The Seraphim Club International at Des Moines

(As published in Purebred Pigeon magazine, Jan/Feb 2014)

Seraphim remain on the Rare Breeds List as an uncommon variety, with a few dedicated Fanciers across the United States seriously focused on maintaining and improving this 27 year old breed. The Seraphim project, started by Anne (Anya) Ellis in 1986, was intended to create a “Classic”, an artistic vision that once achieved would remain unchanged over time.

Yet Seraphim have changed significantly since 1986, and from the original Standard of Perfection of 1993, and their first exposure at a National Show at Salt Lake City in 1996. Several iterations of the Standard were developed as it became clear what was artistically and physically possible through selective breeding, with a “final” classic Standard rendered in 2009. Still, some minor delicate enhancements have occurred since then, and what Anya ultimately believes to be the final “final” will likely be unveiled in 2014, an ultimate Standard of Perfection based upon real-life experience in the loft that includes subtle changes to the head, swoop, peak, mane, and feather length. The end result is dramatic and beautiful, powerful yet delicate, alert yet peaceful, dignified but intense—and possible in real life by the dedicated Fancier.

So to celebrate this milestone in the history of Seraphim, the SCI decided, for the first time in its eleven year history, to sanction an independent Seraphim Club International Meet in Des Moines with the Iowa State Pigeon Association, and in affiliation with the Rare Breeds Pigeon Club. Not only that, the SCI decided this should be their first official National Meet for Seraphim. For such a special occasion, the Club had to do something a bit different than the normal routine, and focus strongly on new education for exhibitors to include what is expected of today’s Seraph, as well as on the history, vision, art, science, and philosophy behind Seraphim. Anya agreed to be the Judge and dedicate herself to a day of intense interaction with the exhibitors. What could have been a 90 minute long task of judging instead became a five hour marathon of education, with all exhibitors watching, listening, and asking questions as Anya went from bird to bird explaining every detail of what makes a great Seraph and what doesn’t, pulling information from many fields to paint a picture of the ultimate Seraph for the group. It was by far the most useful and fulfilling experience any of the exhibitors present ever had at a pigeon show—and exhausting! But at the end of the day, everyone understood the task before them, and exactly why their Seraphim did or did not meet the Standard of Perfection, and they understood the difference between the 2013 Seraph and the 1996 Seraph. Everyone left the show tired but newly energized. 

In keeping with the significance of this first-ever event, the SCI decorated the final judging area with white feather boas, an enormous canister of colorful holiday ornaments, and an award-winning wood carving of a Seraph done by Clark Weaver of Grinnell, Iowa. Exhibitors were present from Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota, and there were thirty-five entries for the show. Those awarded points for “Highly Superior” Seraphim included David Orth of Kansas, Judy Miller of Missouri, and David Coster of Iowa. Mary McNeil of Iowa had a last minute complication that prevented her from showing any birds that would no doubt have won points too.

Anya Ellis with her creation. From the right, Best YH, Best OH (Champion), Best YC (Reserve Champion). Best OC 5th from right; all others were finalists for Best OC

Anya Ellis admiring her creation. From the right, Best YH, Best OH (Champion), Best YC (Reserve Champion). Best OC 5th from right; #’s 4, 6, 7, and 8 from the right were finalists for Best OC

I believe the highlight for Anya Ellis may have been awarding the Champion Seraph title to a hen instead of a cock, but then again it may have been the surprise and thrill of seeing so many well-bred Seraphim under one roof from which to choose a champion, a real testament to her life-long dedication to creating the “Angel of the Pigeon Fancy.”

David Coster MD

Manager, Seraphim Club International

The Seraphim Club International Constitution


The purpose of the Seraphim Club International (SCI) is to promote, develop, and preserve Seraphim, the White Angels of the Pigeon Fancy.

Mission Statement:
The Seraphim Club International shall achieve its purpose by the dissemination of accurate information, continuous educational support of club members, support of sanctioned club shows, promotion of Seraphim within the Pigeon Fancy, and maintenance of a comprehensive website on Seraphim.

The club shall have an international scope that supports interest in Seraphim around the globe.

National Pigeon Association Affiliation:
The Seraphim Club International is affiliated with the National Pigeon Association as a declaration that the SCI is part of the American community of pigeon fanciers. Affiliation with the NPA is voluntary and is maintained by the payment of annual dues to the NPA.

Rare Breeds Pigeon Club Affiliation:
The Seraphim Club International is an Affiliate Club with the Rare Breeds Pigeon Club due to the “Rare” status designation of Seraphim. The Seraphim Club International maintains all the rights and responsibilities of its Affiliate status with the Rare Breeds Pigeon Club as designated in the Constitutions of both Clubs.

Membership is open to all those interested in the breeding, care, and maintenance of Seraphim. One does not have to own Seraphim to be a member; simple interest in the Seraph Fancy is adequate. Members are expected to adhere to the highest standards in their lofts and in Show competition.

The SCI shall have only a President and Manager. The President shall be Anya Ellis, the creator of Seraphim. The President shall provide guidance and expert advice to Members and support the Manager in his/her duties. The Manager is a volunteer position and shall be approved by the President to oversee Club operations, the website, the National SCI Meet, advertising, and other duties as seen fit by the President.

The Seraphim Show Standard

Please refer to the NPA Official Book of Standards or to The Seraphim Club International official website at for the complete up-to-date Seraphim Show Standard.

Competitive Meets

Introduction: Some Seraph Fanciers strive for recognition of their breeding programs via competitive Shows and Meets, and also use such meets to interact with other Fanciers and exchange ideas for the continuous improvement of the Seraphim Breed. Those who participate in such competitions may earn points toward a “Master” status within the Seraphim Club International. In order to be considered for the “Master” Award, a Seraph Fancier must accumulate a total of 500 points in competitive meets, be a member of the SCI for five years, and be a member of the SCI at the time of application for the award. (**See the section below on Master Award Point Scales for details on the awarding of points.)

Basic Show Rules: Seraphim are on the Rare Breeds List. In the absence of an organized SCI meet, Seraphim must be shown in Rare Breeds Pigeon Club meets or in the Rare Breeds section of any regional/state/national meet according to RBPC Rules. The Seraphim Club International may also sanction official independent SCI meets or hold Joint Meets with the Rare Breeds Pigeon Club. Members of the Seraphim Club International who want to organize an SCI meet may do so and request advice/support from the SCI. To qualify the meet for Master points, the SCI Manager must be notified. The Judge must be an SCI or RBPC Recognized Judge. SCI Meets require a minimum of 2 exhibitors and 10 birds. The Seraphim Club International has designated Des Moines, Iowa, as the location for the annual National SCI Meet, in conjunction with the annual December Iowa State Pigeon Association Show, and as an Affiliate of the Rare Breeds Pigeon Club.

Judging: Judges must be expert in the method of evaluation of the nuances of the breed as well as the methods of rating and assigning points. The approach to judging Seraphim is outlined in the standard in both the 2010 NPA Book of Standards and on the SCI website.

Recognized Judges: A list of Judges specifically qualified to judge Seraphim will be maintained on the SCI website. The Rare Breeds Pigeon Club will also maintain a list of Judges qualified to fairly evaluate all Rare Breeds, including Seraphim.

Rating System and Classes:

The SCI uses the Individual Merit System of judging. The Individual Merit System of judging is an evaluation system of each individual bird in comparison with the Standard of Perfection, followed by a final Judging of the best from each Class for special awards and trophies. The Classes are Old Cock, Young Cock, Old Hen, and Young Hen. (Young applies to birds one year of age or less.)

