Pigeon Mutation Combinations


Frank Mosca

Kiev Tumbler, black - Photo copyright by T. Hellmann

Kiev Tumbler - black

(S//?, sl//sl, gr//gr, cr//cr, spot & perhaps an unknown pattern or combination of patterns to produce the black - white separation.  The muffs, themselves, are a combination of grouse (gr) and slipper (sl) being combined in the same bird.)

    Most of the colors, patterns, and ornaments, that pigeons breeders love in their birds are actually created by a combination of various mutations being present in the same pigeon.  With more than four thousand years of breeding behind them, domestic pigeons are full of combinations deemed beautiful or useful, or both, by their breeders.  There are so many of these combinations that most have not yet been unraveled by geneticists, but some have.  Below are a few examples of these.  Remember that fancier terminology varies from breed to breed - this is a result of many centuries of practice and, also, because many breeds were raised in different countries by different people.  Thus, what is "cream" or "lavender" or "silver" to one breed, might be very different to another breed's.  This is the result of very different mutations acting on various base pigments. There are many look-alikes and, quite often, similar phenotypes are produced by very different genotypes.  If you decide to breed a particular sort of pigeon, you quickly become acquainted with the terminology as used by fanciers of that breed.  Be aware, however, that once you step outside that breed's confines, you may have to be a bit more open to what the term means.  This is why in these articles, I've tried to note the genetics terminology for each color as used by the fanciers.

    One of the more beautiful colors, at least to me, is DeRoy, a term first used by English Shortface Tumbler breeders in Great Britain.  DeRoy is a homozygous recessive red bird, with almond (either heterozygous or hemizygous depending on whether the bird under discussion is a cock or hen).  See the Oriental Roller below.  DeRoy's may also have dilution as part of their makeup. Such birds, in Oriental Rollers, are known as creams because of their color. (See Below)  Most such birds are on a wild-type (base) pigment, but they also exist with Ash-red and brown pigment underneath the recessive red "overcoat".

almond, recessive red, dilute, pearl eyed  (Photo by Jim Green)DeRoy (recessive red, almond, pearl eyed)  (Photo by Jim Green)
"Cream" Oriental Roller Hen                             DeRoy Oriental Roller Cock
          (St/., e//e, d/., tr//tr)                                                 (St//+, e//e, tr//tr)
Dropped wing carriage seems to be a simple recessive, but I haven't yet seen any full study of that. These birds also have extra tail feathers, and no oil gland.

    Not all combinations need be as striking as those above.  For example: mutations can be subtle enough that many don't even realize they are there.
The blue roller hen is an example of this:

pearl eye. smoky, Birmingham roller hen (photo by N. Verkist)
Smoky, pearl-eye, blue bar Birmingham Roller  hen (sy//sy, tr//tr, rolling//rolling)

(This bird may also be "dirty", but, obviously, I can't lift the wings to check the feathers to be sure. Many "dirty" birds have dark underwing coverts instead of the normal light ones. Because of breeding data, I received from the owner, I also know it's heterozygous for recessive red - e//+)

    It is this combination of factors that makes breeding pigeons such a fascinating hobby.  Putting together the number of things necessary to produce a show bird that takes home a trophy, a profitable utility pigeon, or an energetic racer or flyer calls for more than simple genetics -- especially, since what we presently know of structural mutations is insufficient for the task. Some time ago, I read a statement by a chicken breeder that stated it well. He said something to the effect that, a geneticist can give you the right color of a bird, but it takes a fancier and breeder to give you the right "shade" of that color to win.  This is where the art of breeding takes over, and, make no mistake, it is an art.

    Many of the factors that breeders are looking for may, in fact, be the result of multi-genes working together  Not everything is a unit factor.  Toy Stencil, the mutation that is somehow able to stamp out to white the pattern of a bird which is normally dark, seems to be the result of three genes working together.  L. Paul Gibson has found that three separate mutations, which he is calling, Ts1, Ts2, and an unknown are necessary for Toy Stencil to show its effect.  Ts1 also seems to be identical to what has been known as Modena Bronze. What no one has yet figured out is HOW does a combination of Ts1,. Ts2, and the unknown seem to be able to differentiate between the spread of the checkers and bars that it can depigment to white, while not seeming to affect any of the other spread areas on the bird that to all microscopic examination seems to be identical?

Black white bar starling - Photo by Josef Wolters
Black White-bar Starling
(S//?, Ts1//Ts1, Ts2//Ts2, unk//unk, crescent//crescent)

Birmingham Roller - kite bronze, Ts1, pied (Photo by K. Davis)Birmingham Roller
(k//k, Ts1//?, CT//?, unknown pied factor, rolling//rolling)

    There are so many combinations, likely into the hundreds of thousands or even millions, that I can't show them all here.  All I'm trying to do is to let you realize that even in the "common looking" type of pigeon, i.e., those without major modifications of body style, length, weight, or feather growth patterns, that there exists a world of unknowns.  So far as I know, no one today has figured out the inheritance of weight - why do some pigeons, like the Runts, weigh almost three pounds (1.6 Kg) and others weigh less than 9 ounces (200 g.)?  No one has figured out inheritance of beak length, of most pattern whites, of feather length, etc.  Why not keep some decent records and see if you can be the one who can does?

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Text copyright by F. Mosca. You may download copies for your personal use, but all other rights are retained by the author. (2001)