About the size of a domestic pigeon, adult bandtails average just a little less than 8 ounces in weight, the females weighing about 0.8 ounces less than the males. Both sexes have an overall blue-gray appearance, and it is only after close inspection that one notices the male's rosier breast and more iridescence on the nape of the neck; otherwise, the sexes are similar. In autumn, adults can be differentiated from their young by the adult's chrome-yellow bills and feet, white crescent at the nape of the neck, and the dark gray band across the top of the tail that gives the bird its name.
Bandtails are birds of the mountains and usually nest in mixed conifer forests, ponderosa pine forests, or in dense stands of evergreen oaks and pines between 4,500 and 9,100 feet elevation. As migratory birds, bandtails are usually only present in Arizona from late March through mid-October. Breeding generally takes place sometime in May and may continue through the summer, with some birds nesting twice and even three times in some years. The normal clutch is one glossy white egg, or occasionally two, so that the species' reproductive potential is low. After feeding on acorns and other fall mast crops, most Arizona bandtails migrate southward to the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico to spend the winter months.
Hunting and Trapping History
Bandtail hunting has an erratic history in Arizona. After the season was closed in 1951 for a perceived lack of birds, interest in band-tailed pigeons waned until in the 1960s a series of studies were initiated in the "four-corner" states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. These studies included an experimental season, which opened in 1968, and continued through 1972. Hunt information showed a limited but dedicated interest in the band-tailed pigeon as a game bird with the maximum number of hunters and birds harvested being 1,067 hunters and 3,545 pigeons in 1970. The numbers of both pigeons and pigeon hunters has since fallen off with only 146 bandtails reportedly taken in 1996. Now it appears that band-tailed pigeon numbers may again be inching upward.