****The highest possible rating is called “Royal” and shall be designated in show reports by the letter “R”. This rating shall be reserved for those Seraphim which are near letter perfection in all respects, and equates with a point score of 98-100 on a 100 point scale system. This rating should not be given in shows where the exceptional bird is not found. The Royal rating is an award of absolute superiority.

****A “Highly Superior” rating is given only to outstanding specimens with a point score of 94-97 on a 100 point scale; such birds typically demonstrate a single minor fault. Birds in this category shall be re-grouped to compete for a Royal rating (though possibly none may qualify). When more than one bird earns an “HS” in a show, the Judge will place the HS birds in order by labeling them HS-1, HS-2, HS-3.

****The majority of fine show birds will receive a “Superior” rating, designated by an “S”, and equivalent to a score of 90-93 on a 100 point scale. Birds that are of show quality, but have a couple of minor faults shall receive this rating. “S” birds may be ranked as S-1, S-2, S-3.

****Birds with a score of 80-89 on a 100 point scale are rated “Good”, which is designated by the letter “G”. “Good” birds may be useful as stock birds for breeding purposes. Out of condition birds may be placed in this class. If the top birds in a show are “Good”, they shall be ranked G-1, G-2, and G-3.

****The last and lowest class shall be known as “Inferior” and shall be designated by the letter “I”; this designation equates to a point score of 79 and below on a 100 point scale. Such birds may be disqualified from competition and are not recommended for breeding purposes.

Basic Rules: Points may be awarded only to Seraphim owned, bred, or raised by the individual competitor. Only Seraphim rated as Highly Superior (HS) or Royal (R) may be awarded points in competition. Additional points may be earned as the HS or R Seraph is given additional awards, such as “Best AOV”, Champion, and Reserve Champion, as the judging continues. Points are additive. SCI Meets must have at least two exhibitors and ten birds to qualify as a point meet; RBPC Meets may have any number of exhibitors and Seraph entries.

Point Scales: There are four point scales used in the Master Award program: two for RBPC (Rare Breeds Pigeon Club) meets and two for SCI (Seraphim Club International) meets. The point scales may be diminished in RBPC Meets at the discretion of the Judge if the number of birds is small or competition poor (see below). The SCI will honor both RBPC points AND SCI points when considering the SCI Master Award. Points will be added by the SCI toward the designation of “Master” at an RBPC meet if the competitor applies for the SCI Master Award.

Champion Seraph                  50 points
Reserve Champion Seraph   30 points
Royal Seraph*****                  25 points
Highly Superior**                    3 – 10 points

Champion Seraph                    40 points
Reserve Champion Seraph     20 points
Royal Seraph*****                   15 points
Highly Superior**                      3 – 10 points

* All SCI Master Point Meets must have a minimum of two exhibitors and ten Seraphim. The Judge must be expert on Seraphim, with no entries in the competition.
** Highly Superior – If there are 3 or more HS birds in an SCI Meet, HS-1 shall earn 10 points, HS-2 shall earn 8 points, HS-3 shall earn 5 points, and the remaining HS birds shall earn 3 points.
***Royal is an exceptional accomplishment and must be awarded additional points.

Champion Rare                         1+25+50= 76 pts       (51 pts – if less than 10 AOV’s)
Reserve Champion Rare          1+25+15= 41 pts       (16 pts – if less than 10 AOV’s)
Best AOV****                             1+25= 26 pts             (1pt – if less than 10 AOV’s)
Best of Breed***                        5                                 (5 pts (1pt – if less than 10 Seraphm)
Highly Superior**                       1pt                              1pt

Champion Rare                         1+15+ 25= 41 pts       (26 pts – if less than 10 AOV’s)
Reserve Champion Rare          1+15+10= 26 pts         (11 pts – if less than 10 AOV’s)
Best AOV****                             1+15= 16 pts              (1pt – if less than 10 AOV’s)
Best of Breed***                        5pts                             (1pt – if less than 10 Seraphim)
Highly Superior**                       1pt                               1pt

*** RBPC’s “Best of Breed” – The higher number of points are awarded if 10 or more Seraphim are entered in an RBPC show and if the bird winning “Best of Breed” has earned an HS rating or higher.
**** Seraphim are in the AOV class on the RBPC list. The higher number of AOV Champion points are awarded if there are 10 or more birds in the AOV class and the winning Seraph has earned an HS rating or higher.

Master Award Member Responsibility
Members wishing to achieve the Master Award are responsible for maintaining a record of points awarded. Once the goal of 500 points has been achieved, the member must send a complete summary to the SCI Secretary. The summary must include the band numbers of all the member’s birds awarded points, the number of points awarded in each case, the listing of awards, the location and date of the Show at which the points were awarded, the type of show (State, District, National, Local; SCI or RBPC) and the name of the Judge. The Member will then be issued a Master Award certificate from the Seraphim Club International to be displayed in their home or Loft.

The SCI’s Philosophical Stance

The Seraphim Club International recognizes that not every member is interested in competition or even recognition in the Seraphim Fancy. Many simply enjoy the artistry and beauty of their Seraphim while quietly making major contributions to the Fancy. Such individuals may be the most important Members of all, as their methodology reflects the quiet reflection one must maintain to truly appreciate and understand the Seraph as a work of art. The SCI is truly grateful for the contributions of these quiet members.

It is also important to note that the SCI is a service organization rather than a political one. As such its primary interest is in the promotion of the enjoyment and pleasure of breeding and raising beautiful Seraphim.

Finally, it is worth noting that the goal of the Standard of Perfection for Seraphim has always been to create a Classic breed, one that demands no additional artistic improvement or refinement from the artist’s concept. The Standard has thus only been gradually and ever-so-carefully modified to fully reflect the genetic potential to create what the artist always imagined possible in a living entity. The Standard for a Classic breed, once established, should remain unchanged over time—-not altered or modified on a whim or sudden fancy. The Seraph Fancier must always take this into account when breeding toward the elusive Royal Seraph, and must always remain dedicated to the artistry of the Breed above all else, thus maintaining the Classic status of this beautiful living sculpture for the enjoyment of generations to come.



The Uniqueness of the Seraph: Most pigeon breeds were created over a period of years by a group of breeders. These breeds fall into two categories. (1) Breeds that are recognized as classics, whose standards do not vary. These standards define a final work of art and continue to be challenging for all breeders to achieve. (2) Breeds whose standards are always changing according to the tastes of those who are breeding them at the time.

There are only a few pigeon breeds that were created by an individual. Seraphim fall into this very small category. Each of these breeds is understood to be the ‘work of art’ of the person who designed the breed, for example: John Lindley designed the Indian Fantasy, Layne Bowles designed the Heart Pigeon and HP Macklin designed the Saint. Seraphim were created by Anne Ellis in East Moline, Illinois, USA. The ancestral breed of origin was the Classic Oriental Frill.

