Nun Pigeon

Nun Pigeon: Origin, Appearance, Behavior, Care, And More

The nun pigeon dons a distinctive black and white coal that resembles the habits worn by catholic church nuns—hence its name nun pigeon. This aesthetic quality makes it a highly sought-after bird among pigeon fanciers and enthusiasts.

Besides, this bird is friendly and sociable—making it a great companion for those who like pet birds.

In this article, we have discussed every single detail you need to know about the nun pigeon from its origin and history, physical description, behavioral traits, suitability as a pet, and how to provide it with the best care in terms of diet, housing, healthcare, etc.

Nun Pigeon Quick Facts:

Scientific nameColumba livia domestica
Other namesDutch Shell Pigeon
Breed nameNun
Breed purposeExhibitions, Flying, Pet
SizeSmall to medium
WeightApprox. 370 grams
Flying abilityGood
Cost$50 to $150
Lifespan10+ years

Origin and history

Nun pigeon originated from Europe around 16th century, though the exact area is unknown. Like other domesticated pigeons, this fancy breed was developed following years of selective breeding.

This is one of the oldest known breeds of pigeons and is even believed to be related to the helmet pigeon.

The pigeon is referenced way back in 1600s by Aldrovandi, an Italian naturalist credited with creating Bologna’s botanical gardens in Europe.

It is also referenced by Moore in his book “A Treatise on Domestic Pigeons” which dates back to 1735. This show that the bird has been around for such a long time.

Nun Pigeon Origin and history

However, the breeding of the modern high-class nun breed didn’t occur in the UK until after 1800s.

It’s also interesting to note that this pigeon breed was referenced in Charles Darwin’s book “The Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication.

He states that the Jacobin and nun pigeon breeds evolution led to caudal vertebrae becoming less than that of their descendant, the rock pigeon.

James Murray Fleming in this letter dated 29 March 1871 confirms Darwin using the nun pigeon as part of his breeding programs to create a fancy pigeon that was below standards, citing that the nun breed was not a “high-bred bird.”

The nun pigeon was initially a flying tumbler but it was later developed for exhibitions.

Today, the pigeon is one of the most popular ornamental breeds available today. Its beautiful appearance and friendly demeanor make it a great choice of pet for pigeon fanciers and enthusiasts.

That said, the nun pigeon is available in several types and varieties namely the English nun pigeon, German nun pigeon, Black nun pigeon, and Silver nun pigeon.

Nun pigeon appearance

A typical nun pigeon has a short and stocky appearance. An adult weighs approx. 370 grams and has a maximum height of around 24cm (minus the shell crest) and a length of around 25cm.

However, the most distinctive feature that sets this bird apart is the shell crest or hood covering the back of its head and neck.

This hood comprises a set of raised feathers on its neck that resemble the Catholic nun wearing a habit (this is what gives its name—nun pigeon).

The crest also creates an impression of this bird being bigger than its actual size.

Breeders of nun pigeons are always trying to produce offspring with the crest being as big and showy as possible.

Nun pigeon appearance

The nun’s eyes are pearly white and the beak is usually straight and it doesn’t have any feathers on its legs and feet. Its chest is well-rounded and its body narrows down as you move toward the tail.

The tail itself is pretty short and is made up of around 12 feathers.

Nun pigeons are usually white but they may feature colored feathers in a variety of hues. For this reason, the bird may be named depending on their head colors hence the names like yellow-headed nun, black-headed nun, and so on.

Some of the most common color varieties for this bird include khaki, dun, black, blue, red silver, indigo, yellow, and indigo. Some birds also come banded in khaki or brown shades.

Here’s a video showing some of the most common colorations for nun pigeons:



Nun pigeon is calm and docile, just like other domesticated pigeon breeds. This makes it easy to handle/tame and many bird enthusiasts like keeping it as a pet.

Though it’s used for exhibitions, it still carries the tumbling DNA and can still make a good flyer. The bird easily takes to high altitudes just like tumblers and magpie pigeons.

The bird is sociable and friendly to fellow pigeons, irrespective of the breed. It can be housed with other birds without showing any aggression towards them.

Nun Pigeon Behavior


A proper diet for nun pigeons should be comprised of seeds, grains, vegetables, and fruits.

This is pretty much the standard diet for all pigeon breeds. You can get your pigeon high-quality birdseed mixture from your local pet stores or you can mix up the seeds on your own.

Fresh vegetables add variety to your pigeon’s food while offering it additional helpful nutrients.

Fresh and clean water is also essential for your pigeons’ survival. If you want, you can also provide the pigeons with quality grit to aid in food digestion.

Nun pigeon as a pet

Nun pigeons are calm and docile, so they can be kept as pets. They’re also friendly and get along well with fellow pigeons and their owners, making them ideal for adding to existing flocks.

That said, you’ll need to provide these birds with proper care to ensure they stay happy and healthy.

They’ll require a daily supply of clean and fresh water every day. Make sure you clean their water and food containers every day to prevent bacteria buildup that may cause illnesses.

Nun pigeon as a pet

The ideal habitat for your nun should be clean and spacious. It should also be well-ventilated and help keep the birds safe from harsh weather elements as well as potential predators like cats and dogs.

Due to their tumbling gene, these birds are quite active and like flying around. Thus, you should provide them with a spacious loft where they can easily spread their wings and explore their surroundings. You should also let them fly in open spaces as part of the exercise to keep them healthy.

Having an avian vet regularly check your pigeons is also recommended to keep them healthy.

Nun pigeon breeding guide

The breeding process for nun pigeons is typical of what you’ll expect for most pigeon breeds. It starts with a mating pair (a male and a female).

The female then lays up to 2 eggs per clutch, and it can breed all year round as long you provide it with a suitable nesting site and feed it a nutritious diet.

Nun pigeon breeding guide

Once the eggs hatch into chicks, the pigeons take good care of them by rearing and feeding them the special crop milk which is healthy for the baby pigeons.

However, in case your pigeon doesn’t seem to feed its chicks correctly, you may consider hand-feeding them using commercial baby bird formulas.


The average cost of a nun pigeon is around $50 to $150. However, the exact price may vary depending on a variety of factors such as breed quality, your location, and the breeder. To ensure you get a good-quality, healthy bird at a fair price, do your research on a reputable breeder.

Nun pigeon lifespan

The nun pigeon has a maximum lifespan of around 10 years or more while in captivity. Some of the factors that dictate the bird’s lifespan include diet, living conditions, genetics, etc.

Nun pigeon lifespan

Be sure to give your bird proper care to enable it to live for many years. This includes feeding your bird a proper diet, putting it in a suitable living space, and having regular vet checkups.

If you’re a fan of fancy pigeon breeds, you might be interested in our articles on Norwich Cropper pigeons and Maltese pigeons. Our article on Norwich Cropper pigeons provides an in-depth look at the breed’s history, characteristics, and care, including tips on feeding and breeding. Meanwhile, our article on Maltese pigeons explores the breed’s unique features and provides guidance on how to raise and care for them. Don’t forget to also check out our article on Nun pigeons for more information on this fascinating breed.

Final Verdict

Nun pigeons were initially born tumblers. Today the birds are used as exhibition breeds and are quite popular all over the world. The hood on their head is one distinctive feature that sets them apart from the rest. Because these birds are calm and friendly, they make great pet pigeons for bird/pigeon enthusiasts and fanciers. However, taking proper care of the birds is key to ensuring they live a happy and healthy life. Proper care involves giving them a proper diet, and suitable housing, cleaning their housing regularly, and taking them to the vet for routine checkups.

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