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Archangel Pigeon

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Is the Archangel Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Copper Blackwing Gimpel; Gimpeltaube; Copper Whitewing; Peak Crested Copper Blackwing

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The splendid Archangel Pigeon is considered first and foremost a color variety.This shimmering pigeon claims a long history. For instance, a bird that sounds like the classic Copper Blackwing Archangel was apparently bred in Serbian monasteries as early as the 13th century. Called first the Illyrian Pigeon and then the Gimpel, this dramatic two-toned pigeon moved into Germany and eventually into England. The name Archangel may come from the French word, arcencial, which means rainbow, which would refer to the iridescent plumage. However, since this breed is only called the “Archangel” in the United States, not in Europe, it's hard to say if this theory is correct.

In the United Kingdom, the term “Archangel” refers to the Peak Crested Copper Blackwing only, not to all of the possible color forms, and one myth holds that this name comes from the port of Archangel in Russia, from which the first birds were supposedly exported to the U.K. Yet, in complete contradiction, some other people claim that this color mutation of the Archangel was developed in England. Clearly, all of these stories about this glittering pigeon can't be true, but you can't blame anyone for wanting to claim a piece of its story.

Appearance:
The classic Copper Blackwing is a beautiful pigeon whose body and face color is a lovely copper or bronze, with a pronounced iridescent shimmer. The contrasting wings, back, and upper tail are a dramatic black. Copper Whitewings have a similar color scheme, except that the wings, back, and upper tail are a pure angelic white. There are other acceptable color patterns allowed on the show bench. To make sure you're going in the right direction, serious fanciers who plan to breed show birds should get involved with a master breeder from their country's club, such as the American Archangel Club for United States residents. Archangels may be crested or plain-headed.

Weight:
280 - 450 grams (9.9 - 15.9 oz.)

Average size:
33-34 centimeters (13 - 13.4 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The beautiful Archangel Pigeon may sometimes be a little more skittish than some of the other popular varieties. One breeder notes that he had to provide somewhat private nestboxes, to keep his Archangels from abandoning eggs or babies. They can learn to fly to your hand for treats, but tame pets tend to be rather sedate pigeons that may spend a lot of time on the ground.

Housing:
A proper loft for breeding and training Archangel Pigeons is a specialized structure that must be carefully designed for easy cleaning and good air circulation without being drafty. Work with a more advanced hobbyist or breeder so that you can plan the best possible loft for your goals. It is often recommended that pigeons have a minimum of four feet square per pair, which means that a loft containing 12 birds should be at least four feet by six. Thieves have been a huge problem in some areas, so make sure that you have a secure loft, including alarms and probably a web-cam to monitor and record anyone going in or out.

If you have a retired, rehomed, or otherwise single pet Archangel that you are keeping as a personal pet, then you have a different situation. Provide the longest flight possible, to allow the bird to exercise even when you can't be there. Bird-proof any room where you allow the bird to come out and fly free (no ceiling fans, please!), and lock all doors and windows while the bird is out and about indoors. Pigeons can't be toilet-trained, but it's even possible to buy pigeon diapers if need be to keep the poop under control.

Archangels do bathe in water, so they should be allowed access to a shallow dog dish or similar bathing bowl to splash around in. Since pigeons lower the head to drink, they will need a deeper bowl for the drinking water.

Diet:
As an older breed, the exotic-looking Archangel has actually been developed to thrive on a relatively simple diet. Most people start with a high-quality pigeon mix from a well-regarded source. You may also mix in quality grains such as millet, barley, wheat, whole corn, dry peas, buckwheat, oats, and so on, either from a good feed store with fast turn-over or from a health food store. Special pellets formulated for pigeons can be used to supplement the diet, to ensure that your bird has enough vitamins and protein. Chopped greens like kale, dandelion greens, spinach, or fresh sprouts should be offered each day. Some people offer high beta carotene foods like finely chopped carrot or papaya.

Archangels need access to a high quality pigeon grit to help them digest the tough, uncooked grains they like to eat. A cuttlebone or another calcium source is also valuable. However, calcium may not be properly absorbed without sufficient vitamin D3 if your pigeon is an indoor pet. Therefore, it is important to choose a good avian supplement that includes D3.

Written by Elaine Radford