Pale-capped pigeon

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Pale-capped pigeon
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Genus: Columba
Species: C. punicea
Binomial name
Columba punicea
(Tickell in Blyth, 1842)[2]

Alsocomus puniceus

The pale-capped pigeon (Columba punicea) also known as the purple wood pigeon is a species of large pigeon that is found patchily distributed in parts of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It has a slow flight and spends a lot of time sitting still in the foliage of large fruiting trees, often in riverine forest on the plains. It is mainly brown above and chestnut below with the a sheen of green or amethyst. Males have a whitish grey cap while females have a brownish grey cap and less gloss on the feathers. They are frugivores, foraging in small groups in the canopy of trees but sometimes descending to the ground for seeds and fallen fruit.


This large 36–40.5 cm-long pigeon is all-dark chestnut brown with a contrasting pale crown. The male has whitish-grey crown, purplish-maroon upperparts with faint green gloss on the neck; more strongly iridescent mantle and back; dark slate-coloured rump and uppertail-coverts; vinous-brown ear-coverts, throat and underparts[ slaty-grey undertail-coverts; and blackish tail and flight feathers. Females have a more brownish-grey crown. Juveniles initially have the crown colour matching the mantle, duller wing-coverts and scapulars with rufous fringes, a much reduced gloss on the upperparts and greyer underparts. The legs are crimson and iris is creamy-yellow in adults. The skin around the eyes and the ceres are magenta.[3][4][5]

Some taxonomists have grouped it along with Columba argentina which are both Old World pigeons that lack patterns on the back of the neck.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The pale-capped pigeon is very locally distributed across its broad range, which encompasses parts of northern and northeastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The type specimen was collected in Chaibasa, Singhbhum, India but relatively few records exist from Peninsular India.[3][4][7] Records of the species exist from Maharahtra,[8] Orissa, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh (Araku valley).[9][10][11] Observers considered it a seasonal visitor in Sri Lanka.[12] In some parts of Thailand, they are winter visitors and birds have been seen roosting in mangroves far from the mainland.[13][14]

They are found mainly on the forests of the plains. It frequents a wide variety of habitats from the lowlands up to 1,600 m, chiefly primary or secondary evergreen forest, but also open, deciduous dipterocarp forest, bamboo, and agricultural fields, particularly in close proximity to forest. Mangroves, small forested islands and other coastal habitats are probably only frequented in the non-breeding season. It is mainly frugivorous, although seeds and grain form important dietary components in some areas. Tickell noted that the birds were found in groups of 4 to 5, mainly on Eugenia trees near rivers. They ate the berries of these trees, foraging in the morning and evenings and resting during the heat of the day. Layard noted that they favoured Cinnamon trees.[7] It does not appear to have been common in most of its range.[15][16] It was said to be common on the island of Koh Mur or Pulau Muntia in western Thailand.[17] Recent records indicate that it now only occurs rarely and erratically within its range.[18][19][20][21]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

These pigeons fly about in small groups, foraging mainly in the morning and evening. They are said to have a low call similar to that of Ducula aenea but shorter and less prolonged. The breeding season is May to August and the flimsy platform nest is placed low down in a tree and one or rarely two eggs are laid.[5]

A species of helminth parasite, Cotugnia joyeuxi Baer, was first collected from this species from a Burmese specimen.[22]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Columba punicea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Blyth, E (1842). "Report of the Curator of the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal". J. Asiatic Soc. Bengal 11: 444–470. 
  3. ^ a b Blanford, WT (1898). Fauna of British India. Birds. Volume 4. Taylor and Francis, London. pp. 38–39. 
  4. ^ a b Baker, ECS (1913). Indian Pigeons and Doves. Witherby & Co, London. pp. 176–179. 
  5. ^ a b Ali, S and Ripley, SD (1981). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Oxford University Press. pp. 135–136. 
  6. ^ Johnston, RF (1962). "The Taxonomy of Pigeons" (PDF). Condor 64 (1): 69–74. doi:10.2307/1365442. JSTOR 1365442. 
  7. ^ a b Jerdon, TC (1864). The Birds of India. Volume 3. George Wyman and Co, Calcutta. pp. 462–463. 
  8. ^ Chitampalli,MB (1977). "Occurrence of and some observations on the Purple Wood Pigeon in Maharashtra (Bhandara District)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 74 (3): 527–528. 
  9. ^ Jayakar, SD (1967). "The Purple Wood Pigeon (Columba punicea, Blyth) and the Himalayan Tree Pie (Dendrocitta formosae Swinhoe) in Orissa". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 64 (1): 109. 
  10. ^ Mooney, HF (1934). "Occurrence of the Purple Wood-Pigeon Alsocomus puniceus (Tickell) in Singhbhum District, Bihar and Orissa". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 37 (3): 735. 
  11. ^ Kumar, T.S., Chandra, R. and Azeez, P.A. (2010). "The birds of Araku, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India" (PDF). Journal of Threatened Taxa 2 (1): 662–665. doi:10.11609/jott.o2108.662-5. 
  12. ^ Tennent, JE (1861). Sketches of the Natural History of Ceylon. Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, London. p. 258. ISBN 0-576-03352-9. 
  13. ^ Robinson HC and Kloss CB (1921). "The birds of South-west and Peninsular Siam". J. Nat. Hist. Soc. Siam 5 (1): 1–88. 
  14. ^ Salvadori, T (1893). Catalogue of the birds in the British Museum. Volume 21. British Museum. pp. 306–307. 
  15. ^ Kloss, C Boden (1918). "On Birds recently collected in Siam. Part I. Phasianidae-Eurylaemidae". Ibis 60 (1): 76–114. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1918.tb00772.x. 
  16. ^ Hume, AO (1880). "A second list of the birds of North-Eastern Cachar". Stray Feathers 9 (4): 241–259. 
  17. ^ Robinson HC (1916). "On a collection of birds from Pulau Langkawi and other islands on the North-West coast of the Malay Peninsula". Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums 7: 129–191. 
  18. ^ Collar NJ, A.V. Andreev, S. Chan, M.J. Crosby, S. Subramanya, J.A. Tobias (2001). Threatened Birds of Asia (PDF). BirdLife International. pp. 1536–1549. 
  19. ^ Riley JH (1938). "Birds from Siam and the Malay Peninsula in the United States National Museum collected by Drs. Hugh M Smith and William L. Abbott". Bulletin of the US National Museum 172 (172): 1–581. doi:10.5479/si.03629236.172.1. 
  20. ^ Oates, Eugene W (1882). "A list of the birds of Pegu". Stray Feathers 10 (4): 175–248. 
  21. ^ Armstrong, James (1876). "Notes on birds collected in the Eastern or Rangoon District of the Irrawaddy Delta". Stray Feathers 4 (4–6): 295–351. 
  22. ^ Meggitt, FJ (1931). "On Cestodes Collected in Burma. Part II". Parasitology 23 (2): 250–263. doi:10.1017/S0031182000013615.