Species group: Domestic Fancy Pigeons
Other common names: Altdeutsches Mövchen; Movchen; Little Gull Pigeon
Scientific name: Columba livia domestica
The Old German Owl is the ancestor stock to today's German short-faced Shield Owl Pigeon varieties.The Oriental Frill Pigeon and some similar varieties created great excitement in Germany in the 19th century, quickly leading to the development of the Old German Owl Pigeon, which in its turn became the first of the German “Shield” Owl Pigeons. Many pigeon varieties were nearly wiped out after two devastating World Wars in Europe, and the Old German Owl Pigeon was probably on the brink of extinction by the end of World War II. Hard-working breeders in Germany and elsewhere in Europe worked to save the variety, and today it is popular not just in Europe but also the United States.
The Old German Owl Pigeon earns its nickname of Little Gull Pigeon because its original plumage reminds you of an adult gull, with its mostly white body, contrasting nicely with the gray wings marked with two black wing bars. Because of a mistranslation from German, English writers seem to believe that the name came from comparisons to the Silver Gull, an Australian species that never appears in Germany. The actual comparison was probably to the European Herring Gull. Be that as it may, Old German Owls also remind you of their Oriental Frill cousins, thanks to their short beak, frilled breast, and peaked crest. There are many color mutations available today, so don't expect all specimens to be “gull” colored.
280 - 360 grams (10 - 13 oz.)
25 centimeters (10 in.)
7 - 10 years
Behavior / temperament:
Old German Owl Pigeons seem to be easy-going birds. Some individuals have been described as quiet or even shy, but they became more active and friendly by copying other tame pigeons in their loft. They are generally well regarded for high intelligence combined with a gentle, responsive nature.
As with any Owl or short-faced Pigeon, observe breeding birds carefully to make sure the parents can feed the young. If they can't, you may need to handfeed or foster the babies to a variety known for good parenting, such as the Racing Homer Pigeon.
The majority of Old German Owl Pigeon keepers are breeders and exhibitors who keep their birds in a specialized loft. Talk to another breeder before you design your loft, and make sure that it is easy to clean and secure from mosquitoes, raccoons, and other predators that would like nothing better than to feast on a nice tasty pigeon. Have a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space for each pair. Yes, that does mean that an aviary 4 feet wide by 6 feet long houses a maximum of 12 birds. Pigeons are messy, and their droppings and feathers can accumulate, so don't take on a bigger job than you are sure you can manage. Consider a security system to deter thieves.
Old German Owl Pigeons are admittedly very cute, attracting attention as pets as well as for show. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you make sure that these active birds enjoy a large, easy-to-clean flight cage. Bird-proof the room where you spend the most time, making sure you can lock windows and doors from the inside when you have your pet out. These birds can fly, and they will benefit from exercise, but they are by no means racing or homing pigeons, and you should use common sense. Make sure your pet is trained to come to your hand for treats before you risk taking it outside, if you do take it outside at all.
All pigeons 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. Also, if you have them sharing a loft with larger pigeons using standard equipment, make sure that these smaller birds can actually reach the food and water.
Old German Owl Pigeons can 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. For these short-beaked birds, consider a tumbler pigeon mix, since they may not be able to eat the larger seeds such as larger black sunflowers found in a standard mix. 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.
All Old German Owls 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