messy platform of sticks to raise their young in. Not only does the dad help by bringing the mom nest making materials, but they both care for, incubate, and feed their babies. Like other doves and pigeons, they will produce something called “crop milk,” a secretion made in their esophagus that they feed to their nestlings. Although Band-tailed Pigeons have a long nesting season, sometimes raising up to 3 broods a year, each time they usually only have one baby, maybe two. This young pigeon was likely an only-child, and was being doted on by both parents before their home came crumbling down.

The young Band-tailed Pigeon standing in their small indoor enclosure.
The young Band-tailed Pigeon standing in their small indoor enclosure.

This big fledgling was in no shape to be on their own yet, and still needed parents for nutritional support and guidance. Once in our care, we were able to provide a specialized formula to mimic the “crop milk.” Pretty soon, the young bird was learning how to pick up seeds and fruit on their own! After growing a bit more indoors, we moved the pigeon to a larger outdoor enclosure, where they could begin to practice flying.

After several weeks in care, now old enough to fend for themselves, the juvenile Band-tailed Pigeon was released back to the wild! While we did our very best to ready them for a life out there, nothing compares to the knowledge a parent bird can pass on. My wish for this juvenile pigeon is to go on to raise their own young, and to live out a natural life. I know there are a lot of dangers they will face, but fingers crossed this was the last of their struggles caused by humans.

The Band-tailed Pigeon is common in forests along much of the Pacific Coast and in the mountains, where they move around nomadically in search of acorns, berries, or other wild food crops, as well as mineral sites. They are social birds, foraging in flocks of dozens to hundreds of individuals, and even nesting in small loose colonies. Their flocking behavior can help protect them from predators, which are usually hawks, falcons, or owls. They may also get predators at their nest site, when they don’t have the safety of numbers. In those cases, a parent can try to hold their ground, hissing, bristling their feathers, and even slapping the intruder with their strong wings.

The Band-tailed Pigeon’s name comes from the wide pale band across the tip of the tail feathers, which you can see well in flight. They are a large bodied bird, with a small head, a long rounded tail, and yellow beak and feet. They are mostly pastel gray, with darker wingtips, and sometimes a hint of pinkish/purplish in their underside feathers. My favorite part of their plumage is the white crescent on the back of their neck, which is accompanied by iridescent green feathers that look scaly. Young birds will lack this feature, but have light scalloping where it will eventually be.

Band-tailed Pigeons are basically vegetarian, eating mostly wild nuts, wild grain and seeds, cones, buds, flowers, fruit, young leaves, and the occasional cheat-day insect. Acorns are a major part of their diet when they’re available, and can be swallowed whole! They also feed on the ground, but they actually do much of their feeding up in tree tops, getting around with surprising agility, sometimes even going upside down to reach their desired foods.

Before Band-tailed Pigeons had any protection, their population numbers were severely depleted by overhunting. After laws were put into place, they made a fair comeback, but have been in decline for a while now – around a 60% loss since the 1960s. While these pigeons are still able to be hunted in Oregon, it is likely habitat loss that is reducing their numbers, and risking them becoming endangered. If you’d like to get involved in protecting the habitat of our regions wildlife, sign up to become an activist

What to Do If You Find an Injured, Ill, or Orphaned Animal

    • The best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. Do not offer food or water.


Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.


We’re building a new Wildlife Care Center and need your help! If you would like to help injured and orphaned wildlife, please consider joining our crowdfunding campaign and making a gift to make this new facility a reality. We’re doubling the square footage, adding a surgical suite, and making many more important changes to provide the best care for our patients. Learn more at ForPortlandBird Alliance of

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your support helps us save lives.