The first proposed standard for Seraphim was published in the National Pigeon Association’s 1993 “Encyclopedia of Pigeon Standards”; Seraphim were recognized by the NPA as an official breed of fancy pigeon at the Oklahoma City NPA Grand National in 1995. The second standard for Seraphim was published in the French National Standard book in 1997. In 2000 the third standard for Seraphim was published in the National Pigeon Association’s “Encyclopedia of Pigeon Standards”; the fourth standard was updated in 2009 and published in the “2010 National Pigeon Association Book of Standards”. The most recent 2013 standard is published on The Seraphim Club International website at

Breed History: 1986 – Anne Ellis visits Bob Pettit and has her first lesson in pigeon genetics. Since Bob mentions that one of Anne’s blue Old Frills is ‘carrying red’, Anne prays for red babies from that bird and its brown mate.
1986 – Two red babies are born in the blue X brown pair’s first clutch. The father dies (he was Anne’s first sick pigeon) and the mother is given away. Then both of the red babies turn pure white. These birds, both of which were males, are the original source for the “Seraph Color Gene Complex” and are the progenitors of the modern Serap.
1987 – One of the males, paired with a Silver Old Frill hen, produces no recessive red babies. The other male, paired with a brown Old Frill hen, produces one recessive red male that turns white.
1988 – One male and one hen are produced. Both are recessive red and both turn white.
1989- Three Seraphim are produced.
1990 – Nine Seraphim are produced.
1991 – Forty-five Seraphim are produced.
1992 – Sixty Seraphim are produced. Bob Pettit tells Anne that for Seraphim to be recognized as an official breed, a written standard must be presented to the National Pigeon Association. Frank Barrachina encourages Anne to write the standard and agrees to have it included as a proposed standard in the NPA “Encyclopedia of Pigeon Standards.”
1993 – A proposed Standard for Seraphim is published in the NPA “Encyclopedia of Pigeon Standards.”
1993 – Ten Seraphim are displayed by Anne Ellis at the NPA Grand National Show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Ten Seraphim (five male and five female) must be exhibited at the NPA Grand National for three consecutive years before the NPA Board of Directors will consider recognition of the breed.
1994 – Ten Seraphim are displayed by Anne Ellis at the NPA Grand National Show in Portland, Oregon.
1994 – Seraphim are introduced to the fancy pigeon world via two American pigeon magazines. Seraph OC # 341 appears on the cover of the April edition of the “Pigeon Debut” and Anne Ellis’s article, “A Great Grand National for the New Kid on the Block” is printed inside. A full page of color Seraph photos and “That’s What It’s All About”, by Anne Ellis, are published in the April edition of the “Pigeon Fancier.”
1994 – Seraphim are included in the NPA “Wonderful World of Pigeons” coloring book. Drawing by Diane Jacky.
1995 – Ten Seraphim are displayed by Anne Ellis at the NPA Grand National Show in Oklahoma City.
1995 – Anne Ellis makes a presentation to the NPA Board of Directors detailing the history, genetics and increasing popularity of Seraphim. The NPA Board of Directors votes to recognize Seraphim as an official breed.
1995 – Four Seraphim, exhibited at the NPA Grand National, are sold to Gottfried Ernst, who imports them into Germany.
1995 – Two articles written by Anne Ellis are published in the “Pigeon Fancier.” “Thanksgiving in January” covers the recognition of the Seraphim by the NPA (May issue). “Judges Beware” covers Seraphim judging techniques (November issue).
1995 – Raul Delgado’s article, “The Seraphim and Me” is published in the “Pigeon Debut.”
1995 – Harold Jones’ article, “The Seraphim and Their Angel” is published in the “Pigeon Fancier.”
1996 – Seraphim compete for the first time in an NPA Grand National (Salt Lake City). Seraph // OC # 262 wins Grand National Champion Rare.
1996 – Seraphim are featured in the German magazine “Deutsche geflügel Zeitung.” (article by Anne Ellis, translation by Frieda Lind.)
1996 – Seraphim are featured on the cover of the French pigeon magazine, “Columbiculture.” (article by Anne Ellis, translation by F. Xabada.)
1997 – Seraphim compete in the NPA Grand National (Lancaster) and four birds are purchased by Gottfried Ernst for a second importation of Seraphim into Germany.
1997 – With the help of Jean-Louis Frindel, the standard for Seraphim is included in the French national pigeon association (SNC) standard book.
1997 – Seraphim are featured in the Dutch magazine “Avicultura.” (article by Anne Ellis, translation by “Avicultura”)
1998 – Two articles by Anne Ellis are published in the “Pigeon Debut” Rare Breeds Special Edition. “It’s Greek to Me” covers the vocabulary needed to describe Seraphim and “What’s in a Name” deals with the intricacies of the name, Seraphim.
2000 – Seraphim are exported from the Illinois to Gabriel Thomas in France.
2000 – The Seraphim standard is printed in the 2000 edition of the National Pigeon Association’s “Encyclopedia of Pigeon Standards.”
2000 – Seraphim are exported from France to Belgium.
2001 – Seraphim are exported from France to Czechoslovakia.
2001 – Seraphim are featured in the Czechoslovakian magazine, “chovaltel rádce.” (Article by Jerry Sindelar, based on interview of Anne Ellis.)
2002 – Attempt to export Seraphim from Illinois to Belgium fails due to New Castle outbreak in California.
2002 – The SERAPHIM CLUB INTERNATIONAL is founded by Anne Ellis.
2003 – Seraphim are exported from Germany to Denmark.
2003 – Seraphim are exhibited by Maurice Denis of Belgium at the German National VDT Show in Cologne, Germany. Anne Ellis makes a speech about the Seraphim at the VDT conference. Seraphim are exhibited by Rene Dautel and Jean-Pierre Demuyter at the French National SNC Show in Chambery, France. Anne Ellis makes a speech on the pigeon fancy and the Seraphim at the SNC banquet.                                                             2010 – The website “” was established as an encyclopedic source of information on Seraphim.                                                                                          2013 – The first ever “National” Seraphim Club International club meet was held in Des Moines                                                                                                                                              2017 – The Seraphim Standard of Perfection was modified and updated by Anya Ellis

Seraphim: Does Color Matter?

Seraphim are a white color created by a special set of color genes called “The Seraph Color Gene Complex.”


The 2017 Seraphim Standard of Perfection as depicted in the new NPA Book of Standards. Seraphim are pure white as adults.

Based upon the history of how the breed was developed as well as test crosses, the color genes known to be present in Seraphim are: Recessive Red (or yellow), Satinette Piebald, White Flight, White-Sides, and some unknown genetic factor(s) connected to the White-Sides gene that also turn the tail white – “tail-whitening” genes. This combo is “The Seraph Color Gene Complex.” As for visual color, Seraphim MUST at first be recessive red or yellow as juveniles, and the color distribution MUST be specifically in the Satinette pattern, i.e. colored wing shields and tail. The head, neck and body are piebald (white), along with the 10 primary flight feathers. The Satinette pattern does not have to be perfect in young birds (it is difficult to breed a perfectly marked Satinette), but the pattern must be apparent. If a youngster has markings inconsistent with standard Satinette, one must consider the possibility that the Seraph Color Gene Complex has been corrupted and the parents are not Seraphim. With the first molt, red or yellow feathers are replaced completely with white (on occasion this may take two molts to get every red feather). Typically a Seraph is pure white by 6 months of age.

Being in the Owl family and originating from the Classic Oriental Frill, Seraphim also have lots of structureal mutations unrelated to color that vary from wild-type, including – but not limited to – grouse foot feathering, chest frill, needle-point peak, mane, gullet, and short beak. Other genes influence stance, feather length, and skull shape and size, which are all critical factors that differentiate Seraphim from other breeds. These traits are inherited with the influence of multiple genes and modifying factors and are significantly affected by careful (or careless) breeding programs. Seraphim look substantially different in form than their breed of origin due to highly selective breeding. The breeding program has significantly modified how the structural genes in Seraphim are expressed. Seraphim are today significantly structureally modified from their original breed of origin.


