The Pale-capped Pigeon (Columba punicea), a large dark purplish-maroon bird with a contrasting pale crown, has a wide but fragmented range in South and South-East Asia from Odisha (Orissa), Assam and north-east India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam to south China (where it has not been recorded for many years). Generally a primary or secondary evergreen forest dwelling frugivore of plains and foothills, it has been recorded as high as 1,600m and in habitats such as mangrove forest in Thailand and Vietnam (where it is now very rare), deciduous dipteropcarp forest, bamboo forest and agricultural land adjacent to forest. In the early 20th century it was apparently locally abundant, but recently records have been rather rare and erratic, possibly as a response to food availability. The population is estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2001, 2014), probably continuing to decline and consequently classified as Vulnerable.
Most recent Indian records are from Odisha where birds have been seen year-round in the Simlipal hills, a 2750 sq km tiger reserve in Mayurbhanj district. Indian Forestry Service officer Manoj Nair has reported the species extensively in the park (M. Nair in litt. 2012) with the highest count being a flock of 17 birds in the Upper Barakamura range. The birds pictured here were found in the Chahala area, and a group of 37 birds were counted at a salt lick in the Sal forest (Shorea robusta) that predominates in the area. It was thought that some birds had already left the lick and there were more birds still in the surrounding trees. It is believed that there were several individual groups that congregated in the vicinity at dawn and dusk.
I had earlier looked for this bird in several parts of Eastern Odisha (Bhubaneswar city and Satkosia Tiger Reserve) as well as Northeast India. Of late, the bird has been seasonally sighted in the Regional Plant Resources Centre (RPRC) campus in Bhubaneswar city.
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
The population of Pale-capped Pigeons is estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2001, 2014), probably continuing to decline and consequently classified as Vulnerable.