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The past few weeks have been upsetting for all of us. Elmo has been in a foul mood and nothing Richard and I do seems to make him happy. We don’t know what has happened to upset Elmo so much but we’re trying our best to improve things so Elmo feels better.

Here’s what I do know:

  • Elmo’s bad mood started shortly after we went on holiday.
  • Elmo started moulting during the week of our holiday.

Now I could understand his bad mood if we had left him for a week, but no, we didn’t leave at all! We stayed at home for our holiday, so what’s Elmo so angry about? Was it my constant presence (since I’m the rival)? I know that my pigeons can feel vulnerable when moulting, but Elmo’s behaviour is a bit extreme.

Elmo has now stopped moulting and we have gone back to work, but he’s still not his usual cuddly-cute, happy self. :(

The day we went back to work Elmo did show a bit of his usual behaviour – he cooed to us and greeted us – but that was short lived. He’s a bit better with Richard, no longer pecking him like he was during our holiday, but he’s not showing him the love that he usually does. I’m finding this all a bit stressful since I hate to see Elmo so angry.

All Elmo does now is chase me about the flat to attack my feet. I know the difference from his playful attacking behaviour, and this is not it. He wants to hurt me and he attacks in anger. The last time he was like this was when he was broody and sitting on the fake eggs.

I really hope Elmo feels better soon because I feel he’s also getting stressed about the situation. I’ve been giving him treats and trying to be loving but Elmo does not want me to be around him, so I will try to keep out of his way.

Even the sight of the camera didn’t excite his usual amorous feelings towards it!

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Elmo giving me the evil eye

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Elmo staring me down


My pigeons feel very vulnerable when they go through their annual moult. Elmo in particular. He’s looking very disheveled and I’m sure he feels that way too. It must be uncomfortable also. They’re preening a lot and pulling out all the old feathers and unsheathing the new ones. To be honest, Elmo is acting in such a way that I can only describe as “I’m feeling ugly. Leave me alone”. He’s very moody towards me and doesn’t want me around him. :(

Georgie is being a bit nicer to me but she’s now in the later stages of her moult and possibly wanting reassurance from me. I don’t know if birds in the wild feel the same as my pigeons do but I imagine they must also feel vulnerable during a moult. It takes energy and time to grow new feathers, and when they don’t have a full compliment of feathers they may be more vulnerable to predators.

As I’m writing this Elmo is on the sofa falling asleep. I want to go over to give him a kiss to reassure him that he’s loved but I’m not sure he’d be happy about that. Usually when I nod my head to Elmo he’ll respond with a nod and then run to his nest to coo to me. But lately he’s not been responding to me and simply stares. … I guess I’ll just have to wait until he’s feeling pretty again before he’ll let me cuddle him.

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Elmo

The above photos shows the few feathers on Elm’s left wing that he tries to preen but only succeeds in fraying and breaking. This may be because of the angle that he’s not able to reach them properly (since Elmo has coordination and mobility problems).


I’ve decided to start up a new business: making pillows stuffed with pigeon feathers.

I’m sure I have enough to stuff a pillow, what with the amount of feathers that Georgie has dropped in the past few days in her moult. Elmo also likes to join in and so we often have feathers stuck to our clothes, hair… even food. :)

I have to pick up all the feathers before Georgie flaps and scatters them into the corners and under the furniture. I hate to think how many have already made their way into those inaccessable places. When the time comes to move house we’ll probably find another pigeon under the sofa. :D

What I wrote last year about Elmo’s moult: Feathers EVERYWHERE!

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Feathers in Georgie's cage.

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Feathers on the floor!

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Georgie moulting


A few days ago I spent a bit of time in Dora’s aviary at work – to check up on the resident pigeons there (a mixture of fancy, tame, and disabled pigeons), as well as to spend some time with Dora who used to live with us at home.

One thing I noticed immediately was that all the nesting pigeons (on fake eggs) were male pigeons, except for Dora! She was the only female to be incubating eggs. I don’t know why her mate, Pidge, wasn’t on duty – maybe Dora is a pushy girl and didn’t trust his commitment? Maybe Pidge isn’t as broody as he should be? Whatever the reason, it was quite funny to see the girl in her nest bowl, cooing away to Pidge while he pranced about on the perch to me (Pidge likes people as well as pigeons).