The above old archival photo shows an early Seraph cock with his juvenile offspring. A couple of things stand out. First, this cock from the early years is noticeably shorter and stockier than the current standard and is not considered ideal by today’s Standard. Second, note the recessive red coloration in the baby, as well as the mismarked primary flights and neck feathers. Notice that the tail feather and wing covert feather tips are emblazoned with red. This six week old baby is mismarked and overmarked, but you get the idea; you can see that the underlying visual color pattern is Satinette Piebald. The discontinuation of pigment production occurs at variable times in juvenile feather formation, and thus youngsters may have feathers tipped only in red, or each entire feather in the tail and wingshields may be pigmented as in the baby above. In addition the juvenile markings may demonstrate the underlying presence of oriental frill and/or toy stencil.

First baby out of NoBand and Snow. 2012. One month old.

The above 2012 photo of a rather petrified little Seraph demonstrates the Satinette pattern of the juvenile: red wing shield and tail, white everyplace else. Note that the pigment distribution is different in this baby, and muted compared to the other (may be dilute, i.e. yellow.) The red may be spread and pure, or it may be faint with just the tips of the feathers affected, or some pattern in-between as in this case, but it MUST be in this Satinette distribution. The Satinette markings are perfect in this baby – there are no mis-marks in the white feathers of the body, neck, and head –  but perfection is not required (only desired) in the phenotype (appearance), as long as the proper genotype (the necessary genes for the basic Satinette pattern) is present. You can see this baby is a “lace-wing, lace-tail” specimen now, but you won’t be able to tell that in five months when it turns white. With known Seraph parents, the presence of the Satinette pattern in recessive red or yellow confirms the color pedigree of the young Seraph.

When the first molt is complete at 5-6 months of age, the young Seraph should be pure white – as demonstrated in the photo below of the baby from the previous photo taken at the Des Moines ISPA Show. The transformation to white in Seraphim is what is different about the white of Seraphim. There is typically no transition period; no gradual or progressive change to white over successive molts – it is immediate with the first molt. Sometimes a few red feathers will remain after the first molt simply because they weren’t dropped. Residual red juvenile feathers will be replaced with white at the second molt or intermittently before the second molt.

A particularly beautiful young Seraph cock.

A gorgeous young Seraph cock. This is the baby seen in the photo above it, now a young adult shown at the Des Moines ISPA Show. It is an absolutely dazzling pure white after the first molt as expected. Not a red feather remains. Also notice how different in form this modern day Seraph is from the much earlier Seraph cock in the first photograph of this article. This bird demonstrates the long line and regal statuesque structure expected of today’s Seraphim.  The feather ornaments are important. The frill is expected to be huge, as in this bird, and the peak must be a fine point, the mane must make a perfect line in the back, the swoop must be deep, and the toes must be finely feathered to the ends.

So….color and pattern matter, as does form. The Seraph Color Gene Complex must be visually demonstrated in juvenile Seraphim, along with the expected structural attributes demanded in today’s Show Standard as the birds mature. This confirms  the presence of a proper genetic pedigree in the juvenile bird as well as the adults that produced it. Introducing the Seraphim Color Gene Complex into a population of Classic Oriental Frills does NOT create Seraphim. The fine-tuned physical attributes that make a Seraph a Seraph are lost in the process, as is the personality,  and the result is neither quality Classic Oriental Frills nor quality Seraphim – all the work of selective breeding is lost. The only way to assure Show Quality Seraphim is through the purchase of high quality stock with a known pedigree, followed by a dedicated and scrupulous breeding program to maintain the genetic modifiers that affect structure.

For some, Seraphim are the most visually exquisite breed of Fancy Show Pigeon ever created. The decades long process to create their delicate, angelic, and regal appearance while yet maintaining a strong natural constitution was an arduous combined artistic/scientific endeavor requiring the input and help of many experts, including Doc Hollander. As the developer of the breed, Anya Ellis is in real-life an artist. Seraphim are, at the end of the day, not just a complicated genetic enigma. They are really living art designed to be a gorgeous addition to any loft.

David Coster M.D.

Editor, The Seraphim Club International

Evaluating Your Own Birds for Show Qualities

Please refer to the article on sorting your Seraphim, the article on the 2017 Standard of Perfection, and the article on how the new Standard was developed to understand what is expected of the modern day Seraph. To show your birds and maintain the breed, you must apply everything you learn here to the sorting process as you evaluate the quality of your own young birds each year. The best birds should be kept for your own breeding program or sold specifically to serious breeders of Seraphim to steadily improve the quality of Seraphim all over the world. Birds far off the Show Standard should not be used in any Seraphim breeding program. The following article uses the Standard in the order of judging to help you learn to properly evaluate your birds. This sequential approach should become second nature for the serious breeder. In 2017 and on, the new Standard of Perfection developed by Anya Ellis will be the goal for all breeders.  The 2017 Standard of Perfection has small changes, but the changes significantly affect the overall appearance of the bird. To make it easier to understand the judging process and how to use it to critique your own Seraphim, I’ve included representative photographs alongside the written requirements from the Standard to show good and bad traits; each photograph is critiqued in a strict manner.

Let’s start. This is fun and interesting!   🙂


“OVERALL IMPRESSION: Adult Seraphim have the appearance of a white angel. They are statuesque and elegant.  When stationing the head is held high, the tail low with the chest projected upward and forward. The frill is prominent and the wing butts are clearly delineated from the body. The flights rest on the tail and the back is smooth, lacking ‘sails’ in the covert feathers. The feet are covered with small feathers and a sweep of ankle feathers giving the appearance that Seraphim have white stars for feet. Hens will appear somewhat more delicate and refined than cocks.”

Toughy 2012. A perfect young cock.

#1. Let’s pretend the Seraph at left is your young bird just lounging around in your loft. You went out to feed them and noticed him standing there looking at you. Hmmm. You automatically start assessing him. He is demonstrating the statuesque overall look expected of a Seraph. He clearly shows: “the head held high, the tail low with the chest projected upward and forward. The frill is prominent and the wing butts are clearly delineated from the body. The flights rest on the tail and the back is smooth, lacking “sails” in the covert feathers. The feet are covered with small feathers and a sweep of ankle feathers giving the appearance that Seraphim have white stars for feet.” This bird clearly meets the initial overall expectations of a Seraph at first glance. Critique: Though the frill is prominent, it is a bit small for what we expect of today’s Seraph. The wings are not quite resting on the tail, but the bird is outdoors in a relaxed state, not in show stance. In show stance his attributes will become more defined. Here, at rest, he demonstrates power, elegance, and confidence. This bird is still a baby – see the red secondary flight feather on the wing? – but he will catch the eye of the judge in the show ring. This is the sort of bird you need to keep in your loft. He should be paired with a hen that has a bigger chest frill. 

“The head is the most heavily weighted feature in judging Seraphim.  The curve from the tip of the beak to the tip of the needle point peak is unbroken. The head is rounded and the beak is down set and large enough for Seraphim to feed their young. The eye is bull and the cere is unobtrusive and very light pink or almost white in color. There is a medium gullet that adds weight to the head. A convex and unbroken mane flows from the tip of the peak to the shoulder. Seraphim have a prominent chest frill.”

