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Elmo likes to sleep a lot. He’s at that age (coming up to 12 years old this year) that he nods off at any opportunity (in between chasing toes and attacking toys – tiring stuff that is!). So this week I’ve caught Elmo taking a nap in various locations. It seems he’s trying to find the perfect spot.

First I found him on the fluffy mat:

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Then next to the window:

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And today I caught Elmo taking a nap next to Georgie’s nest, the silly boy:

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Georgie is sitting on (infertile) eggs again (she laid a new pair this week) and for some reason Elmo decided to sleep near her. I have no idea why since he hates Georgie. And as you can imagine, Georgie was not impressed with the close proximity. She’s very protective over her eggs and doesn’t like to be disturbed. So she quickly told Elmo off:


I often get asked what many might view as a simple question:

“How can you tell if a pigeon is male or female?”

Telling the sex of a pigeon is actually quite difficult. Even with years of experience people can still get it wrong. However, there are two methods that give good results.

One is to have the bird DNA sexed (from blood, feathers or the eggshell), which I believe is a safer and less intrusive option than surgical sexing. For more about DNA sexing please visit these websites: http://www.avianbiotech.co.uk/dna_sex_testing.asp and http://www.dnasexing.com/index.html

The other method is even less intrusive: Simply wait to see if your pigeon lays an egg! :D

I’ve had a look through the few books I have about pigeons and found this about sexing fancy pigeons (not ferals):

“Sexing young birds with any certainty is 50-50 at best. … Older birds of some breeds can be more reliably sexed, once you gain a little experience. In most breeds, the male’s head is fairly round, but the top of the hen’s skull will typically have a flattened area. In some birds this can be quite pronounced, but again, this is not true in all breeds. The only surefire way to tell a bird’s sex is obvious – the one that lays the egg is the hen, for sure!” (Vriends and Erskine, 2005, page 11 and 14)

“With pigeons the difference between males (cocks) and females (hens) is difficult to see. Sometimes the cocks are a little bit rougher around the edges and a little heavier. The head also offers some clues when trying to determine the gender. This however does depend on breed. The real difference can only be determined through their behaviour. A cock only shows that he is a male when he becomes an adult.” (Rijs, 2006, page 48)

Many people will tell you their method of sexing pigeons is the way to go, such as checking the shape of the head, tipping the bird onto its back (please check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I4iU4KTJRo), checking the length of the toes, etc., however, I believe that there is no real science behind those methods and you may get an incorrect answer. This is obviously bad if you’re trying to buy a mate for your single pigeon.

Generally speaking male pigeons behave differently than females. When they become sexually mature they’ll start to look for a mate. Hinsaw Patent (1997, page 39-38) has this to say about feral pigeons in the city: “Almost any time a flock of pigeons walks about on the sidewalk pecking up bits of food, at least one male bird will be trying to impress a female. He puffs out his neck feathers so they gleam in the sunlight, and he coos softly as he struts about. The females are just as likely to ignore him as to pay attention.” Sound familiar? :)

Males will do their strutting dance to females, so if you see the dance, it’s usually a male pigeon. For illustrations and videos of the courtship dance, please visit: Pigeon courtship – romance is alive!

However, just to confuse you, I have found that tame/imprinted female pigeons will behave like males towards humans. So you may think you have a tame male pigeon who is cooing to you and dancing about, but in fact it may be a female pigeon who’s trying to get your attention. And since you’re obviously not giving her the right pigeon mate signals, she’s taking on the male role to ensure the relationship is going ahead.

If you have a tame pet pigeon who thinks you’re his or her mate, they will soon want to mate with you and, if they’re female, lay eggs. From my experience with tame pigeons, if the pigeon mates with your hand or an object (by rubbing its vent against you or the desired object) then the pigeon is male. If, when you pat its back, the pigeon crouches down and presents its vent to you (flattening its back and moving its feathers away from the vent) then you have a female pigeon.

Example of female presenting (0:08 and 0:34):

Example of male mating (Elmo isn’t too good with his balance so he cannot actually rub his vent against us – which is good for us!):

And of two pigeons mating (0:29):

Did you notice the male pigeon crouch down (0:42) when the female was walking towards him as if he was presenting himself? Interesting behaviour from a male.

