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I discovered a useful and insightful website by Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) about the genetic welfare problems of companion animals: http://www.ufaw.org.uk/geneticwelfareproblems.php

UFAW is a charity dedicated to promoting and developing improvements in the welfare of all animals, mainly through scientific and eductional activity.

The website is an information resource for prospective breeders and pet owners, and highlights which breeds of domestic animals have genetic welfare problems. Included in their list is a selection of fancy pigeon breeds: http://www.ufaw.org.uk/PIGEONS.php

The two main issues with fancy pigeons they write about is Abnormal Feathers and Rolling and Tumbling behaviour.

The website is worth a read to understand the problems these fancy pigeon breeds have and what are the welfare implications. You will find information on the clinical and pathological effects of the condition, the intensity and duration of welfare impact, number of animals affected, diagnosis, genetics, how to determine if an animal is a carrier, as well as methods and prospects for elimination of the problem.

Abnormal Feathers

Breed examples: Bokhara Trumpeter, Dresden Trumpeter, English Fantail, English Pouter, English Trumpeter, Ghent Cropper, Hungarian Giant House, Indian Fantail, Jacobin, Lahore Pigeon, Old Dutch Capuchine, Old German Cropper, Reversewing Pouter, Saxon Fairy Swallow, Tiger Swallow, Trumpeter

Condition: Abnormal Feathers

Related terms: feathered feet, hoods, fantails

Outline: Various breeds of pigeons have been selected for a range of plumage abnormalities: abnormalities of feather size, position and number. Examples include: a hood or mane of feathers covering the head and eyes, feathered legs and feet (“muffs” or “leggings”), and fantails. These variously compromise capacities for locomotion (walking, perching and flight), for mating and rearing young, for feeding and probably also for maintaining thermal comfort. The effects these have on the birds’ quality of life is difficult to assess but it seems likely that they are negative.” (From: http://www.ufaw.org.uk/ABNORMALFEATHERS.php)

The extreme feathering on some pigeon breeds interferes with their normal behaviour. Fantails, for example, have tail feathers that are held constantly fanned out which severely affect the aerodynamics of the pigeon, compromising their ability to fly and escape predators. Breeds with hoods or manes are often unable to raise their own young, which have to be fostered by pigeons with normal plumage. Long leg and feet feathers interfere with normal walking, perching and flying (by acting as aerial brakes during flight). Abnormal feathering can also become more easily soiled and lead to disease and parasites if the pigeon is unable to keep its feathers clean.

The below photo is of a rescued Indian Fantail who has broken tail feathers from improper housing. He was rehomed but has difficulty preening and often his tail and leg feathers have to be washed by hand to keep them clean.

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Indian Fantail

The below photo is of a fancy pigeon with extra long leg feathers which restrict his movement and perching abilities, as well as being easily soiled. Another problem with such feathering is the danger of them becoming damaged or broken, which can lead to bleeding if a blood feather is broken.

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Notice the long white feathers on this pigeon's feet.

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Rolling and Tumbling

Breed: Roller and Tumbler Pigeons – For example: Armenian Tumbler, Australian Performing Tumbler, Berlin Short-Faced Tumbler, English Long-Faced Tumbler, English Short-Faced Tumbler, Iranian Highflying Tumbler, Komorner Tumbler, Parlor Roller, Parlor Tumbler, Syrian Coop Tumbler, West of England Tumbler

Condition: Rolling and tumbling

Related terms: backward somersaulting, rolldowns

Outline: The roller and tumbler breeds of pigeon have been selected for tumbling behaviour in flight, to the extent that some tumblers can no longer fly but, instead, tumble as soon as they intend to take wing. (This abnormal behaviour is exploited in competitions in which owners of these pigeons compete to find whose bird covers the most ground by tumbling over it.) The consequences to the birds are difficult to assess but are clearly adverse when they lead to injuries due to hitting the ground or tumbling over it.” (From: http://www.ufaw.org.uk/ROLLINGTUMBLINGPIGEONS.php)

 

More videos of this behaviour and activity: Video Friday: Rollers and Tumblers

Besides the obvious welfare issues of injuries caused by tumbling and rolling behaviour (e.g. from collisions with the ground or objects), it is also disturbing their natural desire to fly normally, especially as a flight response to danger, thus possibly being a cause for fear-related stress and distress.

Below is a photo of Turk, who we believe to be a tumbler pigeon, possibly a Turkish Takla. I have witnessed him do backflips in the air when he tries to fly down from a perch to the ground in the aviary where he lives. Each time his behaviour indicates that the backflips are not voluntary and seem to inconvenience him. He always hesitates each time he wants to fly down. An indication of a lack of desire to fly because of how the backflips make him feel? This may be my subjective point of view but as pointed out on the website, it may be a source of frustration if the pigeon is unable to control the tumbling behaviour.