2. Look again at the bird above and make a summary evaluation of the head. If the head is bad it takes just an instant to decide the bird must be removed from your breeding program and should not be sold to a serious breeder or taken to a show hall. It is very difficult to develop a line of Seraphim with great head characteristics, so find the very best you can to start with in your loft. The bird above has a very large skull (highly desired) and a smooth “curve from the tip of the beak to the tip of the needle point peak…” It is very hard to refine the peak to such a fine tip, but the Seraph above has it, so take note. “The head is rounded and the beak is downset (pointed downward) and large enough to feed their young. The eye is bull (almost black) and the cere (the skin around the eye) is unobtrusive (not built up, just barely noticeable).” There is a medium gullet (a gullet is a central skin fold that extends from the base of the beak down the midline of the neck below the chin, disappearing into the chest feathers – it creates a little shadowy groove on each side along the throat.) The Seraph above has all of these things – he passes the initial “once over” by the Judge! Now though the Judge will make a second pass, refining his evaluation and critiquing every aspect of the Seraph in front of him/her; some of this evaluation will be done from a few feet away and some will be done with the bird in the Judge’s hands. You must do the same!

Let’s continue on through the Standard and instructions for YOU – the Judge:


“Foot, Eye, and Condition are all to be judged during handling; all other qualities are to be observed in the show cage. Some eye faults can only be seen during handling; the foot should be closely evaluated for feather nubs indicating the toes are not bare; the body must be felt for physical condition and feathers must be inspected for lice, holes, and dirt. Stress can alter the stance, feather tightness, and overall appearance of the bird, so they must be observed in a calm state in the show cage before handling in order to form an accurate impression of the bird’s actual quality. The back may arch in a stressed bird; the head may become boxy in a stressed bird; the peak may lower and become twisted or tufted in a stressed bird; a mane break may appear in a stressed bird. If a bird is stressed the Judge should come back to it once it has settled.”

“COLOR: (10 points): Recessive red or recessive yellow that molts to white. Young birds will often retain some colored feathers until the second molt. This is not considered a fault in young bird competition since it proves birds are indeed young Seraphim. FAULTSFailure to molt to white in two seasons. DISQUALIFYING FAULTS: Colors other than recessive red and recessive yellow that molt to white.”

B1---the first Seraph in existence. It is this Seraph cock from Anya Ellis' loft---and his brother W1--- to which all modern Seraphim trace their lineage.

B1 – it is this Seraph cock from Anya Ellis’ loft – and his brother W1 – to which all modern Seraphim trace their lineage. Note the pure bright white color and great head on this fellow.  He is way stockier than the 2017 Seraph and has other “faults” that would eliminate him from competition today, but that’s okay. He’s the first Seraph in the world and a lot has changed since he started it all in 1986.

This young hen is nearly done with the transformation to pure white. See the recessive red in the tail and a few of the secondary wing feathers? That will soon be gone and replaced with white.

This young hen is nearly done with the transformation to pure white. See the recessive red in the tail and a few of the secondary wing feathers? That will soon be gone and replaced with white. It is not a show fault for a young bird to have some remaining recessive red or yellow feathers their first year.

“STATION: (15 points): Head held high, tail touching or nearly touching the ground. Elegant, with a clean, uninterrupted line from the shoulder to the tip of the tail. Graceful with flights resting on the tail. Shoulders are concave and the wing butts are held out separate from the chest and clearly delineated. FAULTS: Refusal to station. The presence of “sails.”  SERIOUS FAULTS: A duck-like stance with an elevated tail and arched back. Flights consistently carried below the tail. A short, stocky body with rounded shoulders.”

A particularly beautiful young Seraph cock.

A particularly beautiful young Seraph cock in show stance. There is no stockiness to this bird – he is long and svelte. His station – or show stance – is perfect according to the criteria above under “Station.” Seraphim should be judged when stationing. This one has a perfect station that shows off all of his attributes. His frill is amazing – full and gigantic.

“HEAD: (25 points): Graceful, rounded over the top of the skull , having a concave dip (swoop) between the top of the head and the tip of the peak. The back of the skull is visible and the tip of the peak below the top of the skull. The desired “Apple” head results from adequate head height and a somewhat rounded skull. The light pink beak protrudes slightly beyond the frontal, but the setting of the beak is ‘down-faced’; the beak is small but strong and adequate to feed young. A medium gullet adds mass to the head; a visible gullet MUST be present. FAULTS: Flat head (lack of a swoop), peak too high or too low, weak or thin beak, angular head. Head too short from front to back because peak and mane are underdevelped so they do not stand far enough out from back of head. SERIOUS FAULTS: Skull too small so head is too small in proportion to body, egg shaped skull rather than round causing lack of skull height above the eye, skull too narrow, lack of skull height above the eye, pinched frontal, frontal too prominent, frontal too broad between the eyes (eyes should be visible when looking straight at the face.) DYSQUALIFYING FAULTS: Lack of a gullet. Beak too small.”This bird has the perfect skull shape.

“PEAK: ( 10 points): Needle point peak that stands well out from the back of the head, and is separated from the head by a dip called the ‘swoop’. The tip of the peak is below the top of the head. FAULTS: Tufted peak, twisted peak, flat peak (partial shell crest), peak set too high or too low, lack of swoop (dip) between the peak and the head, peak set too close to the head. DISQUALIFYING FAULTS: Lack of a gullet. Beak too small.
EYE: (5 points): Bull (very dark). The cere is almost white. FAULTS: A faint light ring or faint light spots are minor faults. SERIOUS FAULTS: Pearl eye(s) and orange eye(s), eye cere any other color than almost white.”

#3. Look at the head on the bird above bred by Anya Ellis. Do you see that wonderful round arc from the tip of the beak up and over the eye, the exposed back skull, and finally the deep feather swoop curving upward to the peak point? THAT is the skull arc you want. This is what is called an “Apple Head” and is ideal. The best have a measured width of topskull between the eyes of 25-28 mm, with equal distance between the center of the eye and the tip of the beak. Let’s judge critically other characteristics of the bird shown, comparing it to the artist’s drawing in the Standard: The beak is satisfactory, but could be slightly thicker and shorter and slightly more down-turned to more closely follow the arc of the skull; the eye is a perfect “bull” or black; a gullet is present but hard to see because the frill is so big (this is good!); the peak could be slightly higher and slightly farther back with less twist but definitely comes to a fine point; the frontal (forehead) could be slightly fuller; the swoop could be a little more dramatic. Am I being nit-picky about this bird? YES. It’s a beautiful specimen that many would consider near perfect. The bird in the photo is stressed and it shows in the slight twist in the tuft of the peak. Let it relax a little and then come back and look again to get a more accurate sense of it’s feather ornamentation.

FRILL: (10 points):Thick (dense), heavily ruffled, wide, long, prominent, with feathers turned in many directions. (A zipper frill is not the ideal). FAULTS: Too little frill, wispy frill, frill too short or crooked, frill that turns only to one side. A zipper frill is not the ideal, but it is preferable to a thin, wispy frill, or a frill that turns to one side only.
NECK: (5 points): The neck is medium sized, not thick. It broadens as it flows from the head to the shoulders. A medium gullet is necessary as it adds volume to the head and dignity to the bird. (Owl breeds all have a gullet.) FAULTS: An overly long neck. A too large, overly pronounced gullet in a relaxed bird. DISQUALIFYING FAULT: Absence of a gullet.
MANE: (5 points): A well developed mane should stand well out from the back of the head and flow smoothly from the tip of the peak to the shoulder in a convex, unbroken curve. The two sides of the mane should meet in a line down the back of the neck. The mane should appear symmetrical when viewed from the back. FAULTS: A break in the mane. Undeveloped mane that makes the head appear short from front to back. Mane not a continuous convex curve when viewed from the side. Disorganized feathers that do not meet in a straight line at the back of the mane. No visible meeting line where the two sides of the mane meet. Mane not symmetrical when viewed from the back.


