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After posting Pretty in pink? Glen Bass brought to my attention that someone is dyeing pigeons in Venice, Italy, as part of a project to increase public appreciation of pigeons. I looked into this and found the below article about it.

Photos from: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/23293/colorful-pigeons-amongst-a-flock-of-grey-at-the-venice-biennale.html

As well as it happening in Italy, they also painted pigeons in Copenhagen, Denmark. Please see Julian Charriere’s pigeon project: Some pigeons are more equal than others

This website also has lots of photos of the dyed pigeons (thank you, Glen, for bringing this to my attention!): Colorful pigeons amongst a flock of grey at the Venice Biennale

Photos from: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/23293/colorful-pigeons-amongst-a-flock-of-grey-at-the-venice-biennale.html

Questions are asked whether this is animal cruelty or not. And does the pink pigeon found in London mean that someone has started a similar project here in the UK?

Painted pigeons of St Mark’s square put Venice Biennale critics in a flap

Project to airbrush famous pigeons in garish, vibrant colours for architecture exhibition criticised by animal rights campaigners

  • John Hooper in Rome – guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 August 2012
Painted pigeons in Venice

Swiss artist Julian Charrière says by painting the pigeons of St Mark’s square, Venice, they will become ‘better regarded’. Photograph: Rex Features

As might be expected of the world’s most filmed, photographed and conspicuously indulged birds, the pigeons of St Mark’s square in Venice are capricious. If it takes their fancy, they will foul the top of your head, dig their claws into your scalp and mob the very tourists who feed them. But one thing that could be relied upon was that the pigeons of Venice were grey. Until now.In recent days, visitors to the city have been surprised to see pigeons sporting plumages that would do credit to a tropical parrot: green and yellow pigeons; pigeons whose feathers radiate electric blue or strident vermillion; even pigeons that seem to be robed in imperial purple.

Finding and filming them became a local pastime when it was revealed on Monday the coloured birds were the work of artists – the Swiss artist, Julian Charrière, and German artist, Julius von Bismarck – part of a performance for the architecture Biennale.

But while many tourists and locals were intrigued, questions were soon being raised about the ethics of the project. “Are works of art justified as such even when they involve other, non-consenting living beings?”, asked Miriam Leto on the www.artsblog.it website. It was not long before an answer was offered by another blogger on www.ecoblog.it.

“There is nothing to laugh about.” wrote “Marina”. “On the contrary, an initiative with so little respect for defenceless animals is to be condemned.”

The daily Corriere della Sera quoted Charrière as saying the project was “without any danger to the animals”. He said his aim was to give a recognisable personality to birds that were routinely harassed and reviled. “That way, pigeons will be better regarded.”

Animal defence activists are unlikely, however, to be comforted by the artist’s description on his website of the process used in a similar exercise in Copenhagen. That involved a “bird trap with a conveyor belt mechanism” where the “pigeon get [sic] automatically airbrushed in different colours. The machine was installed for a week on a roof in Copenhagen.”

The coloured pigeons are the latest in a series used in Biennales that has prompted controversy. At last year’s art Biennale, the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan exhibited a flock – in original hues – which had been embalmed.

Article from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/aug/27/venice-biennale-painted-pigeons-st-marks


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


As many of you may know, I work at a wildlife rescue centre. The animals we receive are either injured or orphaned (or both) and need our help to recover and grow up for release. It is hard, continuous work. Feed, clean, feed, clean, medicate, feed, clean and more cleaning. The wildlife in our care depend on us and we have a responsibility to ensure they are clean, comfortable, stress-free and receiving the best care we can provide. The ultimate aim of all this: release back into the wild in tip-top condition for best chance of survival in the big bad world!

Sometimes we receive horrible cases of cruelty: pigeons and doves that have been shot! :( :(

Pigeons (ferals included) are protected by law in the UK. It is illegal to kill any bird unless a licence is held or if the person (or pest control company) isn’t following the criteria of the general licence. Please go to the following websites for more indepth information: PiCAS: The Law and Is it legal to shoot pigeons?

It is hard to see these beautiful birds with shot wounds, knowing that the bird is suffering because of a fellow human being. On the 4th April we received a white pigeon that had a horrific infected shot wound in her chest. The hole was very large! The photo is shocking to look at and I have to admit, I didn’t think the pigeon would live.

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Shot white pigeon - 6th April

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6th April

We immediately gave her medication to fight the infection and relieve her of any pain and kept her in the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) for observation and care. Every day her wounds were checked and cleaned and medication was given. She wasn’t happy about the situation and soon became quite restless. She wanted to get out but we couldn’t put her in an aviary where flies could lay their eggs in the open wound. So the dear girl had to stay in her cage in I.C.U.

Slowly, very slowly, the wound started to close up (as you can see in the photos).