Turk

Turk, the Turkish Takla pigeon


The other day when we were walking about in town we saw a lady feeding the feral pigeons on the high street. We walked past with a smile on our faces – someone else was being kind to the pigeons.

Then we heard another lady walk past saying, “Ew, she’s feeding the pigeons,” in a tone that suggested her distinct disapproval of the activity and of the species.

That left us thinking about the situation. The lady who’s feeding the pigeons is possibly doing it out of kindness and love. Feral pigeons that live in towns and cities will eat whatever edible thing they can find. It can be a tough life. As a species, us humans that is, we tend to litter and somehow miss the trash bins provided in towns. Sometimes it’s an accident – the sandwich or crisps fall out of your hand, however, sometimes it’s simply laziness and carelessness and the food item is dropped so that the pigeons or the human street cleaners can sort it out – whoever gets to it first. So people really shouldn’t complain about pigeons. They clean up after us.

So the lady is helping the pigeons in their quest for food, giving them an easy meal. But does this help the negative perception some people have of pigeons? They see the lady feeding the pigeons as something wrong. “Don’t encourage the pigeons, they carry disease, etc. etc.” All that nonsense.

Would it be better for the lady to feed the pigeons in a less busy place, away from negative eyes? Out of sight, out of mind. With less pigeons on the streets maybe people would stop thinking badly of them. Wishful thinking? I think so.

However, there is some truth in the above thought. The more times the pigeons are fed in a town centre or by busy shops, the likelihood of them sticking around and breeding more often is there – thus the population increases and you get hundreds hanging about. That’s when people start calling pest control and the ban on pigeon feeding is enforced.

Then again, a lot of people are attracted to the activity of pigeon feeding. With hundreds of friendly pigeons about and landing on you with that unmistakable “Where’s the food?” look in their eyes, people seem to enjoy the experience and tourists appear simply to see the spectacle and to participate. This is when people may start to view pigeons in a more positive way. They get up, close and personal and see for themselves that pigeons are magnificent.

So the question remains: Do you feed them in towns or not? Do you encourage them to breed more in the cities and potentially ignite the hatred of those ignorant pigeon hating people? Or would it be better to invite the pigeons to feed in your garden, away from the eyes of the general public (and hoping that your neighbours are pigeon friendly)?


A few videos of rollers and tumblers:

The following videos are of Parlor rollers, bred to roll on the ground. I think this is very unnatural and people shouldn’t breed pigeons to do this:


Occassionally we receive fancy breeds of pigeons at my work – some have been injured but some are unharmed, having either escaped or become lost. In general, fancy breeds of pigeons don’t do well in the wild because many have exaggerated features and reduced ‘street-wise’ instincts, and are therefore easy targets for sparrowhawks, cats and people with pellet guns.

Here are the ones we’ve had so far this year. Although I have searched the net and through my pigeon breed encyclopedia book, I found it difficult to find out what breed of pigeon they all are. So please look kindly upon me. And help me out if you know I’m wrong.

All of these pigeons are doing well in their new homes:

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No idea what breed but maybe a Turkish Takla (tumbler)? I haven't seen it fly though.

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Juvenile Indian Fantail that was caught by a cat.

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Lahore pigeon

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I'm guessing Antwerp breed?

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Haven't identified this one. Mixed breed?

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Garden Fantails

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A type of highflier or tumbler? I'm leaning towards a Szegediner tumbler (Hungarian highflier), but truthfully, I have no idea.

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Archangel breed

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West of England Tumbler

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Any ideas? She's pure white with feathered feet.

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Apricot colouring but is she a specific breed?

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He has a high forehead so I think he's a fancy breed. Which though?

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Same with this one. High forehead and lovely colouring.

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Garden white pigeon (a.k.a. white dove).


Some lovely fancy pigeons:


I have received the ultimate book on pigeon breeds!! I am so happy!! It is an amazing book filled with photos of all the different breeds of pigeons you can find in the world. It is a book I have been wanting to have ever since I laid eyes on it on the internet (being the book addict I am). A dear friend heard of my desire and bought it for me. I cannot thank her enough!!

The book, of course, is the “Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds” by Wendell M. Levi (1965)

It is very thick and heavy, not surprising since it consists of 790 pages! I will spend many a lazy evenings going through it, just looking at all the amazing, weird and wonderful pigeons displayed in it. What a treat!


Came across a blog with photos of different pigeon breeds. Since I’m interested in the different fancy pigeon breeds there are (purely on a curiosity basis) it’s great to find photos of them. Although I found it difficult to search through the site for what I’m looking for (because it is in blog format), the site has some very good photos of the different fancy breeds. Check it out: Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds

An example of what you can find on the site:

Old Dutch Capuchine Pigeon

Old Dutch Capuchine Pigeon

King Pigeon

King Pigeon

Jacobin Pigeon

Jacobin Pigeon


Here are two videos showing the different pigeon breeds out there, ranging from the beautiful, the unusual, the amazing, to the peculiar looking.