Portuguese Tumbler Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the Portuguese Tumbler Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: N/A

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Portuguese Tumbler Pigeon is a tiny bird developed from Portuguese and English tumbling breeds. At the present time, the goal is mostly to create the world's smallest domestic pigeon variety, although some Valencian Figuritas are still smaller than many Portuguese Tumbler. Therefore, the Portuguese Tumbler is mostly seen as a show bird. However, these birds are capable of tumbling and can be trained to perform as part of a competitive team of tumbling pigeons known as a “kit.” They have a reputation for being sweet, easy to handle pigeons, and their tiny size draws the attention of potential pet owners, as well as competitive breeders, although they're not easy to find everywhere.

Warning: Many Portuguese Tumblers available in the United States come from non-performing stock. They may make beautiful birds for the show bench, but they may not be able to compete as flying performers. If you want performing birds, ask questions and know your breeder.

There's a bit of rivalry between Spain and Portugal even in the fancy of breeding pigeons, and some people claim the Valencian Figurita Pigeon as the world's smallest pigeon, while others award the title to the Portuguese Tumbler. While exceptional Portuguese Tumblers are rumored to tip the scale at 4 ounces, probably a lot more of them weigh in at around 6 to 8 ounces. But stay tuned, since breeders are working toward the goal of breeding smaller birds with every generation.

A tiny pigeon. Smaller is better with this variety.

110 - 220 grams (4 - 8 oz.)

Average size:
12 - 14 centimeters (5 - 5.5 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
Portuguese Tumblers are sweet-natured and a lot of fun to be around. Even a pet bird that couldn't win a competition may enjoy free-flying and tumbling for you, but get expert advice to learn about how to train your birds. And use common sense. Know your predator situation. Don't fly your birds when birds of prey are active in your area. A Peregrine Falcon can dine just as happily on an exotic fancy pigeon as a feral street pigeon.

The majority of Portuguese Tumbler 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.

If you are planning to fly a performing kit, you need a specialized loft called a kit box, where you can house your competition team together, since you will train them to leave and return after each performance. For more information, it's imperative to connect with other hobbyists, perhaps by becoming a member of the Portuguese Tumbler Club of America.

Portuguese Tumblers are cute, attracting attention as pets as well as performing pigeons. 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 are good fliers and tumblers, but they are somewhat vulnerable to being captured by flying predators like hawks if they get outside. It is a myth that the spinning action allows them to evade or confuse predators, as hawks and other birds of prey are reported to catch some tumblers every year.

Portuguese Tumblers 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.

The Portuguese Tumbler Pigeon can thrive on a relatively simple diet. Most people start with a high-quality pigeon mix from a well-regarded source. For these smaller 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. 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.

All Portuguese Tumblers 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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