Thursday, February 20, 2014

Band-tailed Pigeon in North Carolina

Over a month ago, a rarity showed up at a home near the waterfront in Manteo.  It was the third record for North Carolina.  I really wanted to see it as soon as I got word, but I have a little more difficulty convincing my parents to let my drive 6 hours round-trip to see a... pigeon.  Yep, this bird was a Band-tailed Pigeon, usually found only along the Pacific coast and the Southwest.  It looks pretty similar to the ubiquitous, non-native Rock Pigeon that infests nearly every city on earth- but the Band-tailed is a North American native.  It's also a more visually pleasing bird than it's Old World cousin, with subtle pastel hues of purple and green complemented by an orange bill. Over the weekend, my dad and I took a long day trip to bird Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.  Manteo was only an hour further East - and the pigeon was still there.

We pulled up to the house in Manteo at about 10 in the morning, to find two other birders looking at a bird feeder.  These two were a couple from West Virginia, and had driven in this morning (which also made our drive from Raleigh seem minuscule).  They had not yet seen the Pigeon, although an out-of-season Yellow-breasted Chat was scurrying around the yard.  The homeowners were apparently not home, so we chatted with the nice West Virginians as we waited for our target to show.  They showed me photos of a female Painted Bunting that had visited the feeder only a few minutes before I arrived.  The dreaded Painted Bunting is my (somewhat embarrassing) nemesis bird.  I can't tell you how many times I've been to a place "guaranteed" for PABU, only to find a bunch of titmice and cardinals.  And I had just missed another one.  Ugh.

Yellow-breasted Chat - common in summer, but unusual this time of year.
We remembered that most of the Band-tailed Pigeon reports mentioned a Live Oak, so I began thoroughly scanning all of the branches.  A large shape caught my eye, and I ran to around the other side of the tree to get a better view.  Band-tailed Pigeon.  Although partially obscured by branches, we could see it relatively well.  I waved everyone else over, and we all watched the bird preen for a half hour or so.  I got a few shots of the bird throught the branches - luckily the sun was shining right on him. 
Band-tailed Pigeon - my 275th bird in North Carolina.
I checked the feeder again for the Painted Bunting (no luck, of course), then my dad and I headed out.  We still had a long day ahead of us, visiting Pocosin Lakes and Pettigrew - but that story will have to wait until next time!