Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea


Justification of Red List Category
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.

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 and hunting pressure.

Distribution and population

Columba punicea is locally distributed across its broad range, which encompasses parts of northern IndiaBangladeshMyanmarThailandLaosCambodia 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 Mang Den/Kon Plong, Kontum Province in 2010 and from magrove forest at Ho Tram, approx 100 km south-east of Ho Chi Minh City, in 2011 (R. Craik in litt. 2012). However, large flocks (over 90 individuals) were reported in the past from near Da Lat Pleateau (C. Robson in litt. 2012, 2020), whilst regarded as uncommon but resident on some islands in Bai Tu Lam Bay (S. Mahood in litt. 2012), and seen across mangroves in the Red River Delta despite no previous breeding observations nearby (C. Robson in litt. 2020). In Cambodia most records come from southern Mondolkiri and an individuals site in Preah Vihear (Goes 2013). In India, it is a rare resident in Odisha 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). Since 2013 there have been multiple reports of this species in Ekamra Kanan, Bhubaneswar, and elsewhere in Odisha (Panda 2013, Sreenivasan 2014, P. M. Ukil in litt. 2016). Further observations have been made in Central to Western Myanmar as well as Southern Myanmar and Thailand (eBird 2020), however due to the varying dispersal of this species, the seasonal occurrences here are precautionarily considered to be non-breeding individuals.   


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 or overgrown cultivation, 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, mangrove swamps 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 it is considered to undergo local migrations (C. Robson in litt. 2020), and in places 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

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 Odisha, India; Myanmar; and areas where it is known to have occurred in reasonable numbers at certain times of year (e.g. Ho Tuyen Lam in December [C. Robson in litt. 2016]), 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.


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.


Text account compilers
Fernando, E.

Allinson, T, Benstead, P., Bird, J., Craik, R., Davidson, P., Duckworth, W., Eames, J.C., Jayadevan, P., Mahood, S., Nair, M., Peet, N., Robson, C., Singal, R., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Ukil, P., Westrip, J.R.S. & Wilson, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Columba punicea. Downloaded from on 09/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 09/12/2022.