email a friend
printable version
Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This pigeon has a small population, which is inferred to be in decline owing to habitat destruction and hunting pressure. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

36-40.5 cm. Large, all-dark pigeon with contrasting pale crown. Male has whitish-grey crown, purplish-maroon upperparts with faint green gloss on 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, blackish tail and flight feathers. Red eye-ring and base of bill. Female has more greyish crown. Juvenile initially has crown colour as with mantle, duller wing-coverts and scapulars with rufous fringes, much reduced gloss on upperparts and greyer underparts.

Distribution and population
Columba punicea is locally distributed across its broad range, which encompasses parts of northern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (BirdLife International 2001). It appears to have been locally abundant in the early 20th century, but has declined markedly in many areas. Scattered recent records indicate that it now only occurs rarely and erratically throughout its range, although a roosting flock of 174 individuals was recorded at Don Mamuang, Thailand in 2002 (D. Wilson in litt. 2002). There are no recent records from China, where it was previously recorded on Hainan Island and in south-east Tibet, and it has occurred as a vagrant in Peninsular Malaysia. In Vietnam it is very rare and local with small numbers recently reported from mangrove forest at Mang Den/Kon Plong, Kontum Province in 2010 and near Ho Tram, approx 100 km south-east of Ho Chi Minh City, in 2011 (R. Craik in litt. 2012). However, large flocks were reported in the past from near Da Lat (C. Robson in litt. 2012) and it is regarded as uncommon but resident on some islands in Bai Tu Lam Bay (S. Mahood in litt. 2012). In India, it is a rare resident in Orissa and northeast India, with most recent records from the Similipal hills. Here birds have been encountered throughout the year with the highest count involving a flock of 17 birds in the Upper Barakamura range (M. Nair in litt. 2012).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number fewer than 10,000 individuals by BirdLife International (2001), based on available records and surveys. It is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Although this species's population trends are poorly known, it is suspected to be declining at a moderate rate, owing to the on-going conversion of habitat.

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. Recent records from deciduous dipterocarp forest in Cambodia indicate an association with riverine corridors of bamboo forest (J. Bird in litt. 2007). Some records also originate from small forested islands and other coastal habitats. It is mainly frugivorous, although seeds and grain form important dietary components in some areas. Its breeding range and seasonal movements are poorly understood, but in places it appears to be semi-nomadic, perhaps in response to food availability.

Its decline is poorly understood but is suspected to be the result of hunting and habitat loss and fragmentation owing to commercial logging, small-scale timber collection, and clearance of forests for plantation agriculture, cash-crops, charcoal production and shifting cultivation.

Conservation Actions Underway
Although it has been recorded from numerous protected areas, their contribution to its conservation is not known, especially given its seasonal and nomadic movements. Indeed, site-based conservation strategies are unlikely to be successful unless populations are able to follow seasonal patterns of fruit-ripening within secure protected sites. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further surveys, particularly in Myanmar, to clarify its current distribution, seasonal movements and population status. Conduct research into its ecological requirements and the relative effects of various threats operating across its range. Identify and protect, where appropriate, sites supporting key populations. Promote improved management and establish/increase buffer zones around protected areas supporting key populations. Enforce strict hunting controls within all protected areas and devise awareness campaigns to reduce pigeon hunting wherever this is possible.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Peet, N., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Allinson, T

Bird, J., Eames, J.C., Wilson, D., Mahood, S., Duckworth, W., Craik, R., Robson, C., Nair, M., Jayadevan, P.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Columba punicea. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Pale-capped pigeon (Columba punicea) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Columbidae (Pigeons, Doves)
Species name author Blyth, 1842
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 208,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species