Mangile's Pigeon Pages

Pigeon Genetics, News, Views & Comments
March 1991, Issue #33, pages 9, 10 & 11.
(To editor, Paul Gibson on Dec. 27, 1990.)

Chalky plumage in Domestic Pigeons?

  by Robert J. Mangile

December 27, 1990

Dear Paul,

     Got PGNV&C  [Issue #32] today; but haven't finished reading it all yet. Your plea for material [on page 26] has prompted me to respond; especially the mention of my so-called “new mutant”!  I assume that it is the one that I've dubbed “orange” (which is a misnomer)!

Original chalky ash red cock & ash-red hen.      On April 10, 1971, I purchased an entire loft of Racing Homers (both loft and birds) from Gary Flippin, just to gain possession of a particular “soft orangish-red” (B-A//+) checkered Racing Homer cock (band number, IF-66-COL-120).  [(See photo.)] This bird was a very beautiful orangish red checker that I often referred to as 'marshmallow orange'.

[Original "orangish" cock, IF--66-COL-120 in photo with a dark checkered, ash-red hen,  for comparison of plumage.]

   Gary Flippin had entered Pittsburg State University of Pittsburg, Kansas and after locating me (as a pigeon fancier) decided to bring his pigeons to Pittsburg from his home in Columbia, Missouri.  Flippin got the orangish looking bird from Dean DeHaven, also of Columbia, MO.

     After some passage of time, the evolution of Gary Flippin's life dictated that he rid his pigeons and that is how I got them; loft and all the birds or nothing.  I bought loft and all.

     The bird wound up to be a real puzzlement and only after several years did I decide that there was a very likely possibility that the orange looking bird was a Racing Homer that had other breed infusion; possibly Giant Homers.  (If you remember the old style Giant Homers looked like Homers and not Show Homers, as they do today and the Giant Homer breeders were very active in introducing new colors into the breed.)

      Anyway, when mated with a blue bar hen, he produced some unusual looking offspring, including some very “whitish” looking blue birds.  Much later, I decided that these whitish birds were reduced (r/.) hens.  But never proven beyond a doubt.

     Aside from reduced looking birds, some off-colored blues and ash reds popped out of his progeny.  The ash reds were conspicuous to my eyes; but the blue plumages weren't clearly identifiable.  My experiences with color mutants back in the early 1970's was not extensive and questions about my judgment must be weighed into the matter too.

     I gave the original 'orangeish' red-check cock (band number, IF-66-COL-120) to Dr. W. F. Hollander on July 29, 1973, at the APFC Convention.  Later Hollander reported that it died.  But, all was not lost.  I had other stock from his line.

     Confusion was the order of business.  Every time I produced a clearly identifiable phenotype there would be some question to parentage and efforts nail down the “mutant” remained elusive.  Finally, I learned that many young plumages that were being culled for blues were in fact the unusual “mutant” but often times it was so weakly expressed I couldn't recognize it.  Later, as per usual, with some knowledge, I learned that the molt altered the phenotypic expression enough that I was satisfied that something was indeed present and it wasn't just plain ole blue!?

     Gradually, I became both a believer and a skeptic of the gene.  It looked like faded (St-F) but not like the faded plumaged that I've produced.  All of my known faded blue plumages were cocks because I had a faded brown linkage (St-F and b).  Also, all or most of my faded birds were flecked quite heavily (for the most part) and the so-called new “orange” mutant did not and still does not fleck on blue plumages.  This is tricky business at best??

     Others observed the coloration but weren't impressed.  My emotions fluctuated from “yes it is” to “no it ain't” a new mutation.  Finally, I made up my mind to consider it a mutant all to its self and decided that if it wasn't something new, the burden of proof would have to lie with someone willing to proof it.  However, I remained and still remain skeptical that it is a new mutant.

     When mated with St-F,b some nearly white plumages were produced and when mated to the Qualmond St-Q type plumages near white plumages were also produced.  More importantly, when mated together, near white plumages were produced.  So, it looked as though it was either faded or an allele to faded.  But of particular importance to note is that of the mostly white plumages produced in each of the three mating types, all had a distinct phenotypic expression.  Most importantly was that the so-called “orange” mutant produced a white overall plumage with a gray overcast with little or no flecking but sometimes the flight had dark borders, as did other large feathers.

     My confidence about this so-called mutation is still shaky!  I planned to do a piece for the Information Please! column in the APJ; but after thinking about it for a time, I change my mind.  The reasons are: 1.), I am not that confident that it is anything other than faded (St-F); 2.), I'm afraid that my boldness may generate an incorrect idea among the pigeon fancy in general; 3.), those who have observed it haven't become infected enough with the thing to help prove or disprove its existence and 4.), I have not recorded information to convince myself or anyone else that it is something new or different.

