Breeding and Nesting Behavior and Habitat of the Red-billed Pigeon (Columbia flavirostris) Along the Rio Grande River in Texas




Breeden, Jeffrey B.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The Red-billed Pigeon (Columbaflavirostris) is a, declining species in Texas along the Rio Grande River. The main cause for decline in Texas is probably habitat loss due to agricultural and urban expansion. Whil~ once common throughout the lower Rio Grande River Valley, it is now restricted to a short section of the Rio Grande River immediately below Falcon Dam where mature riparian vegetation still exists. Little is known about the ecology of this species throughout its range. The purposes of this study were to address conservations strategies to prevent further decline of Red-billed Pigeons along the Rio Grande River, to determine the nesting cycle with corresponding breeding and nesting behavior, and to describe preferred habitat along the Rio Grande River. Courtship and pair formation behaviors were observed during the 2000 and 2001 breeding seasons. Behaviors and vocalizations observed were similar to behaviors described for other pigeon species. Twelve instances of nesting activity were observed during this study. The mean height of nests in trees was 6.72 m. The mean height of trees with nests was 10.48 m. Nests occurred in Texas sugarberry (Ce/tis laevigata), black willow (Salix nigra), Mexican ash (Fraxinus berlandieriana) and retama (Parkinsonia aculeata) trees. Nest construction was observed between the hours of0800 and 1145 and took three to four days to complete. Red-billed Pigeons on average delivered one twig to the nest every 6.83 minutes. The line intercept method was used to analyze the breeding habitat and compare areas with Red-billed Pigeons present or absent. The nested ANOV A test was used to test the comparisons. In understory trees below 9.5 m tall, the relative density (F = 15.01, p = 0.02) and relative frequency (F = 7.3 7, p = 0.05) of retama trees was significant in non-pigeon habitat than Red-billed Pigeon habitat. In overstory trees above 9.5 m tall, relative density (F = 40.66, p = 0.00), relative dominance (F = 19.60, p = 0.01), and relative frequency (F = 23.83, p = 0.01) of the Texas sugarberry/Mexican ash component were significant in Red-billed Pigeon habitat. Red-billed Pigeons prefer a breeding habitat that contains tall, mature riparian trees. The future of this species in Texas depends on the maintenance of this riparian vegetation.



pigeons, nests, habitat, behavior


Breeden, J. B. (2002). Breeding and nesting behavior and habitat of the red-billed pigeon (Columbia flavirostris) along the Rio Grande River in Texas (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI