USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Evaluation of Satellite Telemetry Techniques for Migration and Distribution of Band-Tailed Pigeons

Composite photo montage of bandtailed pigeons
The Pacific Coast band-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata monilis) winters mainly in southern California and breeds throughout the mountains of California, Oregon, Washington, and in British Columbia. Band-tailed pigeons on the Pacific Coast regularly visit and congregate at mineral sites where they obtain salt. State wildlife biologists monitor populations of band-tail pigeons using counts of birds at mineral sites. Understanding the breeding distribution and migration strategies of band-tailed pigeons will help optimize this survey. Recent advances in the miniaturization of satellite transmitters may enable this novel approach to answer much needed questions regarding the movements of and habitats used by this bird. In this study, we are marking band-tailed pigeons in southern California with new lightweight solar-powered transmitters to evaluate their potential use in determining winter movements, spring and fall migrations, and breeding distribution. This project is supported by the Pacific Flyway Study Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service Webless Migratory Game Bird Research Program, Quail Unlimited, the California, Oregon, and Washington Fish and Wildlife agencies, and Canadian Wildlife Service. The Dixon Field Station of the U. S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center in Dixon, California has developed methodology to monitor population change in Pacific Coast band-tailed pigeons, studied breeding ecology of pigeons in northern California, and evaluated landscape characteristics associated with pigeon use of mineral sites.

Project Details

We are evaluating satellite telemetry as a method to study band-tailed pigeon movements, migration and breeding distribution. Satellite telemetry information will inform land-use managers on the potential effects of conservation and land-use decisions, inform state game agencies on the effectiveness of current survey methods, and provide information for game bird management. During the winter of 2006, we captured 5 band-tailed pigeons on bait or water using box traps and fitted them with a solar powered satellite transmitter on a backpack harness. We are now tracking their movements to evaluate the potential for satellite telemetry to identify breeding areas, migration routes and timing, and seasonal movements.


  1. Investigate the feasibility of using satellite telemetry to gain information on band-tailed pigeon migration, breeding distribution, and winter movements.
  2. Document both spring and autumn band-tailed pigeon migration strategies.

USGS Contact For This Project
Michael Casazza
(530) 669-5075
Dixon Field Station
800 Business Park Drive, Suite D
Dixon, CA 95620
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