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Colour  Example


Normal colour tail Wood Pigeon  Columba palumbus


I am often asked, "How did we get such diversity in fancy pigeons from such a drab grey Columba livia starting point ? "


Man has always noticed the unusual and then treasured this difference, even today a new flower colour or variagated leaf colour is all the rage and a must have. If you  ask any child which pigeon they prefer out of 11 plain grey ones and 1 grey with white feathers  almost all will say the latter.


Sometimes you do not have to look far from your own garden to notice the unusual and here is an example of just that.

I have a hen Wood Pigeon {Columba palumbus}, approximately  2 years old, which visits the garden to feed near my kitchen door. She is from a line of Wood pigeons which have visited over the last 15 years none of which have ever shown any unusual feather marking or colouring. She is not tame but will come up to the door for seed or peanuts never getting too close  just close enough to benefit from whatever titbit is on offer.


Wood Pigeons normally have a very dark wide terminal bar in the tail feathers but this hen has developed, only this year after a late moult, a white strip towards the end of the tail. She still has, at the time of writing (15th December 2009),  the outer one or two dark tail feathers to moult in. I have mentioned this to several people and none have known of this white tail bar being recorded on a Wood pigeon.


This is my example of how in ancient times an unusually feathered bird would be noticed and maybe then saved from the pot, preserved and treasured for its novelty. In time the novelty becomes fixed and we are on the way to a new colour marking of a breed.

In the case of Wood pigeons I have seen hybrid specimens, at the Natural History Museum, Tring, from cross matings of Wood pigeon to domestic pigeon but not with this marking. The Wood pigeon  is a very difficult breed to work with, it is known for being very wild. Even when hand reared in captivity once fledged they become unmanageable.


I shall be observing this hen to see how the remaining tail feathers moult in as it has been suggested to me by naturalists that in this case it could be due to a hormonal imbalance and not genetic. However whatever the reason for the change my point has been made that the bird with a difference has been noticed.    


Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) showing white tail bar which is similar to ribbon tail mutation in fancy pigeons  


Close up view of whitish tail bar


Wood pigeon 2008, normal tail,  with newly hatched egg stuck to underside of feathers


Fledgling Wood pigeon, November 2008, first visit to garden with parent not in picture. Interestingly the young Wood pigeon does not have the distinctive white collar until after the first moult.    

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