Afep Pigeon: Breed Guide

The Afep Pigeon, also known by the names Gray Wood Pigeon and African Wood Pigeon, is a large forest pigeon found in Africa.

These pigeons have a very large range across the African equatorial forests. 

Origins of the Afep Pigeon

The Afep Pigeon (Columba unicincta) was originally described in 1860 by American ornithologist John Cassin

He named the species Columba unicincta. The name comes from the Latin word uni meaning “one” and cinctus meaning “banded”. 

Afep is the word “pigeon” in the Bulu language of Cameroon.  

Distribution & Habitat of the Afep Pigeon

The Afep Pigeon is a canopy species that is found in African tropical rainforest

The species has a huge range of approximately 6,070,000 km2 and can be found up to an elevation of 1,600 meters. 

By Tom Tarrant – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Afep Pigeons live in the primary and secondary tropical lowland and montane forests of Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’lvoire, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. 

However, their range is discontinuous and there are many isolated populations across those countries, particularly in Liberia, Ivory Coast, southern Ghana, northern Uganda, and northern Cameroon. 

There are also isolated populations to the south in Zambia and Angola.

The distribution of Afep Pigeons is more continuous in the Congo basin.  

These pigeons are primarily arboreal and prefer areas of thick canopy but when food is unavailable they can also be found on plantations and farmland. 

Closest Columbidae Relatives of the Afep Pigeon

The Afep Pigeon belongs to the Columba, or large bird, genus.

This genus comprises medium to large pigeons, mostly wood-pigeons. 

There are 35 species in the Columba genus.

The Afep Pigeon looks very similar to the Common Wood Pigeon, they have the same head shape and the same rounded body. 

Of the Columba species within the same geographic range as the Afep Pigeon, none are particularly similar except for when in flight: 

White-naped Pigeon (Columba albinucha) 

This species is found in western Cameroon, western Uganda, and Eastern DRC. Compared to the Afep Pigeon, the White-naped Pigeon has less uniform patterning, is darker overall and has a white nape.

Cameroon Olive Pigeon (Columba sjostedti) 

This species is found around the Cameroon – Nigeria border.

These birds are smaller than the Afep Pigeon and are darker with less uniform patterning and white spots on their maroon wings.

Western Bronze-Naped Pigeon (Columba iriditorques) 

The Western Bronze-Naped Pigeon is found from Ivory Coast to Uganda and looks similar to the Afep Pigeon when in flight.

However, the Afep Pigeon is considerably larger and the Western Bronze-Naped Pigeon has a dark gray appearance with an iridescent neck and a coppery mantle. 

Afep Pigeon Appearance

Afep Pigeons are compact but heavily built, they look similar to the Common Wood Pigeon.

The thick tail band and pale coloration helps to separate Afep Pigeons from other forest pigeons.

Their wings are dark slate color with blackish-gray primary feathers.

These pigeons have dark gray flanks and underwings with a lighter gray head and back. Their tail is black with a characteristic broad white/ gray band. 

Males have a strong pink flush across the breast while females have a reduced and slightly duller pink flush. Afep pigeons have red eyes and orbital rings. 

Juvenile Afep Pigeons looks slightly different, they are darker in color, more brown than gray, and are strongly barred.  

Afep PigeonUnknown 35-36cm356-490gGray with some white
Average Feral Pigeon64 – 72 cm32 – 37 cm300 – 500 g  Bluish gray with some black

Facts About The Afep Pigeon

  • Afep Pigeons are found in African tropical rainforest 
  • According to the IUCN Red List, the generation length of Afep Pigeons is 5.6 years

Afep Pigeon Conservation

The Afep Pigeon is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The global population size is unknown but the species is believed to be common within their range. 

However, it is thought the Afep Pigeon population could be in decline due to habitat loss. 

While there are no conservation measures in place specifically to protect the Afep Pigeon, there are conservation sites across the bird’s range and they occur in protected areas. 

Afep Pigeon Character

The Afep Pigeon call is usually 7-12 deep monotone coos, it is a slow call with each coo lasting around 1 second. 

These birds prefer to be in small groups, but they are occasionally seen in larger groups depending on food availability.


Afep Pigeons eat grains, seeds, and fruit. They have different preferred foods depending on where they live. 

In Gabon, the species is known to favor turkey berry (solanum torvum), coelocaryon, and musanga while in Zambia they favor fig trees and Sapium. 

Afep Pigeons have also been recorded eating termites although this doesn’t seem to be part of their standard diet.   

While these birds usually stay in the same area, they may move around due to food availability.

For example, Afep Pigeons are much rarer in Zambia between March – May while from August – November they are seen far more often.  

If food is scarce the Afep Pigeon may also be seen in agricultural areas. 

Mating And Breeding Afep Pigeons

The breeding season for Afep Pigeons is in the latter half of the dry season, this differs depending on which part of the range the pigeons are in. 

It is generally between June – September for most of the range but in Gabon the pigeons breed between January-February and in Uganda breeding is between March-April. The breeding correlates with the dry season for each region. 

In the breeding season the female will lay 1 white egg and this will be incubated for 14-18 days. 

Both parents will help to care for the chick. The chick will begin to eat solid food a few days after hatching and will leave the nest at 20-25 days old

Caring for Afep Pigeons

The Afep Pigeon is a wild species that is not well suited to captivity.

The best way to care for these birds is to support conservation efforts to preserve the forests where they live.  

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