Pigeons & Pigeon
Genetics by Frank Mosca
More Feral Pigeons in
photos copyright Marshall Faintich and used by permission
specifically asked Dr. Marshall Faintich for permission to use
his shots because they demonstrate some very interesting points.
The bird above appears to be a sooty rather than checker bird and
it also show evidence of a third bar - this has been pretty
conclusively been shown to be a unit factor. Also the bird
pictured is a juvenile and likely not long out of the nest. It's
still carrying all ten juvenile primary flights, i.e., it hasn't yet
begun its molt into adult plumage. You can see it's a juvenile
bird because it's not yet showing adult iridescence about the neck and
head. Also, the tail feathers (retrices) still show the juvenile
"pointy" look. Adult feathered birds have a more rounded look to the
spot where the shaft meets the end of the tail feather.
This bird also shows what appears to be bronzing or ash-red on the left
wing shield. It's hard to tell from the angle of the right wing,
but it doesn't appear to have any bronzing or ash on that wing.
This might (and I stress might) be a case of a genetic mosaic.
The albescent (whitish) strips on the outside tail feathers is
especially prominent in this shot as well.
appears to be the same bird as in the first above. This is
a much better shot of the lack of adult iridescence on the neck.
The minor (somewhat "flat" looking) iridescence showing on the sides of the neck and the amount
of it indicates that this bird is a juvenile male. Also, note the
eye - still in its juvenile coloration and not yet changed to the adult
wild-type red-orange (or any other adult color). You can also see
that the nasal cere still hasn't changed to its adult
wild-type or blue bar feral pigeon (Columba
livia). This bird is a beautiful example of the
standard used by pigeon geneticists. Note the orange-red
(wild-type) eye; the whitish rump patch; iridescence on the neck blend;
power-white nasal cere. Other things to note - this bird is
molting, you can see that it's dropped its sixth primary flight
(remiges) (counting outward from the body towards the wing tip.
You can easily see the coloration difference caused by sun bleaching on
the older feathers between the newly molted in flights 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
from the still to be molted 7,8,9,10. Flight 6 isn't showing and
was likely molted soon before this shot was taken. Okay that's
all demonstrable and evident just by looking.
Here's where I go out on a limb and pass on a bit of arcane pigeon breeder
knowledge that I was shown some forty years ago by an older breeder who
got it from breeders with experience dating back to the latter part of
the 19th century. I've demonstrated it to myself in my own
lofts to my own satisfaction over the years. However, I've never
documented it and I leave this for a newer breeder or scientist.
I'm going to state that this bird is likely a two-year-old.
Here's why. Look at primary flights 1 & 2 - again counting
from nearer the body. Look at the feather shafts on these
flights. Notice that the shafts come almost straight down the
feather to the tip. It's almost a perfect 180 degrees. Now
look at primary flight 3 and on. Notice that the shaft doesn't
come straight to the tip but curves off just a bit before reaching
it. When I was a young man, an older breeder told me that before
they had bands to keep records, it was essential that a breeder knew
his birds and their ages in case one strayed off. For at
least the first two or three years, this straightening of the shaft of
the primary seems to hold true. Just in my own lofts and
from a very non-scientific memory, I'd say it's fairly accurate about
90% of the time. It also doesn't seem to continue past the first
three primaries. I'd love to see some breeder today keep records
and flight feather samples to see if anything I've said here is
actually accurate or just something I've led myself to believe because
I was told it as a boy. Beside, I seriously believe that the more than three millenia of practical pigeon breeding knowledge we're heir too should often be examined when practical in light of scientific thought and findings.
pigeons in the nest. From the amount of feather growth on these
two, I'd say they're about 10-12 days old. Note the fleshy
looking nasal cere and dark, juvenile colored eye.