Red-billed Pigeon

Patagioenas flavirostris

  • Version: 2.0 — Published July 15, 2019
  • Peter E. Lowther, Jeff Breeden, and Jack C. Eitniear

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Red-billed Pigeon.
Red-billed Pigeon.

Adults are dark-grayish or bluish-gray pigeons with dull brownish-gray on mantle and scapulars; underparts light gray. Head, neck, and breast are vinaceous or dull reddish purple. Tail is dark slate gray to grayish black. Iris is orange to red, and eyelids red; bill is pale with red base; legs and feet dark red.

© Juan Miguel Artigas Azas , San Luis Potosí , Mexico , 6 April 2019

This dark, arboreal, fruit-eating pigeon serves as the “standard large, hot-country pigeon” of the lowlands and foothills of Mexico and Central America (1: 412). The distribution of this tropical pigeon extends from southern Costa Rica to northern Mexico, including a limited distribution in the United States (southern Texas), along the lower Rio Grande valley. This species' bill is bicolored—red on the base and cere, with a more noticeable yellowish tip, characters referenced in both its common (Red-billed) and scientific (flavirostris = “yellow bill”) names.

The life history of the Red-billed Pigeon remains poorly known, with the most extensive contributions being those of Alexander Skutch (2, 3, 4), who made observations of breeding individuals in Costa Rica; Eitniear and Aragon-Tapia (5), who documented nesting observations in northeastern Mexico; and Breeden (6), who made observations of breeding individuals in southern Texas. Much of this species' biology is similar to other pigeons, including courtship and nesting rituals. Red-billed pigeons usually lay a single-egg clutch. In the southern range it inhabits semiarid lowlands and into mountains up to 7,000 feet [2,130 m] (2). At its northern range in southern Texas, this species was primarily observed in riparian woodlands along the Rio Grande consisting of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), Mexican ash (Fraxinus berlandieriana), Texas sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), Texas ebony (Ebenopsis ebano), and black willow (Salix nigra) (6). The biology of the Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata; see Keppie and Braun [7]) provides a model of life history that approximates the behavior and breeding the Red-billed Pigeon. This species is sometimes sympatric with the Band-tailed Pigeon in northeastern and central Mexico, but the Red-billed Pigeon occurs at lower elevations and Band-tailed Pigeon generally inhabits dryer montane forests.

Recommended Citation

Lowther, P. E., J. Breeden, and J. C. Eitniear (2019). Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.