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Pigeon Breeding: Genetics at Work

Here you'll find additional materials that accompany the Learn.Genetics Pigeon Breeding module.

Pigeonetics Guide

This guide will help teachers lead their students through Pigeonetics. This game, with 26 pigeon-breeding puzzles of increasing complexity, helps students learn about mechanisms of inheritance, and it brings together often disconnected concepts from Mendelian inheritance and molecular genetics.

The guide includes

  • Explanations of game features
  • Key information needed to solve each puzzle
  • A List of concepts and inheritance patterns introduced in each puzzle
  • Locations for additional information about inheritance patterns and other concepts featured in the puzzles

Pigeonetics Game Teacher Guide

Pigeon Genetics Worksheet

Students can use this worksheet to record information they can find in the Pigeon Breeding: Genetics at Work module. The worksheet includes puzzles and questions related to 7 different pigeon characteristics and how they are inherited.

Pigeon Genetics Worksheet (fillable pdf)


This paper model of sexual reproduction uses real pigeon traits to demonstrate how two parents can produce highly varied offspring. Students recombine parental chromosomes, make gametes, then randomly combine two gametes. Finally, they decode the resulting allele combinations to draw the traits of a pigeon offspring.

Note: For simplicity, we’ve placed alleles on one chromosome.

Learning Objectives

  • Variations in the DNA sequences of genes are called alleles.
  • Alleles are shuffled during sexual reproduction (recombination, independent assortment, and random fertilization).
  • Allele shuffling during sexual reproduction contributes to genetic variation in a population.

Estimated time
30 minutes

Copies, colored paper, scissors, tape, colored pencils


  1. Give each student a copy of the instructions and chromosome cut-outs.
  2. After students complete their pigeons, hang them (along with the gametes they used to make them) all on a large wall space or white board.
  3. Discuss the following:
    • How allele “shuffling” during sexual reproduction contributes to genetic and phenotypic variation in offspring
    • The amount of genetic and phenotypic variation you see in the offspring from just two pigeons

Build-a-Bird Student Instructions
Chromosome Cut-Outs


This work was supported in part by a Career Award from the National Science Foundation, DEB-1149160.