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White-crowned Pigeon

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Is the White-crowned Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Baldpate, White-headed Dove

Scientific name: Patagioenas leucocephala

The basics:
A fruit-eater rather than a seed-eater, the handsome White-crowned Pigeon is more challenging to feed than many dove species and is unlikely to be the right choice for a beginner.

A small part of the White-crowned Pigeon's range falls within the United States, so this species is protected by law there as a native bird. You will need to check with your local wildlife authorities to find out what permits you will need to be allowed to hold this pigeon.

The scientific name for the White-crowned Pigeon was fairly recently changed from Columba leucocephala, so you can find a great deal of information about this species under the old name. In short, it's an arboreal fruit-eating dove of the mangrove forests of many Caribbean islands, the Florida Keys and southern Florida, and Mexico and Central America According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the White-crown should be considered a near-threatened species because the lowland mangrove forest is under pressure from human development. The Bahamas National Trust reported in 2010 that the biggest threat to the remaining population was illegal hunting.

Appearance:
As the name suggests, the White-crowned Pigeon is a gray pigeon that stands out because of the snow white crown on the adult bird's head. The crown is large enough to include the striking white eyes

Weight:
150 - 300 grams (5.3 - 10.6 oz.)

Average size:
29 - 35 centimeters (11.5 - 14 in.)

Lifespan:
12 - 14 years

Behavior / temperament:
White-crowned Pigeons may be gentle toward their human keepers, but they have reportedly killed other doves placed in their aviaries, so respect their territorial instincts and provide each pair with its own flight.

Housing:
Like most other exotic doves, White-crowned Pigeons become territorial in breeding season and could attack or even kill other doves on the territory. Therefore you should plan on keeping only one pair to a pen or aviary. These fruit-eaters exercise by flying and also enjoy a more arboreal lifestyle than the ground-foraging doves, so you may need to supply a surprisingly large flight. They are not appropriate cage-birds.

Diet:
Experience with the commonly held pigeons might mislead you when feeding the White-crowned pigeon. The overwhelming majority of the diet is fruit, not seed, and the birds may rely on a surprisingly large variety of fruit indeed. In the Bahamas, the species reportedly consumes at least 50 different species of wild fruit. However, successful breeder John Pire did provide a seed mix, in addition to a homemade softbill mix which included mixed vegetables, chopped fruit, and a dog pellet that included added cheese. Like all pigeons, they also demand clean grit and water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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