Hill pigeon

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The hill pigeon (Columba rupestris) belongs to the family of pigeons and doves, Columbidae. These pigeon species are distributed in India, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan.

These hill pigeon species inhabit open rugged high altitude ecosystems from 1,500 to 6,100 meters. There are two recognized subspecies.

Hill pigeon - Overview

  • Scientific name: Columba rupestris
  • Species author: Pallas, 1811
  • Synonyms: Columba Oenas d rupestris
  • Family: Columbidae › Columbiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Common Name: Hill pigeon
  • Other languages: Chinese: 岩鸽, French: Pigeon des rochers, German: Klippentaube, Spanish: Paloma rupestre, Russian: Скалистый голубь, Mongolian: Хадны тагтаа, Korean: 양비둘기, Turkish: Құз кептері
  • Other names: White-tailed rock-dove, eastern rock dove, Turkestan hill dove, Blue hill pigeon
  • Distribution: India, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan
  • Diet and feeding habits: grains, seeds, cereals, leaves, shoots, small snails, leftover food from human settlements
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The two recognized subspecies of hill pigeon are: C. r. turkestanica Buturlin, 1908 and C. r. rupestris Pallas, 1811. Columba rupestris is closely related to C. livia (rock dove) and C. leuconota (snow pigeon).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The hill pigeon is a medium-sized bird, measuring 30 to 35 cm in length. It is stout bodied with few visible differences between males and females. The hill pigeon is similar in appearance to rock pigeon, but the plumage on the upper mantle and wings is comparatively paler. There are two black bars on each wing. Across the black tail there is a broad white tail-band.

The iris is pale orange and a small operculum is present on the bill. There is no iridescence on the neck and not much contrast between the color of head and neck. The feet are pale pink. The bill is colored gray. There is a white patch on the back. The hill pigeon call is a quickly repeated, gurgling sound.
Birds of India - Hill pigeon, Columba rupestris
Birds of India - Hill pigeon - Columba rupestris

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The hill pigeon is distributed in India, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The pigeon subspecies C. r. rupestris is distributed in the eastern range of their occurrence. They occur in the mountainous region to the east of Lake Baikal in Russia, Mongolia, East Tibet, China and Korea.

The hill pigeon subspecies C. r. turkestanica is distributed in the western range of these birds. They occur in Russian Altai region, Turkestan region (an area in Central Asia between Siberia to the north and Tibet, India and Afghanistan to the south, the Caspian Sea to the west and Mongolia and the Gobi Desert to the east), Gilgit-Baltistan, western Tibet, Northwest India (Jammu and Kashmir valley and Ladakh) and North Himalayan slopes.

Ecosystem and habitat

These hill pigeon species inhabit high altitude ecosystems from 1,500 to 6,100 meters, comprising montane and alpine grasslands and shrublands, alpine tundra and open rugged country with cliffs and gorges.

Diet and feeding habits

The hill pigeon species are granivorous and their diet mostly consists of grains, wild seeds, cereals, shoots, tender leaves and small snails. They also feed on food leftovers from the human settlements. These pigeon species have been observed to feed on partially digested food from the dung of kiang (Tibetan wild ass).

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of hill pigeons is from February to September in much of their range, with a peak in April-July. They are colonial breeders and nest on cliffs, gorges, crags and rocky outcrops. The nest is a platform made of twigs and stems. The clutch usually contains two eggs.

Movement and migration patterns

These hill pigeon species are mostly sedentary and are residents in their range. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding. In winter, these pigeons move to lower altitudes.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the hill pigeon has not been quantified. The overall population size is considered to be declining, especially in Mongolia. These species have an extremely large range and population. These pigeon species do not approach the thresholds for population trend criterion and the population size criterion. Hence considered not "Vulnerable" to extinction.

The competition from expanding rock dove population is considered to be the main reason for the decrease in their population in Mongolia. There is also decline in these pigeon population of Kazakhstan. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these hill pigeon species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Columba rupestris
Species:C. rupestris
Binomial name:Columba rupestris
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hill_Pigeon,_near_Dras,_Jammu_and_Kashmir,_India.jpg
Image author: As kannan | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
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