And as soon as I put my hand over to stroke her, Dora gave me the usual greeting:

Here’s Horatio (paired with Speckles) on incubating duty:

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Horatio in his nest

And the new pigeon, Burko, (paired with Tux) is a very good mate – protecting his fake egg from my intruding fingers:

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Burko in his nest

Rudderford has been through a moult and his new tail feathers aren’t as tatty as the previous ones, although I suspect they will soon fray at the ends again since he has trouble standing up properly (due to an injury).

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Rudderford


This is what greeted me when I came home from work yesterday:

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I didn’t expect it at all, so when I slowly opened the door all these feathers started moving out and I got a fright from seeing so many! My first reaction was that something had happened to Elmo. That somehow a sparrowhawk had gained entry into the house and had plucked him. Silly thought, I know, but I had just seen a dead pigeon at work that had been eaten by a sparrowhawk, so it was still fresh in my mind.

Elmo was fine, of course. He came running out of the room with his usual joy and excitement. There were more feathers behind the door:

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So Elmo is moulting. This morning we were covered in feathers. The flat is full of them. I’m surprised Elmo has any left on him by the rate they are falling off. He was preening himself last night and kept pulling loose ones out. Then he’d get scared of them and run away. Like I’ve said many times before, I don’t think Elmo knows that he’s a pigeon. He’s afraid of feathers!

Here’s a photo of him looking at a feather he’s not sure about:

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This is one side of keeping pigeons that can be a problem: feathers everywhere when they moult! But, it’s a small price to pay to have them in our lives! :)

(More about moulting: The facts about moulting)

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Been ill for the past 4 days and haven’t managed to post anything. Thankfully, I had some drafts that my hubby could quickly proof-read and then post on my behalf, however, yesterday he had to write a post himself when he discovered that there weren’t any more of my drafts left. I think he did splendidly.

Georgie has also been ill and she’s seen the vet and received her medication. She’s eating again but she’s lost weight. We’re keeping a close eye on her.

Elmo is fine – just going through a little moult so there’s feathers everywhere.

I’m afraid that’s it because my energy is running out.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be much better and can write something proper.


On Elmo’s right wing he’s got one pure white primary feather – I think it’s the sixth one in but cannot get close enough to check (gotta watch out for that beak of his!!). He doesn’t have any other white feathers on his wings so this one is a bit special – a little quirky feature of his.

I love the feather and whenever Elmo goes through a moult and drops it, I miss it. I’ve kept one in my Pet Pigeon Book (where I have Georgie’s and Elmo’s health records, weight charts, egg laying info, etc.). I eagerly await the return of Elmo’s White Wing Feather and am very joyful when I see it peaking out amongst the other primary wing feathers as it grows. … Yeah, I’m a bit of a dufus.

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A very tatty looking boy!

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Elmo's special white wing feather!

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Where's the feather?!


Today there was a cooing contest between Elmo and Georgie – both calling to me! I had a half day at work today so I returned home early to do some much needed housework, all due to the fact that Elmo and Georgie are routinely pulling out their feathers in another one of their contests: Who can shed the most feathers in one sitting?! The slightly bald, pin cushion look must be in fashion this season. (Don’t be alarmed – they aren’t feather picking in the sense of captive parrots, rather just removing loose feathers during their moult.)

Anyway, back to the housework and a freshly clean home – a task not liked but a sight and smell much loved. So there I was with a duster in one hand, vacuum cleaner in the other (don’t you just wish you could extract an extra pair of arms when needed?), the washing machine on with its second load, the tumble dryer on with its first – and above the noise of all this I could hear both Elmo and Georgie cooing loudly in their spots on the sofa, stubbornly ignoring the fact that I was preoccupied and not available to cuddle them.

Earlier, Elmo and Georgie were ecstatic to have me home early – both singing and dancing in their pleasure (Georgie twirling on the spot, Elmo prancing about). I gave them both individual attention – lots of kisses and cuddles – but had to break away to start the housework. They obviously didn’t approve of this and made it clear by their loud and insistent cooing.

How could I ignore them? How could I be so cruel as to not spend another hour cuddled up to them? … But being the non-domestic Goddess that I am, I knew that if I stopped for a moment in between the housework I’d never start up again. So, I put on my blinders and ploughed through the work until the house was spick and span, after which I treated myself to a drink and snacks whilst watching day-time TV with Georgie on my shoulder snuggled into my hair and Elmo by my side – asleep in his nest – all cooing subsided and fulfilled. Bliss.


