Sexing a Pigeon
Awhile back, I wrote that I’d be sharing the latest developments that I have regarding my investigation into the sexing of a war hero pigeon named Cher Ami who may be a hen or a cock. This issue is important for several reasons, including that the bird is identified as a cock at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where the bird is stuffed and on display. If the plaque that identifies the bird as a male is incorrect, it matters, given how many people visit there every year: 4.3M visitors in 2018, apparently. In any case, here’s an email I got from a reader and fellow Person Interested in Cher Ami—I hereby christen us: PICAs—who came across my posts: Dr. Marianne M. Gilchrist. Also, I’m excited to report I’ve gotten a very interesting lead from the National Archives. So, more to come. Thank you, Dr. Gilchrist! You can find the full thread of my Cher Ami posts here.
Email subject header: Cher Ami the Pigeon
Date: November 17, 2018
Having recently discovered Cher Ami's story, and your blog thread on her, and being very fond of pigeons, I just thought I'd add an observation on gender:
While it's difficult to be sure, given that the bird is stuffed, and taxidermists can change an animal's shape, my suspicion is she's a hen. Cock pigeons are chunkier and tend to have a thicker neck, with thicker feathers that they can puff out as a ruff in courtship dances. Cher Ami's neck is more slender. Cocks also have bigger ceres (the white 'nose') above their beaks.
I found these images online that demonstrate sex dimorphism in pigeons. Cher Ami looks to me more like a girl pidgie.
[My reply on January 17, 2019]
Thanks, Marianne, and apologies for the delayed response. Would you mind if I posted your email on my blog? I could use your name or not.
[Dr. Gilchrist’s reply on January 18, 2019]
Yes! I've also read that she was discovered to be a hen when she was stuffed.
I wonder if the stresses of war had stopped her laying eggs? She was an adult bird.
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