Basic Pigeon Skeletal Anatomy- Part I

An important part of learning about pigeons and birds in general, involves knowing a little about their anatomy. Each species is unique and you will find variations even among individuals of the same species. A basic understanding of anatomy not only helps to identify the animal, but also reveals clues as to its health status, approximate age, and any disease processes that may be present.

Birds, in particular, have a unique skeletal system that is modified for flight (in most cases- exceptions include flightless birds such as emus and ostriches). Interestingly, their skeleton consists of fused bones for added strength and rigidity, and a series of hollow pneumatic bones that interconnect with their respiratory system. The airsacs extend into the humerus, coracoid, pelvis, sternum, and vertebrae; in some species, the femur, scapula, and furcula are also pneumatized.¹  This allows for a strong, yet, lightweight skeletal frame that is able to withstand the forces generated during flight.

Pictured below is a domestic pigeon skeleton with numbered structures. Part I of this blog covers the basic skeletal structures of the pelvis, leg, and thorax. *Part II will include the wings, vertebrae, and skull.

Right lateral view of a domestic pigeon skeleton
1. Pubis 8. Uncinate process
2. Ischium 9. Furcula (fused clavicles)
3. Femur 10. Coracoid
4. Tibiotarsus 11. Pygostyle
5. Tarsometatarsus 12. Synsacrum
6. Sternum 13. Ilium
7. Keel (or carina) of the sternum 14. Vertebral ribs (5)

References and resources:

    1. O’Malley, Bairbre. “Avian Anatomy and Physiology.” Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of Exotic Species: Structure and Function of Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, and Amphibians. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders, 2005. 100. Print.
    2. Proctor, Noble S., and Patrick J. Lynch. “The Skeleton.” Manual of Ornithology: Avian Structure & Function. New Haven: Yale UP, 1993. 117-47. Print.

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