The Ember gene eE


Heterozygous ember with wild type ( eE//E ) is a normal blue phenotype with their single eE gene hidden by the dominant affects of wild type. On the other hand, heterozygous ember and recessive red ( eE//e) leave their nest looking very much like normal recessive reds. However, as adults they molt over the next two years into unimproved recessive reds and then into almost smoky blues but retain a glowing ember look in their wing shield pattern markings and wing flight.  Many of these eE//E loose this red look almost completely while others retain a portion of their recessive red look depending on other darkening factors being present.  It is this glowing red color found in the shield markings and wing feathers with their hot ember look that vives this mutation its name.  Bar pattern birds tend to retain less of the red color than do checkers or  dark check birds.  My experience is the more coarse spread pattern, the more red ember color remains.  This may or may not always be true but thus far that is what has happened in my loft.  

 Homozygous or pure ember eE//eE will start in the nest looking like heterozygous ember adults (eE//E) and as they molt into their adult plumage will becomes almost a normal wild type blue but one that is smoky like in appearance but with both bronze pattern markings and wing flights.

 A poor recessive red or even an un-improved expression of recessive red remains what it is during both its juvenile and adult molts.  They will not make this transformation from recessive red to un-improved or from un-improved into smoky blue with ember markings and flights.   In addition, should a bird be heterozygous for both un-improved and ember then it naturally would start as an un-improved and molt into ember in just the same fashion as a normal recessive red / ember would since many un-improved recessive reds are simply just that, poor phenotypes of recessive red.

The thing to remember is that a heterozygous ember/ recessive red will start as a recessive red phenotype and molt into a typical ember; while a homozygous ember//ember leaves the nest as an ember and molt only slightly more towards the blue color but retains the smoky like blue shade with ember patterns and flights.

I was privileged to have three Embers in my loft directly from Dr. Hollander.  They were given to me by Larry Long.  Larry is the pigeon flyer that first traped a few Embers from a flock of wild pigeons.  When he first saw them he knew they were something different naturally Larry went about to captured and test them.  He did this but was not able to pin down exactly what it was so he turned some over to both Dr. Paul Gibson and  Dr. Willard F. Hollander for their independent genetic studies.  What follows is a short note I received from Larry which I will share with you.         

 Ronald R Huntley

Hi Ron,

       Thanks for explaining about Ember.  Doc called me this week and is still excited about Ember; he says it's the hardest project he ever took on.  Yes, I did trap the first Ember and Doc wants me to tell that part of the story.  What a lot of people don't realize is I bred out of the original feral and as I told Doc "didn't understand what I thought I knew" I had never heard of an allele for recessive red and didn't suspect that's what it was.  I was into homers heavy back then and even made a test mating to a recessive red homer.  It was only after I felt it was different and worthy of taking to Doc that I brought him the feral.  When it finally died Doc dried the wing. 

       He didn't want to take on any new projects because of his age but I talked him into crossing it on recessive red and trying it.  When the babies came out recessive red he put them in his cull pen and forgot about them until he saw some bronzy looking odd balls that he didn't remember putting in the pen.  When he checked his records they were the Ember crosses.  He had almost gave up on the project so a little luck was involved. The key is they come out of the nest recessive red then try to revert or change back to wild type.  One of my first questions was what about brown and ash red based Embers?

       I believe it's kept him young and his 90th birthday is April 15th, Tax Day!  This happens to be my mother's birthday too.  Another strange coincidence is that October 23 is his son Paul's and my birthday! If nothing else Embers have gotten people looking at recessive red, unimproved recessive red (I don't like that term), and stuff related to recessive red a little closer.  No, the genetic symbols aren't right and it bothers Doc but what can he do?  I don't believe the story is complete yet on Embers and there is more to learn and new combinations to try.  I believe it's going to lead to some beautiful color in pigeons.  I'm happy that people like yourself has taken on this project with us.

Good Luck,
Larry Long

Well after a few years of breeding tests and observations by Dr. Hollander, Larry had some of his questions answered.   He and Dr. Hollander were to publish their findings on this mutation but unfortunately Dr. Hollander passed away before his report was publication.  It then fell on Larry to complete the review of Doc’s original draft report and to publish his findings. Unfortunately Larry contracted cancer and he too passed away before he publish their work.  What we do know of their findings is what we have from various emails and letters.  General information, but lacking in technical data.  Today ember is classified as a mutation and not a form of poor recessive red.    It shares the same e locus as recessive red (symbolized as lower case e) and therefore is an allele to it.   Wild type or non recessive red is symbolized as upper case E or E+ or even simply +.   

Ember is both a recessive to the dominant wild type (normal gene found at this e locus) while at the same time, it is dominant over its recessive red allele.  For this reason and and in keeping with the prescribed rules for genetic symbols, Dr. Hollander assigned Ember the symbol of eE which denotes it to be recessive to wild type (lower case e) but dominant to recessive red (superscript capital E) .  In short, the correct genetic symbol for Ember is eE.

