From Figueroa Mountain, Unusual Band-Tailed Pigeon Behavior

As this is the first spring after the Zaca fire and I live on Figueroa Mountain near the fire zone, I have made a point of traveling the roads in and near the burn area along the backcountry, searching for new species of wildflowers. But it turned out something closer to home caught my attention.
Normally the only time we see the Band-Tailed Pigeon is in the fall, and then in large flocks. But quite suddenly they appeared in mid spring, a few native wild pigeons hanging around our property, landing in our yard, eating acorns. I believe this unusual, out of season behavior is because they’ve  lost their habitat within the burned area of Los Padres National Forest. We have never before seen them up here in spring.
The Band-Tailed Pigeon is 14 inches from beak to tail, with gray wings and back, a white band on nape, a yellow bill—with a black tip—and yellow feet. The immature pigeon is all gray; the feet and bill may vary from yellow to gray. You can see in this photo the white band on the bird’s tail feathers.
The Band-Tailed Pigeon feeds on the ground and in shrubs, eating nuts, berries, seeds and—especially in the fall and winter—acorns.
But it turns out these pigeons like the easy life: after they found our bird feeders, the effect was like a vacuum cleaner. One of my neighbors discovered that 50 pounds of birdseed lasts a very short time when these birds are feeding. All the other wild birds are pushed aside as the pigeon takes over the bird feeder.
The Band-Tailed Pigeon is relatively quiet, and its voice is low-pitched and owl-like.  At first I thought we had doves in the area, but it didn’t take me long to realize my mistake.
Out of breeding season these pigeons form flocks, with as many as 50 birds. We see them in flight, moving from oak trees, to pine trees and, in the case of this photo, settling in on a blooming yucca.
Eventually these pigeons will move on to the mountains of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia to breed.  Until that time we will watch them circle, be lazy and enjoy our hospitality.

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