A new group of avian friends are now members of my farm's flock.
Last week, we received 20 special pigeons, which were featured in last summer's “Fly by Night” performance in New York City by artist, Duke Riley. Many of the birds were from Duke’s personal flock, and borrowed or rescued from pigeon fanciers in the region - Homers, Tipplers, Tumblers, Highfliers, as well as one of the oldest breeds, the Syrian Damascene, were part of the performing group.
Duke kept most of the pigeons as his pets. Others were returned to their original homes, or placed with experienced bird owners. I am keeping a small number here at the farm. Three of Duke Riley's staff delivered the pigeons and gave my outdoor grounds crew a thorough lesson on their care. Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been kept by people worldwide for their companionship, their sport, and their loyal service. Caring for these birds is a nice way to pay tribute to the pigeon, its fascinating history, and to learn all about these intelligent and wonderful creatures. Enjoy the photos.
Everyone was so eager to meet our newest feathered friends. Fancy pigeons are domesticated varieties of the wild rock dove, bred by pigeon fanciers for size, shape, color, and behavior.
This is one of two pigeon lofts from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. Because we only have 20, they can live together in one loft comfortably.
On one side of the loft is an entire wall of nesting spaces. Pigeons mate for life, and tend to raise two chicks at the same time. Both female and male pigeons share responsibility of caring for and raising young. Pigeons breed all year round with peak breeding periods in spring and summer.
A wall of roosting posts is on the other side. Pigeons are highly sociable animals. They will often be seen in flocks of 20 to 30 birds.
This is the back of the loft, where the pigeons socialize with each other. Pigeon lofts often contain specially constructed openings to allow the birds to come and go, but also to keep them safe and provide nesting accommodations. This section is all enclosed with special netting. The small opening outlined in white is how the birds enter the enclosure from this end of the loft.
Each entrance has buck bars – the bars allow the birds in, but keep predators out.
This is Duke Riley production studio manager, Kitty Joe Sainte-Marie. She explains the specifics about their care. Here she is holding the water container specially designed for pigeons, so they do not spill or dirty their water. Pigeons, and all the columbidae family, drink by sucking water and using their beaks like straws.
This is a pigeon feeder. The pigeon is a granivorous bird – they like to eat seeds and cereal grains, sunflower, wheat, barley, millet and peas.
Maddy Joyce, also from the Duke Riley team, shows Mike how to properly hold a pigeon.
This Damascene pigeon seems very calm and comfortable. This beautiful bird breed is thought to have originated in Damascus, Syria. It is loved for its beauty and companionship – it is even believed that the Damascene was an avian companion to the prophet, Muhammed.
The dark plum colored eye ceres and bright lively eyes are some of the features that make this breed so strikingly attractive. They are also believed to have excellent night vision.
Dawa, who oversees the care of all our fowl – the chickens, turkeys, geese, and peacocks also takes a turn at holding the bird.
Here is a Damascene and an Egyptian Swift, an old breed of pigeon, probably originating in Egypt. It is known for its beautiful range of colors, athletic ability and distinguishable short beak.
We have 10-pairs in our Bedford flock.They include, from left to right, a Dunn Tippler, Egyptian Swift, Egyptian Swift, Egyptian Swift, Damascene, Dunn Tippler, Isabella Tippler, Isabella Tippler, and the lower one, another Isabella Tippler.
These are white Homers – among the most famous pigeon breeds. They come in a variety of colors and have a remarkable ability to find their way home from very long distances.
Here is another Damascene.
Another Egyptian Swift
Here is a darker Egyptian Swift.
An Egyptian Swift, and on the right, is an Almond Tippler. Tipplers are renowned for their endurance – they can remain in uninterrupted flight for long periods of time.
This pigeon is a Dunn Tippler, also very adept at staying in flight for hours without stopping.
Here is a Dunn Tippler with an Isabella Tippler.
The floor of the aviary, is made of strong gage wire netting, supported with wooden beams.
Most of these birds are “rescues” – I am glad I am able to provide a good home for these beautiful animals.
Pigeons can fly at altitudes of 6000-feet or more. Pigeons can also fly at average speeds of up to 77-miles per hour, but have been recorded flying at about 90-miles per hour.
Pigeons are thought to navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic field and using the sun for direction. Other theories include the use of roads and even low frequency seismic waves to find their way home.
Here is that team that helped make the transition smooth and welcoming for our new avian residents – Maddy Joyce from Duke Riley’s, my outdoor grounds crew Dawa, Chhiring, Phurba, and Pete, Kitty Joe and Victor Webster, also from Duke Riley’s.
Our pigeons seemed to be settling in very well in their new coop – they will remain in this enclosure for about six to eight weeks until they are acclimated to their new home.
Pigeons, like humans, can see in color, but unlike humans they can also see ultraviolet light, a part of the spectrum that humans cannot see. As a result, pigeons are often used in search and rescue missions at sea because of this unique sense combined with excellent all-round vision.
To keep the pigeons secure and safe from predators, we closed all the openings. This opening covers the buck bars. the wooden cover was also painted my signature color “Bedford Gray” to match all the other outbuildings and coops on the property.
Here is the other side of the buck bars, which were left intact, so the pigeons could use this as a doorway once it has been reopened in a couple of months.
Over the weekend, Dawa made these perches. Birds always need places to roost – I always provide all my birds with multiple places to roost.
There are more on the opposite side. Birds enjoy roosting at higher levels. In the wild, this keeps them safe from predators. These pigeons will love their new perches.
Inside, we outfitted the space with a heating lamp and wood shavings. I am fortunate to have staff that can check on the animals several times during the day and night to ensure all are safe and that any equipment used is working properly. Water and moisture are the enemies – we keep these coops very dry to prevent bacteria and disease from developing.
A pigeon’s diet contains about 50-percent grain crops, and 10-percent oil seed, rich in vitamins B and E. Corn is also a good source of vitamin A. An average adult sized pigeon can eat about 30-grams of food each day.
To catch the pigeon droppings, Pete is building a support for two sliding pieces of wood that can be swept clean on a regular basis. This prevents the droppings from accumulating on the grass below.
Pete measures every angle – remember the old adage, “measure twice, cut once.”
Once built, the wooden trays will catch everything that falls through the netted floor in the aviary.
Dawa and Pete begin screwing in the supports.
Two-and-a-half-inch screws will keep these supports well-anchored to the pigeon loft.
Here is one wooden tray being installed.
And the two look great – each is about 43-inches across and nearly 70-inches deep to cover the entire floor space of the aviary.
Here in the Northeast, it’s been very, very cold, and over the weekend, we got several inches of snow – all the pigeons are keeping warm indoors.
The temperatures are expected to warm up by week’s end – I am looking forward to seeing how the pigeons are doing in a couple days. Pigeons are very docile, gentle and sweet natured – I know they will be well-loved here. Welcome to Cantitoe Corners, pigeons!