Pale-capped pigeon -- 紫林鸽 (Columba punicea)

Pale-capped pigeon in flight
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Pale-capped pigeon fact file

Pale-capped pigeon description

GenusColumba (1)

A strong, swift flier (2), the pale-capped pigeon (Columba punicea) was once common throughout much of Southeast Asia, but is now in decline (3).

The plumage of the male pale-capped pigeon includes the pale grey crown that gives rise to this species’ common name. The upperparts are generally deep purplish-maroon, changing to a faint green on the neck. The wings and tail are largely blackish, and the underparts are light brown. The eyes and the base of the bill are ringed with vibrant red (3).

The female pale-capped pigeon is smaller than the male and, like the juvenile, is much duller. The plumage is browner all over, and the head is a much darker brown-grey (2).

Also known as
purple wood-pigeon.
Male length: 40.5 cm (2)
Female length: 36 cm (2)

Pale-capped pigeon biology

Foraging for food both in the trees and on the ground, the main component of the pale-capped pigeon’s diet is fruit found within the forest, such as figs and berries (4). Seeds and grain are also important (3), and it can be seen feeding in rice fields after the harvest (2). It has also been known to eat grit, which helps to grind up food in the stomach (4). The pale-capped pigeon is typically observed individually, or in very small flocks (2).

The pale-capped pigeon lays eggs between May and June in India and Myanmar, and a few months earlier in Laos and Vietnam (4). The nest is constructed in a small bush or tree, about two to three metres off the ground, and is made from twigs and sticks picked from the forest floor (2). Only a single egg is normally laid, occasionally there may be two (2). Both the male and female bird incubate the eggs (4).

Throughout much of its range, the pale-capped pigeon is thought to be seasonally nomadic, living in some regions for only part of the year before migrating elsewhere to breed (4). This could be due to the seasonal availability of food in different areas throughout the year (3).


Pale-capped pigeon range

The pale-capped pigeon occurs in scattered populations in Southeast Asia. Its range includes parts of northern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (3).

Historical records indicate that the pale capped pigeon was once also found in China, but there are no recent records of this species occurring there (3).


Pale-capped pigeon habitat

The pale-capped pigeon occurs in a large variety of habitats, from coastal lowland areas, to high mountainous regions at elevations of up to 1,600 metres above sea level (4).

It occurs mainly in primary and secondary evergreen forest (4), although it has also been seen in deciduous forest, bamboo and agricultural fields (3). It has been recorded close to rivers (5), in mangrove forest, and on small forested islands (3).


Pale-capped pigeon status

The pale-capped pigeon is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Pale-capped pigeon threats

As the pale-capped pigeon is a forest inhabitant, heavy deforestation has been a major factor in this species’ scarcity. Huge areas of forest have disappeared throughout its range, which has reduced and fragmented this species’ population. Threats to the habitat of the pale-capped pigeon include commercial and illegal logging, clearance for tea cultivation, encroachment of settlements into the forest, and fuel wood collection (4).

Another threat to the pale-capped pigeon is hunting by humans. In many of the countries in which the pale-capped pigeon occurs, pigeon hunting is a popular sport and part of a traditional way of life (4).


Pale-capped pigeon conservation

Some conservation measures are already in place to protect the pale-capped pigeon. It is protected by law in India and Myanmar, and it is known to occur in many reserves and conservation areas (4). However, due to the pale-capped pigeon’s nomadic habits, it is not known how well these reserves help to protect this species. It is likely that protected areas will only help to increase pale-capped pigeon numbers if populations are able to follow the seasonal ripening of fruit within these protected sites (3)

Further conservation measures for the pale-capped pigeon have been recommended, including protecting key sites where this species occurs, and improving management of exsting protected areas (3). Hunting bans also need to be enforced within protected sites, while education campaigns are needed to reduce hunting levels by highlighting the importance of the pale-capped pigeon (3) (4).


Find out more

Learn more about the pale-capped pigeon and other birds:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
A species which roams irregularly from place to place in search of food and water, without returning to a fixed location.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.


  1. IUCN Red List (November 2011)
  2. Stuart Parker, M.J. (1913) Indian Pigeons and Doves. Witherby and Co., London, UK.
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2011)
  4. BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the Birdlife International Red Data Book. Birdlife International, Cambridge, UK.
  5. Jerdon, T.C. (1864) The Birds of India, Vol III. George Wyman and Co., Calcutta.

Image credit

Pale-capped pigeon in flight  
Pale-capped pigeon in flight

© Hung Do Manh

Hung Do Manh


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