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I miss Dora. It’s become very busy at work; with all the baby birds to feed (every 20-30 minutes) and the constant cage cleaning, I haven’t really had time to spend time with Dora and the rest of the pigeons in the resident pigeon aviary.

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Dora and Pidge (in the background)

A few weeks ago I went over to say hello to Dora and she gave me lots of pecks and wing slaps for coming too close to her nest and fake eggs. Her mate, Pidge, was happy to see me though and tried to mate with my hand. Again. He gets confused and I think that’s why Dora tells me off. She thinks I’m stealing her mate from her!!

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I’ve been observing the new pigeons in the aviary (before the busy period began) and Lumi (which means “snow” in Finnish) has paired up with the Turkish Takla pigeon, Turk.

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Lumi (left) and Turk (right)

They make a very pretty couple, and here they are romancing, with Pidge interrupting them:

Lumi came to my work after she had been caught by a cat and had extensive injuries on her head and body. She healed up nicely, however, she lost her left eye. Turk was found in a garden and picked up because he’s obviously not a wild pigeon. He must have become lost from his flock and aviary, however, since he didn’t have any form of identification on him (no tattoo on his wings, microchip nor ring with numbers on it) we couldn’t find his owner.

Here’s what Lumi looked like upon arrival:

I know I keep saying this, but one day – one day!! – I will have an aviary of my own with lots of disabled and unwanted fancy and racing pigeons in it. And then I would have to open up a sanctuary for pigeons! I’m sure I would receive a lot of support from all the pigeon lovers around the world! :)


Georgie still isn’t talking to me (she’s on her “eggs”) and Elmo thinks I’m the perfect person to practice his latest karate moves and pecks. I have a very long scar on my hand from his kicks!

So I’ve been getting all the hugs and cuddles I can from the pigeons at work. :)

Dora was actually nice to me today – I managed to get a cuddle from her without being pecked to bits. She was obviously not feeling territorial nor possessive over her nest and mate. It’s nice for a change.

I spent a little time in the pigeon aviary at work with the fancy, tame and disabled pigeons. I love watching all the “pigeon politics” that go on.

There’s nothing quite as peaceful and serene as being amongst pigeons. I simply love it.


Big Bob

Big Bob

This year we sadly lost another resident pigeon at work. Big Bob was an older, disabled feral pigeon (he had a broken wing and couldn’t fly) and had been living in the resident aviary for many years. One day in February we noticed that he was hunched and shivering. He was brought into the heated unit for observation and care, as well as to receive medication. Sadly, a few days later he died. He will be sadly missed.

We kept an eye out for any signs of illness in the other pigeons in the aviary, and thankfully, none of them showed any signs of illness or have died. We believe that it was simply Big Bob’s time to go. He had a good life with a mate (who sadly died in August last year) and was a real sweet pigeon. He wasn’t tame but he tolerated my presence whenever I went into the aviary to talk to Dora and Pidge.

After such a sad depature we had some pigeons that were waiting to join the gang in the resident pigeon aviary, being unreleasable for one reason or another: One is fancy, others are disabled, and two are racing pigeons that needed a new home after their owner had passed away.

To see all the pigeons in the aviary please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pigeonsaspets/sets/72157623805901094/

Please welcome the following pigeons to live with Dora and her mate, Pidge:

Lumi

Lumi is a white pigeon that had been caught by a cat when she was a baby. She had extensive injuries and her left eye is shrivelled. She became very tame due to her long-term care. Lumi means "snow" in Finnish.

Turk

Turk is a Turkish Takla breed. He does backflips when he flies.

Mousie

Mousie is a racing pigeon that had to be rehomed.

Gertie

Gertie is a racing pigeon that had to be rehomed.

Speckles

Speckles is a feral pigeon. She had a broken leg and broken wing, which have healed, however, she has limited flight.

Davey

Davey is a white feral pigeon. He has a broken wing and cannot fly.


I’d like to introduce you to a special little fella who I’ve named Mr Tippler.

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He’s a Highflyer Tippler breed and he was found in a garden, lost and ill, and was then brought to the wildlife rescue centre (where I work) for care. He’s been with us for over a month now and is still ill, however, he’s receiving his medication and is being support fed, and he’s gradually putting on weight.

At first Mr Tippler absolutely hated the sight of me and would attack me viciously. Even though he was so thin and weak he still had the energy to tell me off! But after Mr Tippler realised that I am the bearer of food and good will, he started to warm to me, and now he greets me enthusiastically when he sees me! Love it! :)

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Mr Tippler was found about 70 miles away from his home. I found the number of his owner stamped on his primary flight feathers and called the number to let the owner know we had his pigeon but that the pigeon is ill and not ready to be returned yet. The owner thanked me for letting him know but said we were too far away to arrange collection and that I could keep the pigeon. Fair enough, I guess.

So we’re caring for our special little guy and willing him to get better. He’ll be at my work for a long while I think before he’s ready for his new home. I must say the highlight of my job now is to be greeted and have my fingers nibbled by friendly Mr Tippler! :)


What do pigeons feet tell us about them? Well, different bird species have different shaped feet and toes according to their diet and the environment they live in:

From: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Zoo_p050.shtml

Pigeons are somewhat classified as a perching bird. They have a classic anisodactyl toe arrangement: three toes pointing forward and one long toe pointing back (the hallux). Because they spend much of their time foraging on the ground their toes are widely splayed, which is better for walking.

