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Damascene Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the Damascene Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Mahomet Pigeon; Mohammed Pigeon

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
For a mid-sized pigeon, the short-legged, short-billed Damascene Pigeon has an impressively powerful look. It is an ancient flying breed that has been transformed into a color or show pigeon over the passage of time. While it won't win any races against our modern Racing Homer Pigeons, it is a beautiful bird in flight.

This ancient breed is said to be 3,000 years old, so it has had plenty of time to attract its share of myths. The name suggests that the bird was developed in Damascus, Syria, and some people believe that it was, but others say that it originated in Turkey or Iran. One legend says that the Holy Spirit in the shape of a Damascene Pigeon spoke to the prophet Mohammed. In the late 19th century the first specimens were imported into England and Scotland, but they suffered terribly in Europe during the era of the World Wars and were actually wiped out in Europe by the end of World War II. Fortunately, plenty of these splendid birds remained in the Middle East, and they have once again spread across Europe and the world.

Appearance:
A beautiful mid-sized pigeon with a short bill. Its main plumage color is “ice” -- a silvery-white, almost silvery blue color, accented by two deep black wing bars. If you look beneath the feathers, you will notice that its skin is also black. In champions, the eyes are ruby red and surrounded by a double, two-toned eye-ring in blue and black, giving these wonderful birds an alert, big-eyed expression.

Weight:
370 - 425 grams (13 - 15 oz.)

Average size:
32 centimeters (12.5 in.)

Lifespan:
10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The strong and intelligent Damascene Pigeon will benefit from the exercise of being flown. Work with a more advanced fancier to gain experience with flying your birds. They are show birds, not racing or homing pigeons, but they are still worth seeing in flight. They can drop straight down into the loft from a height of perhaps a hundred feet or so.

Damascenes also enjoy a reputation for being good parents that care for their own young longer than many other varieties.

Housing:
A proper loft for breeding and training Damascene 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, and they especially prize flying breeds, 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 Damascene 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.

Damascene Pigeons 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 Damascene Pigeon 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. Some people who fly their birds have even offered a Racing Homer mix but do not provide too rich a diet to birds that don't get sufficient exercise. You may also mix 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. Avoid overfeeding your bird. Damascenes should be solid, not obese.

Damascene Pigeons 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

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