#4. Look at the bird at left. The frill is not quite as full and fluffy as possible, and a little short. It should extend from just above the wing butts to about a half inch below the beak. The neck on this bird is just right when standing tall, with a perfect concave curve at the back of the shoulder, but the gullet is a little weak. The mane is deep and stands out perfectly with a nice slight curve! Beautiful! The swoop is correct but the peak is a little too low. The down-turn of the beak and the arc of the skull are perfect. This bird has an ideal “Apple Head shape.” The Apple Head is the ideal for the Seraph if it is large and well balanced to the body – in this case it is properly formed but a bit too small. The eye cere (skin around the eye) looks a little irritated—too red. In spite of my criticisms this is a beautiful specimen! If paired with the bird below they might well create the perfect Seraph.

If I searchd and searchd for a fault in this Seraph I doubt I could find one.

#5. Now look at this bird. What is different? The frill is a little longer and fuller, better than the frill of the above bird. The neck is perfect; the mane is astoundingly deep. The beak is down-turned; the arc of the skull is a little less round than it should be (not quite enough top-skull) but has a smooth arc. The size of the head is fantastic (this is called a “bully” head – big and more egg-shaped than the  “Apple” head.) The gullet is pronounced. The swoop would be deeper if more back-skull was showing. The peak is a perfect point and just below the top of the skull. Note how widely the wing butts are held from the chest – perfect! To my eye, this bird is significantly superior to the one above from the shoulders up even though I love them both. If the arc of the skull were rounder in the lower bird so that there was more distance between the top of the eye and the top of the skull, I would be unable to find a single criticism of this bird. One needs birds like this bottom one with the bully head in their breeding program to maintain optimal skull size as well as all the other superior traits this bird possesses. Paired with the Apple-Headed bird above some offspring might have the needed increased skull height above the eye to create a big Apple Head and a more perfect Seraph.

TAIL: (5 points): 12 feathers, slightly flared. Width 2.25 to 2.5 inches. Feathers aligned and touching each other, carried angled toward the ground. Tail should be long and touch or almost touch the ground. FAULTS: Tail too narrow (too well closed). Tail too open (fan shaped). Tail V-shaped or with twisted feathers. Tail held in an elevated position. Tail too short.
FOOT: (5 points): Each toe individually covered with tiny smooth feathers, giving the appearance of a glove with toe-mails protruding beyond the end. There should be a ‘sweep’ of ankle feathering that curves across the top of the foot at the ankle. These feathers should not be sparse but they should not have the appearance of a muff. The glove feathers and the sweep feathers combine to give the foot the appearance of a white star.  FAULTS: Too much ankle feathering so that ‘sweep’ feathers appear to be a muff. Too little ankle feathering (sparse sweep feathers or no sweep feathers). Loose toe feathering, too much or too little toe feathering (exposed toes). SERIOUS FAULTS: A true muff is a serious fault.

The best time to photograph young birds is during the annual sorting. Photographs allow buyers of your Seraphim to have a clear vision of the quality of your birds.

The best time to photograph young birds and give vaccinations is during the annual sorting. This is a stunning specimen much like the one below. (See discussion to the right.)

#6. Look at this bird to the left. The tail should be only slightly flared and just 2.5 inches wide, as in this case, and it should be long. The feet should be delicately feathered to the toenails like this. The sweep on the visible leg is being confined by the band on the leg. Though you can’t see the side profile of the neck and head, the body of this bird is perfect; tremendous length, wonderful line, concavity at the shoulders, wing butts held out, wings resting on the tail, fantastic big frill, great skull size. It is obviously in great condition and a great show bird. What you don’t see – but what I know – is that this bird also has a deep swoop and peak, and a rounder, slightly more arced skull than the bird  shown above and below.

A Seraph cock out of the loft of Anya Ellis. This fine bird demonstrates the fine qualities of Seraphim created in a carefully planned breeding program. Outstanding features of this bird include the rounded skull, downturned beak, needle-point peak, very deep unbroken mane, wonderfully full chest frill, prominent wingbutts held out from the chest, long beautiful line, finely feathered legs and toes, and overall angelic aura. This is a very fine Seraph!

A Seraph cock out of the loft of Anya Ellis. This fine bird demonstrates the qualities of Seraphim created in a carefully planned breeding program. Outstanding features of this bird include the large skull, downturned beak, needle-point peak, very deep unbroken mane, wonderfully full chest frill, prominent wingbutts held out from the chest, long beautiful line, finely feathered legs and toes, and overall angelic aura. This is a very fine Seraph!

#7. Compare this bird to the left – one you’ve already seen from the shoulders up – to the one just above. Both are nervous so slightly crouched, but look at how similar they are! The bird at left though is carrying the tail feathers a little too flared and may have small “sails” on the upper side of the wings interfering with the smooth line of the back. A judge would have a hard time deciding which of these two birds is best, but the bird above would be judged slightly superior due to a rounder skull shape, absence of sails, and an ideal tail width. 

CONDITION: (5 points): Clean, white, smooth appearance, firm feel, solid chest muscles. FAULTS: Dirty, thin, poor feather quality, loose feathering, holes in the feathers.

Now, are you ready to get started? Some day I’ll find the perfect Seraph and end this article with its picture. Until then, happy judging! 🙂

David Coster, Editor


The Seraphim Club International at the Iowa State Pigeon Association 2012 Pigeon Show

The Seraphim section at the ISPA show, December 8th, 2012.

A Seraph in show stance at the Des Moines Show. There were over twenty Seraphim at the show this year.

A Seraph in show stance at the Des Moines Show. There were over twenty Seraphim at the show this year.

A particularly beautiful young Seraph cock.

A particularly beautiful young Seraph cock.

The Seraphim Club International made a formal showing this year at the Des Moines “Pigeons on the Prairie” fancy pigeon show sponsored by the Iowa State Pigeon Association. Seraphim were represented from Minnesota and Eastern and Western Iowa this year, though there were Seraphim breeders from various other midwestern states on hand to observe.

The Des Moines show is a very large show and typically has entries in the thousands. It was well attended by visitors as well as competitors this year, and was very organized as usual. Foy’s Pigeon Supplies was on hand to make sure fanciers could access all of the necessities for their special pets.

A Show Homer at the ISPA show.

A Show Homer at the ISPA show.

Nothing surpasses the iridescence of the Archangel.

Nothing surpasses the iridescence of the Archangel.

A wild looking Short Face English Tumbler.

A wild looking Short Face English Tumbler.

The above are just a few examples of the wide variety of pigeon breeds shown in Des Moines, breeds that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes I said it….some varieties seem a little crazy. I won’t name names since someone is bound to be in love with some of the more abstract pigeon creations that I just don’t fathom, but some can only be described as “works of art” or “art in progress”. 🙂 Nevertheless, a good time was had by all!

David Coster, Editor

Trouble in the Nest—What Do I Do?

{Note to Reader: The following situations are some that I’ve run into in my own loft. If you have seen other problems that you’ve solved, or problems that you haven’t, send your question or problem/solution to me at and I will post it here with the answer. David Coster M.D., Editor}

So. You have your new Seraphim and have set up the nest boxes and are anxiously awaiting the appearance of the first eggs; and then something terrible happens and ruins everything. Now what? Let’s go through a few possible problems that can occur in the breeding loft. The good news is that they are all solvable.