In the attached pics, note the difference in shades of blue between the typical blue bar on the left and the Ember blue bar on the right.   Also, notice that the ember glow is retained in the course spread pattern markings. This means that the darker the pattern or the more pattern there is, the more ember color will be retained in the color transformation from recessive red to ember.



Normal blue bar   /      Ember blue bar 252 E        



Ember blue bar 252 E                                                    Ember blue bar wing shield 252 E


The ember blue bar above, left his nest to began life as normal looking recessive reds.  Back then he looked nothing like he does today.  He has transformed through the molt from his juvenile recessive red phenotype to his adult ember phenotype.   This transformation from recessive red into something else, is what makes ember so unique.  There will be other phenotypes, as breeders of color combine this gene with other color mutations; produceing I'm sure some very striking birds.



AU03MEGA2111 A Young Recessive Red   




This first youngster AU03MEGA2111 may not be an Ember. eE//e.    It shows no blue color and was a lighter shade of red in the nest than the other two young birds that follow.   All three are siblings from the same pair.   This first youngster appears not to have received an ember gene from its sire.   Its dam does not carry ember.   She is a typical recessive red.    No. 2111 looks to be on its way to becoming a normal recessive red like her dam.     Here is another photo of the wing shield taken two months later.




AU03MEGA2112 A Young Ember 




This bird No. 2112 may be a blue bar or blue checker ember.  It has a dark tail bar and bluish colored back.  There were some small signs of ember on the wing shield while still in the nest.   There was not much differences between 2111 and 2112 while in the nest    As 2112 molts, it will continue to revert to its normal blue color.   However, it will not make a complete transformation to wild type.   Some effects of the ember will remain to give it the glowing ember effect.   I expect this bird to molt into a phenotype much like its sire 205E above.  This next two photos were taken two months later and clearly show a large transformation has already taken place both across the back and over the wing shield.    







AU03MEGA2113 Young blue spread Ember



No. 2113 may be a Spread Ember as it continues to molt into a Mahogany color typical of blue spread ember.   In the nest it was a much deeper red that the other sibling and it's back and tail were a dark mahogany in color.   After fledging from the nest it began molting into a much darker color over its wing shield, back and head.   The next two photos were taken two months later and show this same transformation continuing.   This bird received it's spread gene from his mother.  




The last two photos were taken three weeks later.    The photo on the left shows more change.    The one on the right is with a normal recessive red to show the color difference between them.  This bird 2113 was taken by a hawk before it could complete its transformation.

AU03MEGA2123 A Young Ember Blue Bar 




The first  two photos were taken when this youngster was about ten weeks old, it's molt had already begun.    The next two photos were taken a few weeks later showing how the color change had progressed.


These two photos above show the final adult molt phenotype.   Note the change that has taken place.  It has gone from a typical juvenal recessive red plumage into a blue bar with a glowing ember look.  It blue wing shield is dark almost like smoky but the tail has an albescent strip indicating it to be non-smoky.   The head and breast have the purple tint  typical of intense gimpel  yet it is not gimpel.  The wing tips and tail feathers and bar pattern all retain the ember red color.  There are other phenotypes that can be produced using smoky, gimpel and dominant opal on blue that will look very similar but these combination of mutations do not go through the color transformation that ember does.

My friend James Gratz is working with Embers which he also received from Dr. Hollander.  James' studies are to learn what these various phenotypes will look like.   Some are very different from those shown above which are basic ember on blue patterns.  For example, when combined with dilute the ember red turns to a golden yellow look.  It is similar in appearance to what we find when we combine dilute with reds and browns.    Below are four photos provided by James.  Hopefully he will continue to pass along other photos as he produces the many various color combinations.  They will be very useful to all of us, in learning more about this new gene.

To see a larger photo just place your curser over the photo and right click you mouse and it will take you to a larger photo.


Sooty Indigo Ember  

Pale Ember

Dilute Indigo Ember

Dilute Ember

An update from Dr. Gratz.  Below are two photos of a homozygous or pure blue bar ember phenotype.  It has taken a few years of very selective breeding to produce this bird as Dr. Gratz had to insure that is was free as possible of other darkening color modifiers.  Here in his words he explains what he has done. 

“Here is the cleanest ember I have made to date.  Last year I mated a clean looking ember to a clean wild type homer hen.  I produced several young, all of which looked like nice clean wild type.  I mated the cock to one of his daughters.  This bird is the result of that mating.  He? has less bronze than his dad.  Notice the light, recessive red like beak and nails.  Ember beaks look the same as recessive red beaks in the nest.  It has the smeary look like smoky has but is not smoky as it has a normal crisp albescent strip”


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