Racing Pigeons

Beer and Strippers (it’s not what you think)

 Before anyone gets too excited, I’m talking about pigeon racing. A beer is just a way to pass the time while waiting for the birds to come home, something the average pigeon enthusiast spends a LOT of time doing. A stripper is a bird which has the flights (wing feathers) of one wing stripped or taped together so it can’t fly very high.

The intention is to lure the homecoming bird into the loft as quickly as possible by releasing the stripper so that it flutters into the loft. The theory is that seeing another bird will convince the incoming bird to drop straight into the loft. Well, theoretically. We have had birds make it onto the roof – with a stripped wing – and then sit there hobnobbing with the race bird while the owner tears his hair out below. Racing is hugely competitive and split seconds can be the difference between winners and also-rans.

The first trick is to be able to identify an incoming bird. It is horribly easy to confuse a small bird close by with a much larger bird further away. My husband raced pigeons for many years and can identify the type of bird by the way it flies, even close relatives like rock pigeons and homing pigeons. Me? I once nearly threw a stripper for a passing 747. Look, all I saw was a dark blob in the sky! My husband practically fell over laughing.

An added complication is that the birds travel strictly one-way. They only return to their lofts. This means that in a race they are all released together, but then all fly to their own homes. This means a lot of calculating – called over or under flight – to find out who actually won.

Small birds of all species generally have a quite undeserved reputation as sweet little things. Pigeons? Forget it. They can be merciless if a chick wanders into their territory, or if a bird is sick or injured. And the birds that are most aggressive are often the best racers.

I have always wondered why the dove is considered the bird of peace. Whoever chose it either knew nothing about birds, or a whole lot about humans…

About notewords

Guitarist, Music teacher, Writer
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4 Responses to Racing Pigeons

  1. Suzanne says:

    We ended up with a resident racing pigeon for over a year. ‘Pidge’ was blown off course by some rather severe winds while in a race between Gorman and Orange. I found him, breathless and exhausted, in the side yard (in Santa Barbara). When somewhat recovered, he decided that the open engine compartment of my car was as close to a roost as he was going to come, and he spent the night there. We were able to catch him just twice: the first time to get ownership info off his leg band (we fully intended to return him where he belonged), and once again many months later when his transponder band was getting a little too tight because he had grown quite portly.

    By day, he would go downtown, or to the harbor (to hang with other pigeons?). On Sunday afternoons, he would bring a friend back to the canyon to play in the updrafts. (I’m not making this up! he had quite the routine) Of a morning, I would usually find him perched on top of the pergola, or on the roof. Then he would launch and, just clearing the low wall on the far side of the pool, soar across the canyon – keeping just enough altitude to clear the east rim of the canyon – and head downtown. Sometime before sunset, he would return home.

  2. There was a period of time when one racer or another would land in our yard or close by for no particularly known reason (none of the fancy lived close by) and, once we’d established that it had not the faintest idea of where to go from here, we fed them a little from a bag of good feed recommended for the purpose in order to keep them here till someone from the local club could come, identify and fetch. One season he was virtually on speed dial (except this was pre speed d). I used to see all the lovely baskets of birds being taken to the rail station for release elsewhere when I was a kid and every man who had an allotment had a pigeon loft on it. Long ago. It was the baskets not the birds I would like. Birds have beaks and they know what to do with them, as far as I’m concerned. Lovely post. Thanks for bringing back memories. Do you keep many racers?

  3. John says:

    Good Written.anyway i have racing pigeons and enjoy when the FLY !!

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