pigeon feather play an important role in Pigeons Flying. Pigeons fly in the sky at a very high altitude, remains in the sky for a long time, and then returned to their home after completing the flying process. During flying, Feathers develop from Feather-Pits present in the lower layer of cells or the subcutaneous tissue of the skin.
Types Of Pigeon’s Feather:
These feathers are of the following types:
- Down feathers.
- Hair feathers.
- Fluff feathers.
- Contour feathers.
- Ordinary contour feathers.
- Wings feathers.
These are yellow, soft hair like unbranched feathers of the down covering a newly hatched chick’s body. These pigeon feather drop off gradually and disappear with age. However, some down feathers remain attached to the neck’s skin and seen with the neck’s ordinary feathers for about five weeks or so.
These hair-like small pigeon feather are about 8 cm long and seen when the body feathers of a squab or an adult pigeon are plucked and removed. These are comparatively abundant at the butt end of the body.
Feathers called fluff are without shafts and connecting barbules, and this causes fluffiness. Their presence restricted to the vent or area under the tail and sides of the body. Their primary and prominent feature is that they have large waxy powder quantities compared to another pigeon feather.
Pigeon Contour feathers include ordinary feathers that cover a pigeon’s body and the wing and tail feathers.
Ordinary Contour Feathers:
Ordinary contour feathers are of varying size differing with the part of the body these cover. Almost all of these feathers point backward and overlap presenting a smooth surface to the air and reducing friction, hence air resistance, while the pigeon is flying. The actual function of these feathers is to protect the pigeon from cold.
All body feathers develop and grow in definite feather tracts alternating with featherless spaces, and seen clearly in young nestlings. Featherless distance is maximum on both sides of the breast bone. In white, black, and red pigeons, the young’s color is initially not changed much. Most other breeds/strains transformed drastically in adults. Most high flyer pigeon’s young ones are black nicked around the neck and with black wing and tail feathers. These feathers shed and except for the black nicks around the neck:
- All the ten new outer wing feathers and the tail may be black.
- The entire tail may be jet black and the rest of the body covered with white feathers.
- All black feathers may get replaced with white feathers.
- There might be a few black feathers in the wings and or the tail.
Pigeons with profuse feathering called feathery or “prail.”Most fanciers like feathery pigeons. Pigeons with a soft velvety touch to hand are generally of good quality. Its because such feathers provide the least air friction during the flight.
Through wings, the pigeon transforms potential energy stored in the wing muscles and liver into kinetic energy to move forward in the air and overcome the force of gravity and stay aloft. Naturally, it can’t do so with the wings’ bone structure and muscles alone and requires feathers of various types to act as propellers and keep it afloat. Feathers on the wings of a pigeon classified as:
- Outer flight feathers or the primaries.
- Inner flight feathers or the secondaries.
- Wing Coverts.
- Thumb feathers present on the false wing.
Outer Flight Pigeon Feather Or The Primaries:
Fancier of sub-continent gave much importance to these features. Fanciers gave special attention to the shape of the 9th primary. They compare 9th primaries of the left and right wings to see whether they are identical in shape and size. The difference between these primaries’ shapes indicates that there may be a difference in all other wing’s feathers. In that case, the pigeon’s right or left-wing would exert unequal pressure on the air below when flying, thus promoting fatigue.
Some fanciers prefer the fore-wing’s outer four feathers called “The Beat,” to be uniform in size and shape. However, the outermost feather of the fore-wing, the 10th primary, is the longest and thinnest. Some fancier do not like the last primary to be very thin and bent outward at its upper end. However, the tenth primary’s shape and width depend on the high flyer pigeon’s breed/strain.
Thin And Lightweight Feather:
Pigeon fanciers pay special attention to rachis or shaft and the inner web of the primaries. Thin and lightweight considered best. At the same time, waviness is a good indicator of a thinner web. One can gauge its thickness by placing one’s fingertip below it. The shaft’s shape and thickness are also essential, a thinner shaft is rectangular in cross-section but has as much tensile strength considered best.
Evidently thinness of the shaft and webbing of primaries and secondaries, and hence of all body feathers, means that a pigeon with these qualities has to carry a lesser load of feathers than pigeons with thicker shafts and webbings. Helps the former to make more fly time compared to the latter. True, for us, the difference in featherweight may appear inconsequential, but it is quite substantial and essential for a pigeon of the size and weight of the high or low fliers and the English Flying Tipplers.
Pigeon Feather Essential Landmark:
In good breeds, the tensile strength of the thinner and flatter shaft of the primaries is augmented by its furrowed and buttressed lower surface, a structural device that reduces weight but not at the cost of the strength of the shaft. Another good feather indicator is that its flatter shaft’s upper surface shows very thin longitudinal lines, it appears that made up of thin strips, like the springs of a car, instead of being solid in structure. Experience has shown that high and low fliers with thinner flat shafts come into form very quickly and their young ones start making time at a much younger age compared to pigeons with thicker round shafts.
Some other essential landmarks quoted as prominent features of good high fliers. A conspicuous dip or cut in the upper part of the 9th primary believed to help in ventilation during the wing’s upward stroke. 9th primary top half-inch then 8th and 10th primary is considered as a good flyer also. Top an inch or so of the 7th to 10th primaries gets turned up after the pigeon flown for some time, resulting in flight efficiency loss.
It indicates that either their shafts remain short of their ends or are too thin and week to bear the strain. Primaries with no natural downward bend at their distal ends suffer most. Pigeons with shafts reaching up to the top end of the primaries and primaries availing a downward curve or bend would do better as these would, during flying, take considerable time to get straightened before turning upward and affecting flight efficiency adversely.
