Mangile's Pigeon Pages

American Pigeon Journal
April 1994, page 29.

Pigeon Leg-Bands Are Often Too Small.

by Robert J. Mangile

As a young pigeon lover, I recall the insistence of older fanciers that all pigeons must be seamless banded.  The first question asked before negotiating a purchase or trade of a pigeon was ... "Are the birds seamless banded?"  It seemed to matter very little beyond that.  Somehow, a properly fitted seamless band made the bird more valuable.  Sterility, productivity, disposition, and physical condition were all secondary to being seamless banded.

There are cases where fanciers had to cut seamless bands from birds with broken or badly injured legs and continue to use the number from the removed band to identify the bird in his records and pedigrees.  Now . . . that seems logical enough, but we could have used that number or any other number to identify a bird, regardless whether the number was on a loose or snug fitting seamless band or on any other style of band.  Any numbered leg-band coded to avoid duplication will work nicely.

Several years ago, a dove fancier phoned me after arriving home with a box of young ring-necked doves I'd given him.  With concern about the 1961 seamless bands on their legs, he asked; "I thought you said they were all young birds?" Afterwards, my thoughts were that if I had some 20 year old doves that looked like young birds, I'd feel like I'd just discovered something new and their value would have increased.  However, that was not the case.

We should not forget that numbered leg bands are applied for the purpose of keeping track of individual birds in a flock.  A task that is almost impossible without them. Properly fitting, color coded, seamless bands do in fact offer a very nice way to keep track of pigeons.  However, I find cause to complain about a properly fitting band.
Organizations that sell bands produce guide charts to assist fanciers with band size selection for a particular breed of pigeon.  A seamless band suggests to fanciers that once it is applied it can never be removed.  This is to insure the integrity of the fancier. But, far too often, we produce birds that grow legs too large for the seamless bands suggested for them.  If we don't cut the band off, the bird will lose its leg.  Without the band, the fancier tends to think the bird is worthless.  In either case, the bird is considered useless.

This is a real dilemma driven by the idea that if a seamless band is removable someone will cheat and given a chance, some will.  Is it necessary to have bands that are absolutely impossible to remove?  Their use is mostly important to determine young birds and a fancier cannot cheat on that account because new bands aren't shipped until January of each year.  If you use them the following year, nobody will complain anyway!

A couple of years ago I ordered several hundred, variously colored plastic spiral bands. The sales chart gave inside diameters as a purchasing guide.  Using the seamless band for my breed of pigeon I fit a tight fitting drill bit into the seamless band and ordered that size.  I included a note to the dealer to the effect that I did not want undersized bands.

You probably guessed what happened.  I began finding birds going lame with swollen legs and bands grown into the flesh.  In a fit of anger, I got the wire cutters and removed every plastic band from every bird in the loft.  Worse yet, is that I gave some to friends and had to inform them of the problem.  Later they acknowledged pigeons going lame with tight plastic bands.

There are a couple of possibilities that might remedy this problem.  One is that perhaps band distributors and organizations should consider insisting on getting the exact size they order from the manufacturers and refuse to sell off sized ones to the fanciers. Another is that breed specialty clubs should be urged by their membership to revise their thinking.  They should demand that the band diameters for their specialty breed be manufactured a little larger in diameter.  A band just a tiny bit larger than absolutely necessary should work just as well.  The other option is to purchase bands suggested for breeds larger than the breed you keep.

Bands fit to perfection must be applied on a squab during a narrow window of time. Miss a day and the band will not go on!  For every small legged bird from which a band can be removed or applied when full grown, there will be one wearing a band that did not have to be cut off because it was too tight.  We have no way of knowing in advance which birds will be considered the most valuable.  If fanciers worry about cheating on pedigrees, there are other ways to cheat that we routinely ignore.  At best, pedigrees are as credible as the people who write them.  The seamless band from a dead champion can be put on a new squab or any birds band number can be written on any given line.  Not to mention all the honest mistakes.

So... if you agree that some breeds grow legs too large to the bands suggested for them, why not generate a movement to get something done about it?

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