In a Costa Rican garden: Red-billed Pigeon

Pigeons are not everyone’s favourite bird, but perhaps the Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flaviorostris) could turn a few heads. In San Antonio we no longer have the semi-domesticated Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), and the beautiful Red-billed Pigeon is generally the first species of pigeon or dove that a visitor will find.

Male Red-billed Pigeon at nearby Santa Rosa; photo by John Beer

The Red-billed Pigeon is relatively large, not much smaller than Europe’s Common Wood Pigeon. They tend to be rather shy but they commonly nest here in the garden and are seen and heard each day. They fly off with an audible flapping of their wings. Indeed, the scientific moniker Patagioenas, which makes the distinction from the Columba species, means ‘clattering’ in the original Greek.

White-winged Doves and Inca Doves, both of which are smaller and slender, are recent arrivals in our area. I still see them only occasionally here at home, while the highland-dwelling Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata), though reported at least once, can generally be discounted here in the village.

Look what I’ve got! Red-billed Pigeon with nesting material; photo by John Beer
And a few days earlier…

Except in nesting season several pairs can usually be found. The female of the species is just a little less colourful than the male:

Female Red-billed Pigeon with güitite berries, a food much favoured by most garden birds; photo by John Beer

The bill often appears almost white, especially when seen from afar:

Male Red-billed Pigeon on guard near the nest; photo by John Beer

This beautiful pigeon is considered to prefer drier habitat but is nonetheless found in most northern and central parts of the country. As you leave the Turrialba area towards the east and the south it is reported with much less frequency and seems to be replaced in lowland areas by the Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis). See my next post for the only other related species found regularly in my garden, the White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi).

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