P1040522Georgie girl has a fetish for one of my pyjama bottoms. If I’m wearing them and lounging on the sofa on a lazy Saturday morning Georgie will always come over and peck at them for hours. She only does this behaviour to this pyjama, and I don’t know why.

She pecks and pecks and it looks to me as if she thinks it’s edible. If I put her somewhere else she’ll find her way back to me and my pyjamas. Obsessive or what?! :)

Maybe I should make a teddy bear out of them for her so she can have it in her cage for company – seeing as she likes the material so much (is it the pattern? Or the texture?).

In other news, Elmo’s moult has reached his head and he was a bit bald looking for a while. Now new feathers are growing through and he looks like this:

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He looks like a pin cushion!! :D


Those who have pigeons living with them (either in an aviary or in their home) will know how messy and uncontrollable feathers can be – especially during a moult! Back in January I wrote a quick post about Georgie moulting – the fact that her feathers were everywhere! (See Moulting) Having to clean up after a moulting pigeon can be frustrating since feathers have a habit of travelling under sofas and desks and tag along on your clothes as you leave the house all prim and proper. The neighbours must think we have a flock of birds living in our flat!

So what exactly is going on when a pigeon (or any bird for that matter) moults? Why do they do it and how?

Firstly, one must understand how important feathers are to a bird. I think this paragraph sums it up nicely:

“Feathers are unique to birds. Engineered by evolution, their extreme lightness combined with exceptional strength and flexibility makes feathers the ideal flying gear. They constitute a truly multi-functional body-suit that is also adapted for numerous other functions. Feathers may act as hearing aids, water carriers, versatile all-weather gear or as dashing courtship finery. They can provide a camouflaged covering, rendering birds almost invisible, or their bright iridescent splashes of colour can turn heads.” Birds, The Inside Story by Rael and Hélène Loon, 2005

So you get the picture; feathers are very important to birds because they enable them to do what they need to do in order to survive (i.e. fly, hunt, escape, attract, protect, etc.). It is therefore extremely important that birds preen and bathe their feathers – to keep them in good condition. However, preening cannot stop feathers from becoming old and worn through natural wear and tear. Feathers need to be replaced with new, strong ones at regular intervals – and this is called moulting.

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From Pigeons. A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, page 62

There are three main types of feathers (see picture for more details):

  1. Flight feathers – which consist of the wings primary and secondary flight feathers and the tail feathers. These enable the birds to fly.
  2. Contour feathers – these cover all parts of the wings and body with the purpose of streamlining the bird for flight and to help insulate and protect the bird from the elements.
  3. Down feathers – which are numerous and found under the contour feathers. They trap air to insualte the bird.

Pigeons moult every year from mid-July to mid-December (according to Pigeons. A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual by Matthew M. Vriends and Tommy E. Erskine, 2005).

They don’t just drop all their feathers at once – that would leave them unable to fly and leave them exposed to predators and the elements – rather, they first drop their primary feathers, generally two at a time (one from each wing). New feathers grow through and old ones drop out. The tail and contour feathers are also dropped at about the same time as the flight ones. The tail feathers are dropped in pairs. When the primary feathers have moulted through, the secondaries start their moult. The feathers of the head, neck, breast and belly all moult at the same time which can leave the pigeon looking a bit bald in places. The down feathers randomly moult throughout the year. (Info from: Pigeons. A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual by Matthew M. Vriends and Tommy E. Erskine, 2005)

Many things can affect moulting – ill health will cause poor feather growth, as well as poor diet. Indoor pigeons that don’t have access to direct sunlight tend to moult more often (UV light from the sun helps with feather growth).

A word about blood feathers. A new feather needs a blood supply to grow. This supply is found in the shaft of the feather and once the feather is fully grown the blood supply recedes and the follicle closes up. If a blood feather is broken then a lot of blood may be lost through the shaft. Please call your veterinarian for advice on what to do if this happens. If a lot of blood feathers are broken then there might be danger of severe blood loss.

More about feather anatomy at: Bird Feather Types, Anatomy, Growth, Color, and Molting.