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It is not often that you see a pigeon of this colour:

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This poor roller pigeon was found in a garden and brought to my work (a veterinary practice) for assessment. As soon as I saw him I could see that he was very thin and needed care. We placed him in a warm cage with food and water, and left him to settle. The pigeon perked up after a while but was too weak to be interested in the food and water. I dipped his beak in the water to tempt him and he took the most pitiful little sip. My heart was breaking. I willed him to stay strong and survive his ordeal.

After examining him I found him to be in sound condition, no breaks or injuries, but simply extremely thin as if he had been lost for a while and unable to find any food (I’m not a vet, by the way, but I have worked with wildlife casualties, especially birds). It is a miracle that this pigeon wasn’t caught by a predator – his colouration making him an easy target (but I guess that some predator species do not see the same colours we do). The heat pad did its magic and the pigeon started eating a bit and looked livelier, however, it will take some time for him to regain his health and have strength to fly.

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The unusual thing is that this pigeon doesn’t have a metal identification ring on, only a plastic ring (ok, the second most unusal thing about him after being pink). I assumed that all fancy pigeons were ringed after they hatched so that their owners or breeders could identify them. So finding the owner of this pigeon will be impossible as the plastic ring hasn’t got any identification numbers on it.

I did manage to speak to someone at a roller pigeon club and they told me that roller pigeons are sometimes dyed different colours so that the owners can tell them apart when they are flying and doing their acrobatics. So that explains the pink dye.

We will have to find this pigeon a new home since he’s not a feral pigeon and won’t survive out in the wild. I shall keep you updated once I have more news on his progress.

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Previous posts about painted pigeons: Painted pigeons – is it right?, Pretty in pink?, and Promoting feral pigeons – by painting them?

26th June UPDATE:

“Pink” pigeon has gone to Blyth Wildlife Rescue for long-term care and rehabilitation. He is now in an aviary with other pigeons, settling in well, although looking the odd one out. :) We are grateful for everyone at Blyth Wildlife Rescue for taking him. Please visit their website and Facebook page to support them.

 


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.

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Turk, the Turkish Takla pigeon


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:


Stumbled across this story about Bertie, a pet pigeon: http://www.lifeinthefastlane.ca/pet-pigeons-as-mans-best-friend/offbeat-news

Watch the video clip of the rollers! Awesome stuff. :D

Pet Pigeons as Mans Best Friend

By Deborah • January 17, 2008

Could pigeons replace fanciful felines and cuddly canines as man’s best friend and beloved companion? One British family seems to think so.

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Photo Daily Mail / Irving of Exeter

Most people return from garage sales with a booty of goodies they got on the cheap, but one family got more than they bargained for when a pigeon took a liking to them, followed them around and became their darling pet.

Bertie the pigeon now lives with the Moor family, travels in their car, sleeps on their bed, guards their home, and is even housetrained. “There is a cage for her but she insists on sleeping next to me.” says Jane Moor, from Topsham, Devon.

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Photo Metro

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Photo Daily Mail / Irving of Exeter

“We went to a car boot sale and this pigeon kept following us about. The chap who owned it said he’d had it for a year. He asked if we wanted Bertie.”

“We took her home and expected her to fly off but she has stuck around and been with us ever since.”

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Photo Metro

“She is quite a character. She guards the house and goes on outings with us, riding in the car and then flying home on her own if she gets bored.”

She explained, “If I go anywhere near the car, she will sit on top of it or stand in front of it until I agree to let her get in with me. We took her to Portland once and she managed to find her way back home within 2 hours.”

“She got in through an upstairs window and almost frightened my daughter to death as she thought the house was being burgled when she heard things crashing about.”

But the pigeon does have some jealousy issues — Bertie is so attached to Jane that she fights her husband Kimberly, vying for attention. ‘When my husband kisses me goodbye Bertie does not like it. She puffs herself out and tries to see him off.’

Jane admitted that she struggles to leave the house without the overprotective bird, who can’t bear to be separated from her.

“If any guest tries to go upstairs, she pecks at their feet and tries to stop them, as she sees it as her territory.”

Jane’s daughter Kelly admits the pigeon’s attachment to her mother has made it difficult for the family to express affection.

“She’s taken a real shine to my mum and sits on her shoulder preening her like she would if she was another bird, but she doesn’t have much time for our cats and dogs.” said Kelly. “She hits them with her wings and pushes them off my mum’s bed if they try to jump up.”

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Photo Metro

“I would be really quite devastated if she went now. I enjoy having her around and she will be allowed to stay as long as she wants.” Jane said.

Jane commented that neighbors thought the family was crazy for their choice of pet. “But we don’t mind.” she added. “I guess it is unusual but it’s just a situation that’s evolved over time — she’s part of the family now.”

About Pigeons
In general, the terms “dove” and “pigeon” are used rather interchangeably. Zoologists frequently refer to doves as the smaller species and pigeons for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the term “dove” and “pigeon.”

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The species commonly referred to just as the “pigeon” is the feral Rock Pigeon, common in many cities throughout the world. The greatest variety of pigeons is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones. Young doves and pigeons are called “squabs.”

Their usually flimsy nests are made of sticks, and the 2 white eggs are incubated by both sexes. Doves feed on seeds, fruit and plants. Unlike most other birds, doves and pigeons produce “crop milk,” which is secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Both sexes produce this highly nutritious substance to feed to the young.

So could a pigeon replace cats or dogs as man’s best friend as the favored pet?

(From: http://www.lifeinthefastlane.ca/pet-pigeons-as-mans-best-friend/offbeat-news)