The topic of sexing pigeons is discussed at length in this forum: http://www.pigeons.biz/forums/f5/can-you-tell-male-from-female-5146.html

And the wonderful people at Pigeon Angels suggest presenting a mirror to the pigeon to see if they coo and dance to it (male) or if they ignore the mirror (female): http://www.pigeonangels.com/t2254-how-do-i-tell-the-sex-of-my-pigeons

I’ve not tried the mirror method with my pet pigeon, Georgie, because she cannot see properly anyway – and we know she’s female already because she lays eggs. Elmo ignores the mirror but we know he’s male, so you can take what you want from all of the sexing methods. If in doubt, DNA sexing is your best bet! :)

I love what this man has written about the subject – point three is excellent! – but I don’t suggest the first method at all:

Pigeons, Sex and Investing

Posted by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten on Apr 15, 2007

It is very difficult to determine the sex of a pigeon. There are three ways to do it:

1 – Check their reproductive organs

Not the outer ones but the inner ones. Pigeons genitalia all look alike so you will have to cut them open to actually see what you want to see.

2 – See who goes on top

There isn’t much variation in the sex life of a pigeon. Males go on top. No Kama Sutra here. Fortunately all they do is eat and, well you know, so you won’t have to wait very long to see that happen. But you do need 2 pigeons and some patience.

3 – look at their faces

Yes, pigeons have faces just like humans.

Pigeons hugging

It takes years to be able to read the face of a pigeon. I kept up to 30 pigeons as a kid so I can tell the sex of any pigeon just by looking at it for 2 seconds. Just like with most humans. Humans have the added benefit of clothing, hair and breasts (or not) but even without that a face looks feminine or masculine.

I thought about that as I was watching the Dutch version of Dragons Den. The investors try to look under all those feathers but up close all excel sheets look the same. They try to see who goes on top but then you would have to wait until the entrepreneur meets an actual client.

But once you have met enough starting entrepreneurs one look at someones face is usually enough. You know what you have got and who is a good bet and who isn’t.

Just like with pigeons.

From: http://bomega.com/2007/04/15/pigeons-sex-and-investing/

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REFERENCES:

  • Vriends, M.M. and Erskine, T.E. (2005) Pigeons. A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. Hauppauge: Barron’s
  • Rijs, A. (2006) Fancy Pigeons. Prague: Rebo Publishers
  • Hinshaw Patent, D. (1997) Pigeons. New York: Clarion Books

I love the way Elmo sleeps. He sleeps so deeply and looks so comfortable that I try not to wake him up. … Oh, ok, I sometimes wake him up because I have to give him a kiss! I cannot help it! He looks so cute!!

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Elmo asleep on the floor

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Elmo fast asleep on the floor

Elmo has also mastered the “standing on one leg while falling asleep” stance. Please see: Sleeping beauty. :)

And when Elmo is dreaming and he nods his head and twitches in his sleep, it’s so adorable. Occasionally he’ll wake himself up with a “woof”. I don’t know how many of you have heard a pigeon “woof” before but it’s such a wonderful little sound. It just comes out suddenly and sounds so foreign that often I look at Elmo and wonder what he’s trying to say. I believe the “woof” sound is made when the pigeon sees something they are worried about and it may be a kind of alarm sound. Our previous pigeon, Dora, used to woof too (I mentioned it in Angry Dora, Sweet Dora).

I tried to take a photo of Elmo alseep on the floor from the other end of the coffee table but Elmo woke up and danced towards me in glee. :D

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Elmo is awake!

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"I'm so happy to see you!"


Pigeon people can be so ridiculous sometimes. Well, at least in this household.

I’ve noticed a few silly things we do that have seeped into our normal behaviour. One is that whenever Georgie raises her wings in the air we do the same. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2010:

“…Georgie has an odd behaviour when she’s broody. Occasionally, and quite suddenly, she’ll lift both wings straight up a couple of times. She doesn’t take off or get up for a stretch, she simply raises her wings then settles back. Not sure what that’s about, but everytime she does both Richard and I raise our arms in response. It’s become a little game of ours. We’ve even done it when we’ve had guests over. … I know, we’re weird pigeon people.” (from Georgie eggbound)

Another thing we do is shout “Pigeon!!” whenever we see one on TV (e.g. in an advert or movie). I guess we should develop this into a drinking game. :D

And then there’s The Running Game! Elmo loves to chase things and will run after Richard if he runs away – it’s a fun little game they play sometimes.

