The hill pigeon is a stout bodied pigeon, very similar in size and general appearance to the rock pigeon, but mainly differentiated by its tail pattern which consist of a broad white tail-band across the black tail. Other differences include a paler mantle and upper wings and a white patch on the back. In flight, the tail pattern is similar to the snow pigeon, but lacks the contrast between the head and neck in that species.
Taxonomy and systematics
Two races are recognized:
- turkestanica, described by Buturlin, is found in the western range of distribution
- rupestris, described by Pallas, is found in the eastern range of distribution
Distribution and status
It is found in China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. This pigeon is comparatively restricted in range of Pakistan to the furthest northern inner valleys of the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Pamirs. In Pakistan it occurs in northern Chitral particularly in the western part bordering Nuristan in Afghanistan, further east in valleys of Gilgit in Yasin and Hunza and Karakoram ranges in Baltistan from about 2000 meters in winter up to 5500 meters during summer months. Though the overall population is decreasing, since the rate of decrease is not alarming and the bird is widely distributed and abundant, it is classified as "Least Concern" by IUCN.
Behaviour and ecology
This species frequents open rugged country from 1,500 to 6,100 meters. Closely related to the rock pigeon but more commonly found at higher altitudes. A gregarious species throughout the year, they feed in flocks in the terraced cultivated fields. They often mix with flocks of rock pigeons. They are very tame and are often found near human settlements, camps and pilgrimage routes.
In Tajikistan it has been recorded as starting to nest as early as February with many young just fledging as late as September in northeastern Tibet. The males have a bowing display similar to that of the rock pigeon and nothing distinctive seems to have been recorded elsewhere about the display of this pigeon which suggests that display and courtship is similar. They nest in dense colonies on cliffs, gorges and rocky outcrops. In Tibet, the nests are often placed houses, both inhabited and empty or in holes in the wall. Nest consists of a platform of twigs or plant stem in which generally two eggs are laid. They may raise two brood in a year.
Their feeding habits are similar to rock pigeons, being mainly granivorous, supplementing their diet with green shoot and leaves and occasionally small mollusks such as and snails. On some occasions, they become very opportunistic, feeding on leftover food, partially digested food from kiang dung and even undigested food from stomach of kiang carcass which are ripped open by other predators.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Columba rupestris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Gibbs, David; Eustace Barnes; John Cox. Pigeons and Doves: A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. United Kingdom: Pica Press. p. 624. ISBN 1-873403-60-7.
- Rasmussen PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 205.
- Baker, ECS (1928). Fauna of British India. Birds 5 (2 ed.). Taylor and Francis, London. pp. 222–223.
- Francis M., Clement (2005). "Birds of Ladakh". Indian Birds 1 (5): 109–114.