White-crowned Pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala)

White-crowned Pigeon


The white-crowned pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) is a fruit and seed-eating species of bird in the dove and pigeon family Columbidae. It is found primarily in the Caribbean.

Distribution And Habitat

The White-crowned Pigeon is a common to locally common breeding resident in The Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Antigua, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, San Andrés, and Providencia (Raffaele and others 1998). It is a common to fairly common resident in Vieques (Biaggi 1997, Gemmill 2015) and is also fairly common on Culebra and Mona (Ventosa-Febles and others 2005). The resident population on Puerto Rico is believed to be augmented in spring and summer by visiting White-crowned Pigeons from other islands, which also breed on the main and satellite islands (Raffaele 1989a). Wetmore (1916) found the White-crowned Pigeon in only a few localities on the north coast of Puerto Rico (e.g., Punta Picu, north of Mameyes) and suggested that the species was more abundant on the island in the 1870s as described by Gundlach (1878). The populations of White-crowned Pigeons were sufficiently abundant for detailed studies of nesting biology in Mona, Dorado, and Roosevelt Roads Naval Base during 1973–1975 by Wiley and Wiley (1979). Both Raffaele (1989b) and Oberle (2018) note that the pigeon is common in Dorado. During 1995–2008, the White-crowned Pigeon population increased from low numbers, possibly due to increased second- growth forests used for foraging and nesting (Rivera-Milán 1996, 2001). The species usually inhabits coastal woodlands and mangroves during the breeding season but can be found inland in the mountains when not breeding (Raffaele and others 1998). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 139 records within 88 hexagons or 18 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). In the 88 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 11 percent (10) of the hexagons, probable in 22 percent (19), and possible in 65 percent (57), while the species was observed in 2 percent (2) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Atlas results suggest that the pigeon may still be expanding its breeding range on Puerto Rico where it remains fairly local and common in southwestern, north-central, and eastern portions of the island.White-crowned Pigeon distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. 45White-crowned Pigeon/Paloma Cabeciblanca

White-crowned Pigeon Distribution

Breeding Habits

The White-crowned Pigeon generally nests in colonies and builds a fl imsy twig nest, usually in mangroves or dry scrub but also in trees around towns (Raffaele and others 1998). In Puerto Rico some birds breed in trees bordering a golf course (Wiley and Wiley 1979). Both sexes share the building of the nest and egg incubation; the male does most of the incubation during the day, while the female incubates mostly at night (Wiley and Wiley 1979). Previously published reports indicate that breeding occurs primarily from March to August but sometimes as late as September (Raffaele and others 1998, Wiley and Wiley 1979). However, breeding season may vary with location on the island, and breeding in the southwest is not always synchronized with breeding in the northeast portion of the island. Atlas results suggest that this species breeding season extends throughout the year with most breeding activity from April to June (see chart). The breeding activity peaks in May and mostly takes place within the subtropical moist forest life zone (see chart). Results show that this species breeds mostly in lowlands within the subtropical moist forest life zone (67 percent of the hexagons) (see table). It also breeds in the subtropical dry forest life zone (27 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The current population trend of the White-crowned Pigeon is described as decreasing (Butcher and Niven 2007). This species is currently listed as a near threatened species by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2016). In Puerto Rico, the White- crowned Pigeon is classified as data deficient (PRDNER 2016). A decline in abundance in counts during 2008– 2014 suggests that increased illegal hunting may have been a driver of the observed decline, although urban development and other threats could also have affected the islands population (Rivera-Milán and others 2016). In Puerto Rico, the White- crowned Pigeon has a protected habitat in land of 16.8 percent or 343 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (2031 km2).