Frank Mosca

Here, I've simply tried to clarify a few pigeon terms that site visitors have e-mailed to ask me about. I'll add others as needed.
A.O.C. - a show term meaning Any Other Color and normally used to refer to birds other than standard color in the breed under discussion.

Bar or Barring - the two bands which cross the wings toward the rear of the shield. Depending on the color of these bars, the birds are called black barred, brown barred or red barred. If a bird happens to carry Toy Stencil, the pigment in the bar area is normally washed out and the bird is known as white-bar.  There is also a TAIL BAR which is approximately 1 cm. from the end of the tail. In blues, the tail bar is black.  In ash-red, it's an ashy white; in browns, it's brown.

Cere -
            (Beak cere) the fleshy part above the nares on the upper bill. In some breeds, Carrier and Barb, for ex., this cere is enormous, in others, such as the Color Pigeon group, it is as small as in the wild species.
            (Eye cere) Bare skin around the eyelid.

Checker/Check/Chequer - the triangular blotches of color across the lighter wing shield. Depending on the base color of the bird, the pigeon is known as a blue check, red check, etc. If Toy Stencil (cf.) is also present, a checkered pigeon may be known as a "spangled" or "white check".

Cock - a male pigeon

Driving - the behavior of the cock bird for the few days before his hen lays her first egg of the nesting cycle.  He forces her away from the proximity of other cocks and in a loft situation often forces her back to the nesting site.

Hen - a female pigeon

Incubation Period - in most cases, 18 days from date of laying of the second egg. However, depending on ambient temperature and how tightly the parents sit the nest, this may vary up to two days either way.

Grouse Legged - having small feathers down the legs (tarsi) and all toes. Some American breeders have suggested this is incorrect nomenclature since they look in bird books and say no grouse listed has such feathering.   However, they neglect to take into account that the term was originally a British one and there the word grouse is used for the birds we, in the States, call ptarmigan (Lagopus sp.).  Those birds (grouse) are feathered on the feet and toes EXACTLY as the pigeons are, hence the term.  (cf. muff & slippered)

Keel - the breastbone

Milk - The cottage-cheese looking crop substance produced by both cock and hen to feed the young from hatch till about ten days. Its production is stimulated by prolactin and it was from pigeons and doves that this chemical (which also stimulates mammalian milk production) was first identified.

Muffs - Large feathers completely covering the legs (tarsi) and the toes.  Some of these feathers can be up to six inches (15.3 cm) or more long. (cg. grouse legged & slippered)

Primaries - The first ten large flight feathers of the pigeon. They are counted from inside out, so that if you spread a bird's wing while its head is toward you, the feather farthest toward the outside is primary flight number ten. (cf.: Secondaries)

Old Bird - A bird from its second year of life on. Birds are considered old as of Jan. 1 or the second year following their birth, no matter what month that birth was. (Cf. Yearling & Young Bird)

Rolling - a continuous downward performance of backward somersaulting in flight - in the U.S. almost invariably applied to the performances of the Birmingham Roller.  There are other breeds which roll in a different manner, but these are still rare here. (Cf. tumbler)

Secondaries - The inner flight feathers of the wing which provide lift.  Few fanciers, if any, follow the ornithological nominclature that separates the tertiary feathers from the secondary ones.

Slippered - Short feathers covering the legs (tarsi) and the middle toe only.  About the only slippered breeds are the English and Pigmy Pouters. (cf. muff & grouse legged)

Squab - a young pigeon still in the nest. Usage reserved by fanciers for one that is to be used for food at the table.

Squeaker - a young pigeon still in the nest.

Standard - A written outline accepted by club members that defines the physical characteristics of the breed of pigeon under discussion.  Normally, a standard is written in such a way that no bird presently alive will achieve perfection.  A standard is, therefore, actually the outline of a theoretically "perfect" pigeon that each breeder strives to achieve in his own loft.

Tumbler - a bird that somersaults in flight.  There are various methods of tumbling depending on breed.  Normally, the term is used for those birds that do only a few somersaults, while the term rolling is reserved for birds that do continuous somersaults that blur into a ball-like look.  Some tumbler breeds bred for mainly for show purposes have lost the ability to somersault. (Cf. roller)

Wattle -  See beak cere.

Yearling -  A bird in its second year of life.  This is defined as January 1st of the next year. Thus, if a bird is hatched and banded with its year of birth band on Dec. 7, it will still be considered as a yearling for purposes of racing or show come January 1 of the next year.  Some breeds do not use the yearling terminology and consider all birds simply Old Birds from the second year on.

Young Bird - a bird in the year of its birth.

Copyright Feb. 2001 by Frank Mosca.

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