On a totally different subject, here’s Georgie girl falling asleep on the sofa. She’s sitting down in a funny position and I managed to take a photo without disturbing her.

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Georgie taking a nap


I tried to take a few relaxed photos of Georgie (she doesn’t like the camera light) and I managed to get a few before Elmo jumped on the desk, wanting a piece of the action. He then tried to mate with my hand before deciding it wasn’t good enough and attacked it!

Georgie girl in the spotlight:

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And here’s Elmo boy:

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And attack!!!

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I know I cannot avoid it, I know it will be upon us, but I’m mostly uninterested in the upcoming Olympics. However, one piece of news about the 2012 Olympics caught my eye:

London 2012: Olympic dove plane unveiled

3 April 2012 Last updated at 15:34

British Airways has repainted the first of nine A319s with a dove design to mark the London 2012 Olympics.

The artwork by designer Pascal Anson was the result of a contest run by the company and judged by artist Tracey Emin.

It will be seen for the first time on BA’s 1420 Heathrow to Copenhagen flight on Tuesday.

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17600839

The designer Pascal Anson, says that “He chose the dove because as well as being a symbol of peace and social unity, it was used in ancient Olympics as a messenger to send Games reports to outlying villages, and the bird also played a role in Olympics ceremonies such as that at the last London Games in 1948.”

In the video the reporter states that “They’re calling them celebratory aircrafts for the London 2012 games, describing the dove as ‘sweet, lovely and peaceful’.” (Then he ruins it by saying, “Would you agree?”)

It’s nice to see the dove is still being championed as a symbol of peace. Since there is no scientific difference between a dove and a pigeon, will we be able to convince the masses to view the feral pigeon the same as the dove? :) Maybe we should rename all pigeons as “doves” and peoples perception of them will change? What do you think?

More about the new dove planes:

3 April 2012 Last updated at 12:50

London 2012: British Airways Olympics dove plane unveiled

By Michael Hirst
BBC 2012

BA plane painted with London 2012 dove design
It took a 10-strong team 950 man hours to paint the A319 – which carries 132 passengers and is one of the smaller passenger planes in BA’s fleet

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, actually, it’s a plane painted to look like a bird.

British Airways has repainted the first of nine A319s with a dove design to mark the London 2012 Olympics. The artwork by Brighton-based designer Pascal Anson will be seen for the first time on BA’s 1420 Heathrow to Copenhagen flight on Tuesday.

The design is the result of a contest, run by the company with the aim of promoting British talent in the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Turner prize-nominated artist Tracey Emin was on the judging panel which picked Mr Anson’s design from hundreds of entries last July, and she has mentored the Kingston University design tutor throughout the project.

Inspired by planes he saw flying in and out of Gatwick during his commute, Anson said that as a three-dimensional designer, he wanted to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary, while playing with people’s perceptions of flying objects.

“I wanted to do something that would make people stop and think differently about what they were looking at,” he told the BBC. “I’ve often looked up at aircraft landing and wondered if it’s a bird or a plane, and the idea developed from there.”

Scale of a dove

He chose the dove because as well as being a symbol of peace and social unity, it was used in ancient Olympics as a messenger to send Games reports to outlying villages, and the bird also played a role in Olympics ceremonies such as that at the last London Games in 1948.

Pascal Anton with Tracey Emin Tracy Emin mentored Pascal Anson throughout the project

Although Anson wanted to avoid creating a photographic representation of a bird, he did want the design to be dove-like, which meant BA for the first time has painted the whole of the plane’s livery, rather than just its tail-fin.

This created both design and artistic challenges, in terms of scale – as an A319 is 500 times larger than a dove – and surface, in terms of trying to get the soft lines of the dove’s feathers onto the hard metallic surface of the plane.

He wanted to use a metallic colour but metallic paints are not allowed on aircraft as they interfere with radar signal so a new mica resin was mixed to give the bright gold finish – a colour which the team have dubbed “dove gold”.

BA’s operations manager for external appearance, David Barnes, said the job was the most complex his team had undertaken – both because of the intricacy of the design, and the fact that it encompassed the whole plane.

Emin praised the completed work at the plane’s unveiling on Tuesday, saying she liked the way it “brings back back the excitement of travel”.

“I will constantly be looking up every time I hear a plane fly over,” she said. “You never know, maybe I will turn into a plane-spotter.”

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17565838