Pigeons are one of the most common birds on earth. There are close to 175 species of pigeons across the world. Pigeons can be found almost in all places except the Sahara desert, arctic, and the Antarctic. They inhibit all the places ranging from the grasslands to the rain forests.
Pigeons are beautiful birds known for their beautiful flight patterns and intelligence. They can fly across thousands of kilometers using their feathers and strong wings. Pigeons can fly at a speed of 77.6 miles per hour. They are amongst one of the most graceful fliers in the bird kingdom. Colorful and strong pigeon feathers give them the ability to fly with beauty and speed.
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How many feathers does a pigeon have?
It is estimated that adult pigeons have 10,000 feathers. Baby pigeons are born without completely formed feathers. They are covered with light yellow or white hair which is later shed off to make way for grown feathers.
Types of Feathers in Pigeons
As in the case with all other birds, pigeons have different kinds of feathers.
- Down Feathers – These are the soft, yellow or white, hair-like feathers which are found on newborn chicks. These feathers fall off as the chick nears 4-5 weeks of age to make way for mature, flight feathers.
- Hair Feathers – These are hair-like feathers and reach around 8 cm in length. These are found near the rear end of a pigeon, under the body feathers.
- Contour Feathers – Feathers found on the back, belly, and top of the wings are known as contour feathers. They provide shape to the pigeon body. These feathers insulate the pigeon’s body and provide warmth during the winter months. They are also waterproof and protect the pigeon from freezing.These feathers usually point backwards and are arranged in an overlapping manner. This ensures that the pigeon’s wing and body surfaces are smooth and hence offer no friction. This means that there is very less air resistance when the pigeon is in flight.
- Tail Feathers – Tail feathers help pigeons take-off and steering their way in the flight. They also play a vital role in the mating process of the pigeons. The female pigeon does the tail sweep to gain the attention of the male pigeons.
- Chest Feathers – The most prominent and beautiful feathers on a pigeon’s body are its chest feathers. These colorful feathers are iridescent and glow in the sun. You can find them in mixed colors of purple, pink, and green.
- Flight Feathers – Flight feathers or Quill feathers are the permanent feathers in pigeons. These feathers are long and translucent. They are present under their wings, resting just above the tail. Baby pigeons and fledglings do not have these feathers.
There are 4 major types of flight feathers.
- Outer Flight Feathers (Primaries) : These are the 10-12 feathers found in each forewing in a pigeon. These are the feathers which bear the most impact during flight. The shape, size and texture of these features vary from breed to breed.
- Inner Flight Feathers (Secondaries) : These too, are usually 10 in number. These feathers also help in flight but do not bear as much strain as the primaries. The secondaries also help a lot in takeoff, landing, slow flying and circling around.
- Wing Coverts : These are small feathers and are present on the upper surface of pigeon wings. They point backwards and are overlapping to protect the wings.
- Thumb Feathers : These are the three feathers which cover the pollex or hand of the pigeon. These help to ensure a steady flight and help counter turbulence.
What color are pigeon feathers?
Pigeons are usually found in blue-black, ash-red and brown colors. Rock pigeons often have 2 dark blue/black bands on the wings, extending to the tail. They can have varied wing patterns with spots, stripes, or just plain too.
Do pigeons have iridescent feathers?
Yes, common pigeons (also called rock doves) have iridescent feathers. The feathers on their necks appear to change from green to purple and vice versa. This is usually more prominent in males than females.
This iridescence is caused when light is refracted at slightly different angles through the microscopic gaps in the feathers of the pigeon. Only a tiny shift can make these feathers appear green or purple.
This feature helps pigeons identify each other easily.
Pigeons are versatile birds, found throughout the world. Adult pigeons, on average, have 10,000 feathers while chicks are born without flight feathers.
Pigeons have different types of feathers to help in different aspects of flight. Additionally, the iridescent feathers present on the neck are not only beautiful to look at but also serve an important function and help pigeons identify others of their species.