Inner Flight pigeon Feather Or The Secondaries:
Compared to primaries, secondaries are:
- Not embedded in the skin very firmly and can easily pull out.
- Possess thinner shafts and are bent comparatively more downward.
- Possess a wider web of the vane.
- These feathers remain more protected compared to primaries.
- Receive much less stress and strain during flight.
- Shedding from outside to inside.
- Molting of these feathers starts much after the primaries’ shedding is completed and much later than the summer competitions.
Leave the inner flight feathers untouched while plucking the outer flight feathers and tail feathers to prepare high flyer pigeons for summer and autumn competitions. It puts unnecessary strain and load on the pigeons.
Wing coverts are ordinary small feathers that cover the upper surface of the wings. These overlap each other and directed backward. Their function is mainly protective. These are called greater wing covets, median wing coverts, and lesser wing-coverts according to the portion of the wing they cover and protect.
Three small feathers covering the first digit called the pollex or hand are called bastard pinions and constitute the bastard or spurious wing. These feathers have their muscles by which these raised or lowered. This spurious wing lies close to the hand’s wing edge when the pigeon is flying in a straight line. It helps the pigeon in rising and landing. In the past, no one knows its importance. However, It’s now known that it takes an active part in the flight and prevents turbulence as is evident by reduced flight efficiency when thumb feathers are removed or have molted.
Molting of Outer Flight Pigeon Feather Or The Primaries:
According to most fanciers, young pigeons raised during spring shed their egg feathers to produce new outer flight feathers at the ages indicated below.
Counting from the inner side of the pigeon facing the fancier:
- First primary on the left and right wings within 45 to 50 days.
- Second primary on the left and right wings within 65 to 70 days.
- Third primary on the left and right wings within 75 t 80 days.
- Fourth primary on the left and right wings within 85 to 88 days.
- Fifth primary on the left and right wings within 90 to 95 days.
- Sixth primary on the left and right wings within 110 to 115 days.
- Seventh primary on the left and right wings within 125 to 135 days.
- Eighth primary on the left and right wings within 145 to 155 days.
- Ninth primary on the left and right wings within 165 to 175 days.
- Tenth outer flight feather of both wings within 182 to 190 days.
Molting of some of the feathers of the two wings delayed for a few days. Molting also affected by pigeon’s health quite considerably. The provision of frequent bathing facilities promotes rapid molting. It’s even possible, Sometimes young ones suffering from a disease molt their feather at once.
Molting of Inner Flight Feathers Or The Secondaries:
Molting or shedding of the secondaries or the inner flight feathers is quite interesting. Counting from the inside:
- First secondary of both wings within 90 to 100 days.
- Second secondary of both wings within 135 to 140 days.
- Third secondary of both wings within 155 to 160 days.
- Fourth secondary of both wings within 190 to 200 days.
- Fifth secondary of both wings within 210 to 215 days.
- Sixth secondary of both wings within 220 to 225 days.
- Seventh secondary of both wings within 225 to 230 days.
- Eighth secondary of both wings within 235 to 240 days.
- Ninth secondary of both wings within 245 to 250 days.
- Tenth inner flight feather of both wings within 250 to 260 days.
Of course, these observations and data are for normal growth and health conditions and do not recover abnormities. Again, there may be a delay of a few days shedding the corresponding secondaries of the right and left wings.
Sometimes shaft of one of the tail feathers splits along its entire length. Pigeons with such tail feathers called split-feathered or “Dumcheer.” The split is causing either by some physiological defect or is hereditary and produced by a specific gene. In the former case, the juvenile stage’s split feather disappears during the first or some subsequent molting. However, a hereditary split feather resulting from a recessive gene continues through the life of a pigeon.
Discolored band or bands and faded up feathers in the tail and the wings of young pigeons, a sign of bad health and nutritional deficiency, especially that of some vitamins, at various stages of its development. Each wing feathers has a structure identical to that of the corresponding feather in the other wing, but the shape and size of all tail feathers are usually similar.
Most of the high flyer pigeons are the slightly rounded tail, but some breeds are somewhat flat. In most cases, wings are carried above the tail but in a few breeds below it. Most of the high flyer pigeon breeds keep the tail fanned up while flying but some keep it closed and open or spread it only a short time before they start landing. As far as its function is concerned, the tail helps the pigeon in flight as tailless pigeons lose time making considerably. It also acts as a brake during landing. The length of the tail is also subject to considerable controversy. Most of the fanciers prefer smaller compared to long tails.
Molting Of Tail Feathers:
Counting from the left side of the pigeon that faces the fancier holding it, molting of egg tail feathers generally follows the following schedule:
- First and the twelfth feather molt within 120 to 130 days.
- Second and the eleventh feather molt within 160 to 165 days.
- Third and the tenth feather molt within 145 to 150 days.
- Fourth and the ninth feather molt within 130 to 135 days.
- Fifth feather 100 days and the eighth feather 90 to 95 days.
- Sixth and the seventh feather molt within 125 to 130 days.
The above schedule is typical for a normal and healthy young pigeon but may differ widely with the season of hatching and its health. Again, except for the fifth and eighth feather where molting may differ by a week or so, shedding of corresponding tail feathers may get delayed slightly compared to normal conditions.
The upper tail coverts consist of downwards pointing ordinary small feathers. At the same time, the lower tail coverts are fluffs that surround the anus. The main function of these feathers is to protect the body. Usually, vent coverts’ presence and color pattern is used to describe a pigeon and is specific to a particular breed. Sometimes in old cocks and hens fluff feathers around the vent become so profuse as to obstruct the passage of sperms and thus result in un-hatched eggs. Removal or clipping of these feathers helps if there is no other cause of infertility.