Pigeons & Pigeon Genetics by Frank Mosca
More Feral Pigeons in Flight

All photos copyright Marshall Faintich and used by permission

(Columba livia)

juvenile checker feral pigeon

I 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.

juvenile from another angle

This 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 powder-white. 

Wild type feral pigeon Columba livia

A 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.

common pigeon babies in nest
Baby 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.

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