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2. Mutations‎ > ‎

2.2 The Color Series

There are two mutations known to exist at this locus in pigeons. The colors of the phenotypes caused by these mutations may be modified or hidden by other genetic factors such as recessive white, but every pigeon has is either wild-type or has a mutation at this locus.
The color series consists of three alleles at the color locus on the sex chromosome. That is correct, color is a sex-linked factor in pigeons. This means that males may be heterozygous or homozygous for any color factor (they get a copy from both father and mother) while the females can only be hemizygous (they only get a copy from their father, from their mother females get the W chromosome and not a Z chromosome).
The three phenotypic colors (wild type and the two mutants) and their expression are described below.

Blue (Wild type)

Blue is the most common color found in pigeons, many (if not most) racing homers are genetically blue. The birds on the previous page discussing the pattern series, were all blue base pigeons. In blue pigeons, the basic color is a bluish gray, with the pattern on the shield as well as the tail bar a darker color, almost black. The flights are also dark, but not always as dark as the pattern and tail bar. The symbol for blue is B+.
Blue bar racing homer hen. (One of mine - though I no longer have her)


Ash-red is the most dominant allele of the color series. This mutation causes the base color to change from blue to an ashy gray color, the tail bar and the flights change to the same ashy color, while the pattern on the wing shield turns a brick-red color. This means that in ash-red birds the tail bar and the albescent strip are very difficult if not impossible to see clearly. The symbol for ash-red is BA.

In heterozygous males (BA//B+ or BA//b), it sometimes happens that the feathers are lightly flecked with the colour hidden by the ash-red, the flecking is often more noticeable on the flights and tail, though they can occur anywhere. This means that an ash-red cock split for blue might show some blue flecking in the flights and tail.
Ash-red Bar German Beauty Homer (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Gyyr)

If you want to get technical about it, this mutation causes the inhibition of eumelanin deposits and/or production in the feathers. Eumelanin is the black pigment that produces the blue (grey) and black seen in wild-type birds. The ash-red mutation also causes an increase in the production and deposition of pheomelanin, a red pigment. The combination of these factors causes the red and cream (ash) appearance of this phenotype.


Lastly, the brown allele at this locus is the most recessive. This mutation changes the base color from a bluish gray to a brown gray. The pattern, tail and flights are a darker brown instead of black. Brown coloration fades considerably in the sun. Sometimes the feathers that are exposed are so bleached that it is impossible to distinguish the tail bar when the tail is folded. Spreading the tail and wings is the only way to see if such bird is brown. Notice on the picture below how light the flights and tail are. Another very important distinguishing factor is that brown birds always show a false pearl eye. A false pearl eye looks rather duller than the eyes of blue and ash-red birds and does not show the intense coloration on the iris (which is either yellow-orange in wild-type birds or blue-white in real pearl eyed birds - more on that later)
Brown Bar Horseman Pouter Hen (Photo from Circus Lofts)
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