By Leon Lam

The study of racing pigeon-Eyes

This topic has been one of many great debates

I am not here to challenge any one about eyesign as respectfully we are all entitled to our own ideas and opinions

“They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

This saying basically means many different view points. I may like fish eye pigeons and others may not agree.

I have been studying eyes like many pigeon enthusiasts for quite some time. I have read books and watched videos and listen to fellow flyers talk and debate about this topic

These are my thoughts below

What is an eye and its purpose?

The eye is an organ that detects light and sends signals along the optic nerve to the brain.

In pigeons the eye is a valuable sensory organ that gives the pigeon an ability to see. It allows for light perception and vision. In addition a pigeon’s eye has the ability to differentiate between colours and depth.

This complex organ detetermines eye sight and allows the pigeon to see and helps with thinking and learning.

Pigeons learn a lot by seeing what their fellow pigeon mates are doing. Its a survival instinct.


The proper care of our of pigeons and raising squabs with good access to food, minerals/vitamins, water, sunlight and housing will allow our pigeons to reach a high level of health and mental wellbeing.

What constitutes a good eye?

There are 2 important aspects to study about a pigeons eyes. The eye sight and eyesign.

Nowadays we are so connected through social media information is made available.

Eye sight is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment using light in the visible spectrum reflected by the objects in the environment. The mechanisms that allow focus determines how clearly a pigeon sees.

Basic Anatomy of a pigeons eyes

The main structures of a pigeon’s eye is similar to those of other vertebrates. The outer layer of the eye consists of the transparent cornea at the front, and two layers of sclera made from tough white collagen fibre layer. This layer surrounds the rest of the eye and supports and protects the eye as a whole.

The eye is divided internally by the lens into two main segments: the anterior segment and the posterior segment. The anterior chamber is filled with a watery fluid called the aqueous humour. Where as the posterior chamber contains the vitreous humour, a clear jelly-like substance.

The lens is a transparent convex or ‘lens’ shaped body with a harder outer layer and a softer inner layer. It focuses the light on the retina. The shape of the lens can be altered by ciliary muscles which are directly attached to the lens capsules.Some birds also have a second set of muscles, that can change the shape of the cornea, thus giving birds a greater range of accommodation than is possible for mammals.

This accommodation can be rapid in some diving water birds such as in the cormorants. The iris is a coloured muscularly operated diaphragm also known as sphincter muscle in front of the lens which controls the amount of light entering the eye. At the centre of the iris is the pupil, the variable circular area through which the light passes into the eye.

The optic nerve transports the message to the brain where sensory nerves translates the information. It is quite a complex system

Testing a pigeons eye sight


We can test our pigeons eye quality by how quickly it expands and dilates in direct sun light and shade.

I prefer smaller pupils in direct sunlight and larger pupil in the shade

If a pigeons eye does not contract or dilate I would not be breeding off this pigeon

Training pigeons to fly at night will give pigeons good experience for night flying and in addition it will help to develop their eye sight to adjust from day to night.


When you look at a pigeon straight in the face you can see if its eyes are focusing on you. You will notice some look sharp or angry looking. We dont want cross eyed pigeons as that would not be a good trait to have.

Short distance

We want to ensure that a pigeon can focus at short

distances. Simply by waving your hand near a pigeons eye and seeing its reaction. Both eyes has to be tested.

Long distance

Testing a birds eyesight at longer distances could be done by a number of ways. For example Seeing a birds response when its flying and you throw food on the ground and on the landing . A pigeon can see the food and fly down. this shows its eye sight works well.

Pigeons can see a lot further than us. They have been used in sea rescues to spot stranded people.

Ability to focus

Response delay from brain to eye and reaction

I like to study and observe a pigeon and how quickly it reacts and learn

Every pigeon fancier has their own observation skills

Pigeons learn by eye sight and repeating things. Thry are creaturess of habbit.

They like routines and can adjust /adapt to your system of pigeon management

Tools for looking at eyes

Magnifying glass

Jewellers eye glass

Camera phones

High definition Cameras

Good lighting


There are many eye glasses that you can buy on the market it needs to be at least a 30 magnifying range

Most good phones have great cameras and with assistance from another person you can take photos and send them to your laptop for printing and comparison. The better the camera the easier it is to see the quality of the eye.

