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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


Elmo is moulting and so there are hundreds of feathers in the flat, making their merry way into every nook and cranny. I predict a major house clean today!

As the sun started shining through the window onto Georgie I realised that I haven’t spent as much time this summer out in the garden with the pigeons. Not sure why (have we had bad weather on the weekends here? I truly cannot remember), but I thought I better rectify this immediately so I grabbed the bird harness, quickly slipped it around Georgie and went out with her to lay in the sun. Georgie is always a bit unsure about new surroundings so she stood still for quite a while on the grass but once she was reassured that she was safe she slowly crouched down, spread open her wings and basked in the sunshine. Gorgeous!

When I later brought her back in I put a dish of water down for her to have a bath in, however, Georgie wasn’t yet done with sunbathing. She found a spot by the window and had an extra 10 minutes of sunshine (although without the goodness since the window filters out the much needed UV light that helps vitamin D production).

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Georgie sunbathing

Then, when she heard my fingers splashing the water in the dish, she was ready for a bath to cool down. And as always, Elmo came over to shiver and shake in anticipation of his turn. He even made these little adorable grunts which I’ve never heard him make before. I think he was very eager for a bath!

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Elmo enjoying the water

With Elmo so wet I could really see the new feather growth on his head. He’s been looking a bit scruffy lately with the moult (we were afraid we’d have a bald pigeon on our hands! :) ).

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New feather growth on Elmo's head

I love how the feathers are growing in a neat row!

Once our two pigeons have soaked themselves sufficiently, they flap about to expel the excess water (thus soaking us instead) and go sit quietly on the sofa to dry. We get wafts of smelly wet pigeon drifting over to us.

I admit that I’m repeating the same experiences here. But when Elmo and Georgie have a bath they always do the same thing so there’s nothing new to write about. :)

I’ll have to start thinking of new material. Maybe I’ll teach Elmo to dance the can-can!! :D


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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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.


This morning we took Georgie and Elmo to see their new vet (since their previous one retired). It was just a quick ‘meet n greet’ to get a feel of the new exotic animal vet and let him meet our pigeons. Georgie threw up a few times on the 30 min journey – poor girl, but Elmo was fine. He doesn’t get car sick at all.

So there we are at the new vet centre and wondering what the vet will be like when out comes this huge, long-haired bear of a man – clad in what looked like a Hawaiian style shirt – with arms as thick as tree trunks! To say we were surprised is an understatement. Our first impression was that he looks like a beach bum.

However, as the well known idiom goes: “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we quickly realised that our impression was erroneous. The new vet is perceptive, knowledgeable and insightful – as well as being a very nice man. He handled Georgie with care (his hands nearly covered her completely when he held her!) and checked out her eyes. He asked us about her condition – whether she had had any discharge from her eyes (- None at all) and he applied some drops to see if there was any ulcers in her eyes (- None found! Phew!). After I said that her right eye had cleared up over the past 2 years, the vet said it may be worth a try if some eye drops would help clear them even more. This is something we are keen to try since it would be wonderful if Georgie could see better. When I mentioned that another vet had said she had glaucoma, he said that she didn’t have any of the signs or symptoms of glaucoma. This is something we had suspected a long time ago and were happy to hear it confirmed!

The vet seemed impressed with Georgie’s behaviour – she was very calm and stood tall, pecking at the air with content. He said she is in good body condition and was happy with her health in general.

So then it was Elmo’s turn. We were a bit worried how Elmo would act since he’s all broody – and on top of that – he’s moulting!! There were feathers EVERYWHERE this morning in the bedroom. We woke up to see the floor covered in them and were a bit surprised to see Elmo on the bedside table fully feathered – that’s how many feathers were on the floor!! So with Elmo being moody about his eggs and feeling sensitive about his moulting, we weren’t sure if he’d behave himself with the new vet.

Elmo was placed on the table and he took one look at the burly, loud-shirted man and didn’t seem very impressed. He didn’t coo or dance at him at all – just stood still (shaking slightly) as the vet examined him. Good body condition overall – which is good. The vet checked his ears after we said that we think he’s a bit hard of hearing – but initial examination came back clear – which is also good. Elmo behaved himself but did not show off like he would normally do – so the vet didn’t get the full Elmo show. Pity.

All in all, the trip was a success and we are very happy with the new vet. It’s always good to have a good exotic animal/avian vet on hand because they have extra training and more experience with birds, reptiles and amphibians. A regular cat and dog vet might not be able to help with bird enquiries and problems – and I certainly would not feel comfortable with taking Georgie and Elmo to a non avian vet.


Today, as we enter our home after a long day at work we are confronted with feathers – everywhere. On the floor, behind furniture, on the walls. And one scruffy looking pigeon in her cage. You guessed it, it’s moulting time for Georgie!

A few times a year both Elmo and Georgie moult their feathers and grow new ones, making them look like they’re a badly stuffed pigeon. The feathers are of all sizes, from their small down ones to the big flight feathers, and at one point we collected them all to make a pigeon pillow.

So out comes the vacuum cleaner and the attempt to suck up all the stray feathers. Georgie doesn’t seem bothered by our exasperated looks as she preens herself and drops more feathers on the sofa. I contemplate sticking them back into her.

:)