Toe arrangements: a = anisodactyl (e.g. pigeon), b = zygodactyl (e.g. woodpecker), c = heterodactyl (e.g. trogon), d = syndactyl (e.g. kingfisher), and e = pamprodactyl (e.g. swift) (as illustrated in Proctor and Lynch 1993).

Birds actually walk on their toes (called digitigrade) instead of on all of the foot bones (as humans do). To help resist the wear and tear of walking and perching, the bones and flesh of the foot are covered with a tough plating of scales which strengthens the foot (Proctor and Lynch, 1993).

I love pigeons’ feet. They’re just so odd and scaly. Feral pigeons have different coloured feet: some are red or pink, and others are more grey or brown.

George’s feet are a healthy bright red. Very vibrant!

Elmo’s feet are more maroon – rich and full. He’s older so he looks more established. :)

I managed to take a photo of Dora’s lovely pale pink feet, however, she was more interested in sitting on her nest and defending it against my intruding hands, so it came with a struggle!

I don’t think the colour of their feet show clearly in these photos but you can see some difference in colour:

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Georgie's feet

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Elmo's feet

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Dora's feet

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Pidge's feet (Dora's mate)

Often a pigeon will have a nap with one foot tucked up against its body under its feathers. When that foot later emerges it is very toasty! I love touching George’s feet when she does this. One foot will be lovely warm, the other cold.

It seems that older pigeons have thicker legs and toes than younger ones (from the birds I’ve been comparing). They also have richer coloured and darker legs.

Then you have feathered feet! They’re just amazing! While some fancy breeds have short feathers on their feet, others have really long ones, which can cause problems with their walking as well as hygiene (they need to be cleaned often to prevent build up of droppings stuck to the feathers). Some examples: Fancy pigeons at work

* * * * * * *

References: Proctor, Noble S. and Lynch, Patrick J. (1993). Manual of Ornithology, Avian Structure and Function. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.


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:


The following website has some amazing photos of fancy pigeons: Fancy Pigeons by Richard Bailey

I’m sorry to have missed the exhibition:

‘Darwin’s Pigeons’

17 March – 11 April 2010

An Exhibition of Photographs by Richard Bailey

Fancy Pigeons played an important part in helping Darwin prove his theories and as last year, 2009, was the 150th anniversary since the publication of the ‘Origin of Species’ and also the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, Richard decided to photograph some of these exotic breeds and at the same time see if he could come to love the pigeon. After all, we are all used to the ‘London Pigeon’, which some would call the ‘flying rat’.

Charles Darwin set out to prove that all fancy pigeons are descended from the
common pigeon known as Columba Livia or Rock Dove and this particular research, would in turn help him with his theories towards the ‘Origin of Species’.
In 1855 Charles Darwin became a pigeon fancier and set up a breeding loft at his home in the village of Downe, Kent.

The images were intended to celebrate the pigeons which played such an important part in Darwin’s work, but then the project became more than that. The photographs became ‘portraits’ of the birds and they took on an anthropomorphization. Some pigeons looked into the camera with an unflinching gaze testing the viewer in a malevolent manner, whilst others looked on benignly, almost compassionately. The different breeds took on unusual characteristics, some looked a little bit naive, others have a conceit about them, an air of self-importance as they puff up their chests and present themselves to the camera.

Photographed in such a way that the abundance of colours on the different pigeons are brought out and emphasised, this series of weird and wonderful pigeons that Darwin worked with carries on the great tradition of classical animal iconography.

artisan
80 Harlesden Road London NW10 2BE

Gallery opening times during exhibitions:

Wednesday to Saturday 11am to 5pm
Admission: Free

www.artisan80.com
www.richardbaileyphotography.com

For more information call Richard Bailey on 07956 971 520
Or Naomi Harrison on 020 8451 6315

(Info and photos from: http://www.artisan80.com/page10.htm)


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:


Today six fantail pigeons were brought to my work. The gentleman who owned them didn’t want them anymore and after having problems finding homes for them he was directed to my work to see if we could help. Although my workplace is a wildlife rescue centre and does not take in domestic animals, occasionally we take in fancy pigeons in need of care or rehoming if domestic rescue centres cannot help – which was the case with these six fantails.

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Upon opening the boxes I found four young adult fantails and two baby fantails. Apparently the father of the two babies was amongst the four adults – so I put the two babies and their father in one aviary and the other three fantails in the aviary next to them.

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I have to admit I initially found these fantails very dopey and clumsy. They didn’t seem to have mastered the art of flying and found it hard to fly to the top perches in the aviaries. But my heart melted when I watched the father fantail feed his young – the babies squeaked and shrugged their wings – and the father fed them with the usual gusto you see in parent pigeons. Since I fell in love with pigeons from having been in contact with feral pigeons not fancy ones, I find ferals to be prettier and more interesting than the fancy breeds. (Am I a feral pigeon snob?!) But I think the fancy breeds are starting to seep into my thoughts. … And these fantails are a good start! :)

When I got home I searched the net for a bit more info on fantails (I knew these ones aren’t show fantails). It seems the name for them is “garden fantail doves”. I’ve never seen these type brought to my work before, usually the white garden doves are brought in (are they more popular than the fantails?). Although breeders and enthusiasts state that they are suited for dovecotes and can fly well and evade predators, I have my doubts about the four adults that we now have. I’ll have to watch their behaviour a bit more before we decided if they are to be in an aviary or free flying.

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