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Her wound is dressed - 2nd May

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25th May

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All healed! - 14th July

One day a thin feral pigeon was brought to my work and he was placed in a cage near the white pigeon. The male pigeon started cooing, calling, testing her reaction. They couldn’t see each other easily, only through thin slits at the side of the cages, but they could hear each other and they began to flirt. First the male pigeon said his piece and waited. Then the white female pigeon responded. The male pigeon twirled and cooed joyfully in response to what she had said. You get the picture! Sure enough, the two fell in love. I made the mistake of putting them opposite each other one day and they had an unobstructed view of one another. They cooed and danced all day (no kidding, ALL day!), the little flirts!

The day we could put the two together in an aviary was a very happy day for them. They started kissing and prancing about like the newly-weds they were. They were released together on the 15th July. What a wonderful result!! :D

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White pigeon and her new mate the day before their release - 14th July

Ps. Now you may be wondering why I hadn’t named the white pigeon. I try not to at work for two reasons: 1) the animal is a wild animal and not a pet, and 2) not all the injured and orphaned wildlife live to be released, and since giving the animal a name forms attachment it can be tough on us humans if the animal dies. Sometimes, though, it is hard not to become attached to an animal, and equally hard not to cuddle and talk to the animal, but when it comes to working with injured/orphaned wildlife, you have to remain distant because you want the animal to remain wild so that it can be released (since you cannot release tame or imprinted wildlife!).


So yesterday I talked about how I am sometimes surprised to see Georgie so sleek and healthy after a full day of being around injured and ill pigeons. I thought I should show you a few rescued pigeons. The following 3 pigeons are all doing fine (so far), and we are working on getting them in tip top shape.

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Popeye (as named by his finder), a feral pigeon with an eye infection.

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Tiny-tot, a baby feral pigeon that is a bit underdeveloped and not growing as quickly as he should.

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This white pigeon was caught by a cat and has extensive injuries to the face and chest, which are now healing well.

This last pigeon was shot with a BB gun and unfortunately died a few days later after she was admitted. Her wounds had been cleaned and she received the medication she needed but the infection and injuries were too much for her.

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White pigeons/doves make easy targets for cruel people.

It is amazing how some people think shooting pigeons is alright. Many don’t die immediately from the shot, rather they fly away with a wound that quickly becomes infected, leading to a slow death. These shot pigeons are often caught by cats or sparrowhawks because of their injuries. The few lucky ones are picked up by concerned people, however, many don’t survive because their weakened state and infections are too far gone. I just hope that more people begin to see how unacceptable animal cruelty is. Lead by example and show compassion. Pigeons are amazing animals and deserve to be treated with kindness.


A while back I came across a photo of a flock of pigeons that were multi-coloured – painted vibrant reds, greens, pinks and purples. It was a beautiful photo. It struck me as something fanciful and playful. The photo didn’t have a caption so I didn’t know who or why the pigeons were dyed as they were and I soon forgot about it.

A few days ago I came across another photo of painted pigeons and my curiosity was awakened. I needed to find out the story behind the photos so I googled ‘painted pigeons’ and ‘coloured pigeons’ to see what would pop up.

To my disappointment only a few photos appeared with little to no information, however, after careful searching through the internet I managed to find a link to a website that explained the photos. Finally!

But first I had found a site with photos of coloured racing pigeons from the Murcia region of Spain: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-15248305/stock-photo-coloured-racing-pigeons-from-the-murcia-region-of-spain.html

As well as these photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/staffy/3345022740/in/set-72157604833950737/

After more googling I found this one:

Image from: http://oreneta.com/kalebeul/

Two people had commented on the photo explaining everything, with a link to the following website: http://www.cichlidlovers.com/birds_pica.htm

So basically the Picas (Spanish Modern Thief Pouters, Palomas Deportiva) are flown in a competition – the cock pigeons chasing a hen. The cock pigeons are painted so that the judges can identify which pigeon is whose and score them according to how close a cock pigeon gets to the hen and impresses it with its courting abilities. The one that gets the most points wins. (To read more on this go to: http://www.cichlidlovers.com/birds_pica2.htm)

While I find the painted pigeons very beautiful it was quickly pointed out to me (by my lovely husband) that it must not be a nice experience for the pigeons. Most pigeons don’t like to be held and have their wings and feathers manipulated for any length of time (even Georgie, who’s extremely tame, doesn’t like it) so I can imagine that the painted pigeons must experience discomfort and distress from being painted.

And then to tease the cock pigeons by depriving them of hens and finally release them to chase a single hen pigeon for hours (even days in some cases)! I have to admit that I feel very sorry for both the cock pigeons and the hen. It’s not really fair for them. Why should they be treated in such a way just to satisfy human beings desire to ‘compete’ and win money?

Some people might think that I’m being overly judgemental and idealistic, however, I don’t like animals being used for human gain unnecessarily – especially for so called ‘sport’. I believe that animals should be admired and respected and seen for what they truly are – incredible beings that can feel and experience life in ways we do not.