Who's that flapping wings in the trees? Let's get in for a closer look. Ah! It is the white-crowned pigeon stretching to reach its favorite fruit. Its slate-gray plumage and white cap easily identify it, so it got the name the white-crowned pigeon. Let's explore below some facts about them.
The white-crowned pigeon is a Near Threatened Caribbean species found primarily in coastal mangroves of restricted range in extreme southern Florida. The species is monotypic and breeds in several islands. They are also an important game species throughout their range. Although changes have been made to hunting regulations, their main threats are illegal hunting, loss of breeding, and feeding habitat throughout their range.
A white-crowned pigeon may not be confused with a white pigeon. The white pigeon (release dove) is commonly bred for release events and is rare in the wild. So, if you find a white pigeon, bring them home, and they can be a good pet.
These birds from North America belong to bird species in the genus Patagioenas of the class Aves.
As of 2019, the population of the white-crowned pigeon throughout the globe is estimated at 550,000 breeding individuals. However, their population is suspected to be declining due to introduced predators, massive over-hunting, and habitat loss.
White-crowned pigeons are considered resident breeders in the Caribbean islands. Within this region, these birds are distributed throughout the West Indies, South Florida, along the Caribbean coast of Central America, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Florida Keys. They also nest and breed in smaller numbers in other Caribbean islands like the Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.
In the United States, they are found nesting only in Florida.
Their preferred habitats include nest colonies in low-lying, coastal, mangrove forests or semi-deciduous woods. These tidally inundated mangrove islands provide protected habitats from predators.
The white-crowned pigeon is often seen in pairs or small flocks in their habitat. It lives and breeds in nest colonies. The birds flock together in small and large groups. A group of pigeons has many names, including a school, band, or a passel.
The lifespan of these birds is around 14 years.
The bird's breeding season starts between May and September, depending on food availability. For breeding, both males and females build a nest made of twigs in low-lying coastal habitats within mangroves. Then, the female lays one or two white eggs. Both parents carry out incubation for 18 to 20 days and feed the young a diet of crop milk, which is rich in fat and protein, for several weeks.
The IUCN evaluated the conservation status of these birds as Near Threatened. The Florida population is estimated at 7,500 pairs and considered vulnerable because of continuing habitat loss on the Florida Keys. In addition, their numbers are declining on many islands in the Caribbean, owing to overhunting and habitat degradation.
The white-crowned pigeon is a distinct bird entirely dark gray with a contrasting white cap, red legs, and a pink bill with a long tail. Their distinct crown patch varies from a more bright white in males to a more grayish-white in females. Juveniles can have a grayish-brown color, white iris, and a pale-tipped red bill. In addition, they have iridescent green-scaled nape, which is notably seen in good lighting.
These birds look cute with iridescent emerald neck feathers illuminating in a beam of light. They are also known for their high intelligence in the bird species.
These species would communicate with their mates and other pigeons through different behaviors like preening, billing, and slow, repetitive sounds like 'woop-woop, woooop'.
The white-crowned pigeon can measure up to 11 - 14 in (29 - 35 cm) in length with a wingspan of 19 - 23 in (48 - 59 cm). Thus, these North American bird species are about the size or a little bigger than the common urban pigeons or doves.
These North American birds are excellent fliers due to the lift provided by their strong wings. These North American species exhibit great speed in their daily flight between nesting and foraging habitats.
An adult white-crowned pigeon weighs about 5.3 - 10.6 oz (150 - 301 gm).
A female white-crowned pigeon is called a hen, and the male white-crowned pigeon is called a cock.
The baby white-crowned pigeons are called squabs until they are unfledged. Then, they are ready to take their first flight by five weeks of age and will be almost as big as a fully grown pigeon, at this stage they ar called fledgling or squeakers.
White-crowned pigeons eat mainly seeds, berries, and the fruits of a great variety from the poisonwood, strangler fig, short-leaf fig, and blolly trees of the Caribbean region. They also migrate to different islands in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys based on food availability. However, It has been documented that the adult pigeons from North America will feed land snails to their juveniles during a shortage of food. They usually nest and forage in the treetops in small groups and rarely descend to the ground for food.
The white-crowned pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) is not poisonous. But in Florida, these bird species readily eat the dull yellow, clustered fruits of the Poisonwood (Metopium toxiferum) tree with no ill effects. Unfortunately, this native plant of south Florida, also known as Florida poison trees or hog gum, causes severe human dermatitis.
They cannot be petted at homes like urban doves as their conservation status is threatened throughout its range, and they are at risk of becoming endangered without conservation action.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
The white-crowned pigeon is sometimes called the baldpate for its white head that suggests baldness.
In the 19th century, John James Audubon painted a watercolor painting of these birds, which he published in the description of his work called birds of America.
White-crowned pigeons are known to nesting up to four times in a single year; They have long nesting seasons in years when food is abundant.
These North American species need two distinct habitats, one for nesting and one for feeding. The daily fly between the two habitats is sometimes longer than 30 miles (50 km).
These birds call sounds loud, tremulous, and deep 'coo-cura-coo' or 'coo-croo'.
The white-crowned pigeon ( Patagioenas leucocephala) are not predators. They primarily feed on seeds and berries of the native trees in the Caribbean range and rarely eat insects or snails.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable White-Crowned Pigeon coloring pages.