Q: You have plenty of nest boxes up and they are all the same, yet two or more cocks are fighting viciously over one box! What is the problem, and what do you do?
A: Let’s talk basics here. There is a reason that this happened. The usual explanation is that the box was placed in a site that was previously taken as a territory by one of the cocks. It could have been a regular nighttime perch or just a place on a shelf where a cock had set up his boundaries, keeping all other birds away, but now you’ve plunked a nest bowl there or a box and though the primary cock identifies that region as his spot, the box has now become a major attraction for another cock or two in the loft who also want nest space. The solution is to put boxes in areas where no cocks have claimed a territory – a blank wall or area where there has never been a perch or shelf is a neutral area. The cocks may still fight, but with equal claim to the territory and more of a willingness to give up if needed. Ideally one should place enough boxes for all pairs, and all boxes should be at about the same height and in a neutral territory originally. Most cocks will want the highest box. If possible space the boxes around the loft at the same level in different areas reasonably remote from the nighttime roosting areas. This will allow the cocks to claim a small area for their own and they can all imagine they are of equal power since the boxes are at about the same height. There will still be some squabbling, but it will be over quickly. Problem solved. Seraphim tend to be quite territorial about nest locations. I have found it best to only use single boxes (no doubles to invite a potential takeover; it’s easier to defend a single) and NOT to place them closer together than eight feet or so. When young birds have reached sexual maturity, take them out of the breeding area so they cannot worry the breeding pairs with their constant attempts to take a nest box.

Q: A cock is constantly interfering with the other birds trying to nest; what do I do?
A: If it is an unpaired cock, get him out of the breeding loft. If it is a paired cock, lock him into his nest box with his mate until they have eggs and he has something to do all day (sitting on his nest) instead of bothering everyone else. If that doesn’t work and he now leaves his eggs to interfere with other pairs, he has to be moved to his own pen with his mate or taken out of the breeding plan entirely. When he is older he is less likely to behave in this manner. Hold him back a year and try again if he is something special.

Q: Eggs are laid and everything seems fine; what do I do to assess their status?
A: You can tell when the hen has laid, as she will sit tight on the nest the first two or three days, and then she’ll allow the cock to set during the day and she will take over night duties. At about a week, go in during daylight hours and reach under the bird and remove the two eggs. He will likely fly away, but he’ll be back as soon as you are done. Either hold each egg up to a bright lightbulb or use a penlight or LED from your cellphone to illuminate the egg from behind. If the egg is fertile, you will see the tiny embryo with a circle of blood vessels around it. It’s best to do this in a dark corner so there is contrast between the lit egg and the surrounding atmosphere so you can see better. If the eggs are clear with just a bare outline of a yellow yoke, they are sterile and can be discarded. The birds will start over. If fertile, put them back in the nest and don’t bother them again. If one is fertile, replace them both and only remove the infertile one after the fertile egg has hatched. They will hatch at 18 days from laying, so make a note of about the time you think they should hatch. Keep a close eye on things about that time; you will be able to tell the babies have arrived by the behavior of the parents. You may also find discarded half shells lying on the floor. Don’t bother the babies for five or six days unless you happen to come in when both parents are off the nest. You MUST begin daily exams of the babies at 6 days as they will soon need to be banded and you have to make sure they are being fed. Check their crops and make sure they are stuffed by mid-morning each day. When they are in quill the parents will leave the babies alone in the nest for extended periods of time.

Q: One of the babies in the nest is huge and the other is scrawny and looks terrible. Now what?
A: Some pairs will feed only the strongest baby, i.e. the first to hatch. They will give the smallest one a chance for a few days, but then just stop feeding it. Examine the baby. If the crop is empty and the crop of its nest mate is full, you have your answer. This is a problem you should anticipate, and you should decide now how you intend to handle it. You can let nature take its course and let the chick die, but it’s a terrible thing to observe; it’s slow starvation. You can put the baby in a nest of “feeders” – pigeons kept for the specific purpose of feeding orphan babies. Or, you can leave the baby in its nest with its mate and parents and supplement its feedings, a very easy thing to do. All breeders should keep on hand a set of syringes designed for this purpose, along with some cannisters of Kaytee Exact baby bird formula (you can order this on Amazon). Follow the directions on the container and stuff the baby’s crop full once every afternoon and then put him back. All you do is hold the baby and gently squeeze the beak open at the base, poke the syringe down his throat, and fill him up. It takes about thirty seconds with a couple of pauses to let him catch his breath. He will quickly come back to life and begin growing again rapidly, soon nearly catching up with his nest mate. His sudden increased energy will get the attention of his parents, and after a while they will start feeding him again and eventually probably take over the job completely. The benefit to the baby is that he stays with his family.

Q: There is one baby in the nest and one of its legs is sticking out to the side and won’t go back into proper position; what do I do?
A: This can happen if a) there is one baby in the nest with no one else to lean against and b) the nest is slick on the bottom and the baby cannot get a grip on anything. Solution: put a pad on the bottom of the nest and surround the baby with a thick layer of Timothy grass so the baby can get a grip and be propped up on all sides. If the baby still lists, place a stone about the same size as the baby on the side of the affected leg so the leg is forced back inward toward the midline. Remove the stone in a week when the baby’s leg is looking more normal again.

Q: My babies are freezing to death because the parents won’t incubate them during the day! What do I do?
A: The parents will stop warming the babies constantly once they are about a week old. During a cold snap in an unheated loft the babies can get seriously chilled. Usually they make enough body heat to manage even in ridiculous cold, especially if there are two and they are already in quills, but if there is just one it is at high risk for loss, and fighting the cold takes a lot of calories that would otherwise be used for growth. If you have an unheated and non-insulated loft, don’t start the breeding season until the average temperature is above 40 degrees. If heated and insulated, keep your loft at least 60 degrees when there are young chicks in the nest and breed whenever you want to. If you find a chick suffering from hypothermia, don’t assume it’s dead even if it’s ice cold and looks lifeless. I have resurrected such chicks simply by holding them in my cupped hands and breathing warm air over them for about ten minutes; if they show no signs of life after ten minutes and are as stiff as a board, they are dead. If you have to take the baby in the house, there is a strong possibility the parents will no longer recognize it when you bring it back as they will have decided their efforts to raise a youngster have been in vain. Now you have to hand-raise it and will need to set up an orphanage in the kitchen (or farm it out to a pair of feeders if you have them). As soon as you can, move the baby out to the loft in a box protected from the other birds and feed it there twice a day until it fledges. It will need the influence of other pigeons to develop properly neurologically.

Q: My pigeons stop being interested in breeding in late Fall and Winter; how can I get them to breed during those months?
A: Your birds are responding to the shorter daylight hours. The hens will stop ovulating during the deepest part of winter with the shortest days. This is a simple problem. Put a light on a timer in the loft and artificially increase the daylight hours to 14 or more (6 a.m. to 8 p.m., for example). Your birds will go to nest in a few days.

Q: My baby pigeons jumped out of the nest too soon and can’t fly and are running around on the floor; what should I do?
A: Make a lean-to in the corner and fill it with hay so they can walk in from the side. Put them in there. They will hide there from the other pigeons but come out to be fed by their parents who will find them there. Don’t bother to put them back in the nest. They will just jump out again.

