Native Pigeons Thrive on Eld Inlet Preserve

Band-tailed Pigeon. Patagioenas fasciata  Photo by Bill Walker

Band-tailed Pigeon. Patagioenas fasciata
Photo by Bill Walker

During purchase arrangements for the newly acquired property at the sound end of Eld Inlet on Mud Bay, Capitol Land Trust staff learned of an unexpected bonus: mineral deposits that attract Band-tailed Pigeons.

Doves and pigeons are names use interchangeably. By name, when the Passenger Pigeon became extinct, Band-tailed Pigeons became the only pigeon native to the United States north of Florida. Those familiar city birds, Rock Pigeons, are smaller and hail originally from the cliffs of Europe and North Africa. The Band-tailed Pigeons seem to share this fondness for heights by perching in the tops of the tallest trees. A white stripe on the back of their neck and a banded tail provide good ways to recognize our native pigeon. It also sports bright yellow feet.

Like Passenger Pigeons used to do, Band-tailed Pigeons often gather in flocks, especially at mineral springs where they eat the salts. This makes them easy targets for shotgunners. Market hunting in the early 1900’s decimated their numbers, as did lax game laws even up to the 1980’s. Now hunting is strictly limited, and completely prohibited at this Capitol Land Trust preserve. But these birds aren’t out of the woods yet.

Band-tailed Pigeon tail feather showing the characteristic band. Photo by Chris Maynard

Band-tailed Pigeon tail feather showing the characteristic band. Photo by Chris Maynard

These pigeons rely on mixed conifer forests with a special fondness for fruits from cascara and elderberry. A more recent threat is the reduction in their forest habitat in the form of even stands of single-species commercial fir forests.

So, it is not really surprising to find them on lands managed by Capitol Land Trust. These complex habitats attract and sustain communities of plans and animals who find refuge from an increasingly humanized landscape.
By Chris Maynard
Chris Maynard works for the Washington Department of Ecology’s Water Resource Program, is a photographer, and has a passion for the natural world.

Reprinted with permission from Capitol Land Trust News, Issue 50, Fall 2010.

Many residents in the Griffin area have played host to the Band-Tailed Pigeon, on their property. Preservation of habitat such as that along Mud Bay is why the Griffin Neighborhood Association formed the Steamboat Conservation Partnership with the Capitol Land Trust. Your support of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership will leave a lasting, positive impact right here, in your own backyard. Click here to learn more about the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

“This is a terrific partnership,” wrote the editor of The Olympian, “that should serve as a model to other neighborhood groups interested in the preservation of sensitive lands.”

Posted in Nature Notes from the Steamboat Peninsula.