     However, the fact that this piece is so lengthy should be evidence that I think it is, in fact, something different; but I cannot say it is a new mutation.  The difference just might be that the backdrop of the genetic stock I possess allows this faded-like gene to express itself in a manner that is different than other flocks of birds where the well know faded (St-F) gene exists.

     Many birds were dispersed, even to the West Coast.  The “frosty” color said to originate out West[?] just might be from my stock or stock that is similar to mine.  I am only guessing.

[Paul Gibson comments; “I tested the so called “Genton frosty” and lost it after a couple frustrating years of testing.  I am willing to bet that it is the same expression.  I hypothesized that it was Faded plus recessive opal.  Never proved it thought.  I got one of your “orange” blue males from K. Hendricks but it died before producing offspring.]

     The original term “marshmallow orange” gave way to “orange” and I eventually used the symbol, St-O.  It served my mind well enough but others had a difficult time dealing with a basically blue bird and referring to it as “orange”.  Hendricks and Dooley put the “heat” on me to suggest another name.  A couple of years ago, I made a vain attempt to call it “chalky” and use the symbol, St-C.  But I don't like the term chalky nor the wide use of the symbol.  It may not even exist??

Chalky Ash-red cock - Jan. 2001 Chalky Photos - 2001

Here are three chalky photos taken by Ken Davis and John Skistimas during a visit on January 21, 2001.

Left: A heterozygous chalky ash red cock with chalky tail flecking.(1331-A) IF-94-AHPI-4963.
Below left: A heterozygous chalky cock - note lack of flecking.  (1287-B) 1975-10182.
Below right: A hemizygous chalky hen with left wing spread.  (1308-E) AU-89-TEXAS-3711.

Homogygouz chalky - 30 day old cock. Homozygous chalky - 30 day old cock.

The two photos of this homozygous chalky cock (1361-B) clearly depict the whitened phenotype expected.  This bird is only 30 days of age.  It is the offspring of the two chalky blue birds shown above (1975-10182 cock x AU-89-TEXAS-3711 hen); and was produced in an individual breeding cage.  The white ticking above the eye is a good indication that it is also "dirty" (V//?).  Also note the large, mostly blue-black secondary feather  in the right wing.  With maturity this bird will loose the overcast gray appearance and display a more immaculate white plumage with perhaps more flecking.  Note the slight reddish bronzing in the bar area.  Female chalkys never display a whitened phenotype.  (Photos taken on June 4, 2001, by Pegg Smith.)

     I gave a chalky blue hen to Gerald Dooley some time ago and he reports that he had a blue cock from that hen, impossible?  I told him to take a good look at it - that is chalky??  Ouch??  It proved to be just that, but the inexperienced eye may miss it on some birds.  The best clue is to gaze intently at the flights and compare them to a real blue and one gradually learns to identify the duller hue of black in the flights of the “chalky” plumages.  On the other hand, some blue chalkies are absolutely beautiful, almost appearing like reduced (r) and to get a real beautiful plumage..., a chalky-reduced is out of this World to the eye of the appreciative.

     Descriptions and experiences are endless.  Recently, I've been trying to get a crossover with chalky and brown.  I have a couple of birds produced this year (1990) and will test for possible crossover type in 1991 if possible.  I am skeptical but research continues.  If you ask me tomorrow, I may say I think it is nothing but faded; but if you ask me now, I'll say I think that the burden of proof is on you to prove or disprove its existence.  In short...I DON'T KNOW!

     Other added notes:  The stock flew well in races during the 1970's.  Their vigor is unsurpassed; seldom sickly and very productive.  A orangeish ash-red checker in my loft presently will be 17 years of age in May 1991, but this year was his first at not producing a fertile egg.  Their disposition is mild mannered and very parental.  What more could a pigeon fancier want??

     RE:  Crazy phenotype from Gerald Dooley looks to be a simple recessive with a phenotypic expression very much like erratic.  Dooley was confident it wasn't erratic, but not me.  I mated a “crazy” male to one of my erratic silky hens and produces five normal progeny.  Clearly it ain't erratic.  We should solve that one in a year or two if nothing goes wrong; but I'd bet it does??

     After receiving the “crazy” bird from Dooley, he related an experience to me that I've experienced myself but have never observed in my “erratic” birds.  Upon approaching the bird on a give day, you may find it apparently lying dead on the coop floor with its head on the floor but when touched or awaken by noise it perks up as lively as ever.  This is quite unusual to see.

     As with the naming of “orange” (later chalky), the first name seems to be a misnomer for the “crazy” mutation.


Robert J. Mangile

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