Q: My baby pigeons came out of the nest too soon and now the parents seem to be ignoring them. How do I know they are eating and drinking enough?
A: First of all, watch them. If they come out and beg every time an adult walks past their lean-to, they are not being fed or watered. Keep a bowl of water and a bowl of seed in front of their lean-to. Pick them up and dip their beaks in the water deeply, up to the nostrils. If they are dry they will gulp water like crazy. They will also quickly figure out where to get it. Just check a couple of days to make sure they are drinking; if they don’t gulp when you put their beaks in the water, they are drinking on their own. Put some seed in your hand and hold it in front of them. Tap a finger into the seed over and over again, like a pigeon pecking. They will mimic you and peck at the seeds and eat a few. You can also pick them up, open their mouths and pop in some peas or corn; they’ll just swallow it. Some people put seed in a mason jar and cover it with cloth and then poke a small hole in the cloth, turn it upside down and poke the baby’s beak into the hole while holding the jar over the baby’s head. This mimics a parent with a full crop looming over it, and it will automatically start pushing against the cloth and shoveling seed in its gullet. You can see its little beak working away through the glass. A nice trick if needed. You can also, as always, grab the syringe and supplement with formula if needed until they are on their own.

Q: I have too many babies! How do I get these pigeons to stop?
A: Well, if it’s winter time, turn off the light timer and make the days short. Then replace all eggs in active nests with wooden eggs. Any time a pair lays again, replace the eggs immediately with wooden eggs. They will sit there for 18 days and then abandon the nest. Simple. You can do this year around if necessary. If you just remove eggs and fail to place wooden eggs, they will lay a lot more eggs than normal and wear themselves out in the process, so use wooden eggs. You can also split the pairs and make two pens, one with cocks and one with hens. They don’t much like this, but they will give up on the egg laying. They won’t be as much fun to watch though. They are more interesting as pairs.

Q: I want a Seraph that is a real tame pet. How do I get one?                                                       A: You steal a baby. Let the parents take care of it until it’s four or five days old so it gets crop milk for that first critical period, then kidnap it. Keep it in a nest bowl in a pet carrier in a warm room in the house. Make a nest of soft kleenex and change it daily; keep it covered with an old wash cloth so it stays warm. Give it a tiny white stuffed bear to burrow into if you can find one. Feed it twice a day with Kaytee Exact formula until it is about two weeks old, then feed it once daily. Play with it. Pet it. Scratch it’s head. Talk to it. Start providing (and feeding it) a seed mix a little at a time at about four weeks. At five weeks taper the syringe feedings off and just provide seeds and water. It will scream at you for a couple of days and beg unmercifully, but it will eat on its own. Having been kidnapped at such a young age and acclimated to humans, it will be tame and come to you without a problem. Be sure to scratch it’s head a lot. They like that.

Sorting Your Seraphim

The best time to photograph young birds is during the annual sorting. Photographs allow buyers of your Seraphim to have a clear vision of the quality of your birds.

Whether you breed your Seraphim year-round or establish a “season” for breeding, you will at some point need to stop and evaluate the result of your efforts. For your own sake, and that of your breeding birds, it is most advisable to designate a period of months for reproduction followed by a period of rest and evaluation. The period of rest is a great time to evaluate and finally sort your birds.

As you know by now, Seraphim and all other Fancy breeds have an annual molt at the end of the summer, generally beginning in late August in the Northern hemisphere and ending at the latest by mid-November. The winter period after the molt (October and on) is thus riddled with show schedules, culminating in the big national show in January, since the birds look their best during that period of time.

Because of the timing of the annual molt as well as the annual show schedules, most breeders will set up their mating pairs between January and March and terminate the breeding season by August. Your birds will never look better than they do for the few months after the molt, and will never look worse than they do during the breeding season attending to messy little babies day in and day out, so there is a definite method to this scheduling madness.

If there is a special annual show or two where you always like to attend and show your birds, it’s important to work around them with your breeding schedule so that your adults all look their best for the show and the annual young have had the chance to molt into adult plumage as well. It’s also important to keep in mind that feeding youngsters and molting simultaneously is pretty tough on the adults nutritionally. Either the parent or offspring can suffer from protein malnutrition under such circumstances,  so additional protein in the diet will be needed, along with more fat and vitamins.

One way to get adults ready for show is to replace new eggs laid after a specific date in August with wooden eggs, preoccupying the parents but also giving them a reprieve from baby duties, allowing them to maintain their own health, feathering, and overall cleanliness. Starting this during or just after the molt in August will allow them to hold on to that pure white magnificence you want for show purposes, and all the babies hatched before August will almost always be in top form for show by December at the height of the show season. Nearly all of the birds in your loft will be potentially show-able using this schedule.

The other thing such a schedule does for the loft manager is give them a break from the work intensity of the breeding schedule and an opportunity to study and thoroughly evaluate their birds. Obviously every loft owner will manage their flock as they please since their birds can and will breed year around if given the chance, but it doesn’t hurt to maintain a reasonable and healthy schedule for all parties involved.

When it comes time for sorting the fruits of my labor each year, this is how I do it: I breed from a few pairs each year, and each pair is assigned a color to designate that family line. For instance, the SeaHorse line is pink, the James line is blue, etc. At banding time, each chick is given a numbered band on one leg and a colored family line band on the other. In this manner I can watch and study the offspring as they grow up and easily record changes that help me identify them later, including gender, without the necessity for capturing the bird.

In mid-October I go out late one night with a flashlight and pick all the birds up and put them in travel carriers. The next morning they are all placed in show cages, with the parents heading up their line of offspring for the year. The youngsters are divided by gender, and the most superior cock and hen in the line up is moved ahead to the two cages nearest the parents; these will be part of my show team and/or kept for my own breeding program. The rest are marked for sale, even if they too are high quality and intended for show. I do the same thing with the next line, and the next until I have located the best cock and best hen from each line. If any birds are identified that have faults that make them useless as breeding pairs, those birds are marked for placement in a free flock that I keep out at the farm. (Some people will euthanize such birds, but I can’t unless they are seriously ill or deformed—it just bothers me.)

A young cock of outstanding form moved to the head of the line in the sorting process. This superior bird should be kept by the breeder to add depth to the breeding team, shown, or sold to a serious Seraph enthusiast who needs highly superior breeding stock.

I then line up the best young cocks from all lines, and the best young hens from all lines. I again compare. What I am looking for are outstanding birds, birds that are better than the parents, or in the case of exceptional parents, birds that are equal to the parents. I then decide if I need to keep any for my own breeding program, and which ones, depending upon the family lines and how they should be interbred and whether or not there are birds present now that can advance a particular characteristic in the flock that needs improvement.

Having now decided which birds you are keeping for your own loft and which you want for show competition,  the “For Sale” birds are identified (the “for show” categories and “for sale” categories will always overlap, as will the “to keep” and “for show” categories) by band number in a ledger. Already you need to begin thinking about how to pair them to fill orders, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of each bird. It’s important to know when filling orders whether the buyer is a serious breeder who will show birds, wants them for pets, or will be flying them in a free flock. The most exceptional birds adhering to the Show Standard should be reserved for serious breeders. Poor quality birds should simply not be sold, unless they will be functioning in a non-breeding situation, such as drops for Racing Homers. Of the “For Sale” birds, you should always pair family lines that are compatible genetically and will likely result in exceptional or outstanding offspring, and the good qualities of one bird or family line should offset any less than superior qualities in the other bird or family line.

Ultimately, this sorting process will also answer another necessary question: Are you producing top-quality birds with your current mated pairs? If you discover that the birds from one line are all inferior to the others, you must decide whether or not to continue that line, split the parents and pair them with different mates, or completely take those parents out of the breeding program. Sorting in the manner described can help answer that question and assure that you are constantly improving outcomes from year to year.

Finally, it’s important to keep and maintain your foundation birds. As the years go by you will rotate your older birds out of the breeding schedule to some degree. Nevertheless, if you have exceptional older birds that are the genetic foundation for your entire program, birds from which you can retrieve qualities that might be lost due to unexpected complications from breeding younger birds, you will always be okay.