You must have a good clear sunny day to observe a pigeon’s eye or inside a room you need good clear white light

Eye quality in families eyesign

It is important to understand the eyes of a family of pigeons that you are racing and breeding

Pigeon eyes can come in for example

Pearl eyes

Orange eyes

Violets eyes

Nutty Brow eyes

Bull eyes

Black eyes

Green eyes

Eyesign study in racing pigeons is at the best of times a confusing and is at the very least, a subject which has sparked more argument and difference of opinion than any other subject related to the racing of pigeons.

Eye sign is an understanding of the quality of a pigeon eyes.

There are consistent eye sign traits in champion pigeons but no one can simply look at a pigeon and say for sure this pigeon is a champion without looking at the complete pigeon. For example a pigeon with a great eye and weak body will not be of any use.

Many theories and versions continually circle this subject, so much so that it is nearly impossible to know what to believe and whom to believe.

This topic needs to be base on facts and common sense.

There are some pigeon racers who totally dismiss the eye concept as being a basis for determining a pigeon’s ability as a racer, breeder or even both.

But we all agree that a pigeon needs to have good eye sight and be healthy as well as in prime condition.

There many eyesign enthusiasts who use the method to measure and determine a racing pigeon’s ability for quite differing reasons.

They base this method on the understanding of their own pigeon families with the goal to improve the family of pigeons.

So who is right? The enthuisiasts or the sceptics?

Many of the modern strains of racing pigeons found these days, carry genetic material or DNA, which has been brought through because of close inbreeding and line breeding for quite a few generations.

A very good example of such in breeding or line breeding, would be the

Goodger family of racing pigeons. The Goodger birds are an inbred and line bred family.

They quite often carry a pearl eye or orange eye with thick black adaptation circle and good sphincter muscles.

The inbred pearl eyes can have a white eye or fish eye which is a characteristics of an inbred family.

Eye sign matings can improve the colour of the eye.

For example mating a pearl to a yellow eye will give darker pearl eyes.

The Pryor Goodger sub family have similar heavy pearl eye with the thick black adaptation circles and good sphincter muscles as the Goodger trait is dominant. This family is line bred rather than inbred.

The gaby pigeons consists of orange and pearl eyes. They have smaller adaptation circles but great sphincter muscles . This family is more line bred rather than inbred.

These are but only three examples, with many more families having their own special characteristics

The first image shows the five main circles which make up a pigeons eye. The first circle that we’ll look at is the pupil.

The pupil should be the same all the way around and it should dilate when presented with different light.

The next circle is the number two circle. It is sometimes called the adaption circle. This circle comes in variable widths and shades of black brown and gray. That circle is where sphincter muscles layer shows

In the Goodger family we prefer wider adaptation circles.Mostly found in long distance pigeons.

The third circle of the eye is the circle of correlation. Some call it breeding circle. In this circle you may see lines called distance lines.

The longer the lines the better characteristics for long distance.

The wider circles in the Goodger birds is preferred The colour doesn’t matter as much

Circle number four is the iris. There is the inner iris and outer iris. You can infact say its 2 iris ciclea.

This circle also comes in many different colours ranging from light yellow, through reds to a deep crimsony colour.

I like to see lots of mountain ridges and character within this circle. The iris must also show good ridges, with the outer circle breaking through to line up with the adaptation ring.

The inner iris may be a lighter colour than the outer iris and can spread blend into the outer iris.

The fifth circle is the last circle. It may appear to be the same colour as the adaption circle or the colour circle. This outer circle is commonly black

Some very good sprint and middle distance pigeons carry lightning- like lines which appear to be jumping from the centre of the pupil into the adaptation circle.

Some eyesign enthusiast like the fifth circle, the outer one that is, joined or blends with the second circle, then the colour circle, the better the racing capabilities of that pigeon would be.

The lighter and smoother the colour, the more suited to sprint racing. But the more jagged mountain like features the circle is and the deeper in colour it is, suggests that the pigeon is better suited for long distance racing over rough terrain.