About homing pigeons and how I came to learn a little bit about them.
Taking a break one day while I was working from home, I took a walk about the property checking the animals and flowers and taking in a bit of fresh air. As I walked around the front of the house I realized the garage door had been left open, and as i moved to close it found a pigeon huddled in the far corner against the freezer. I tried to shoo it out but the bird looked limp and weak and barely flinched as i waved my arms in its direction.
Me being me, I decided I needed to care for the bird to restore it to health. I closed the garage door and assembled a nursery (small box with rag towel bed), water dish, and a handful of birdseed. Scooting the box under the bird, soon I had the bird was secured in the box; it seemed to relax in the small space and eventually doze off. I left it to rest and returned to work.
Later that day when the kids arrived home from school we all went to check on the bird. She (we assumed it was a girl because of her pretty eyes!) seemed to have recovered slightly and was a bit more perky. We noted that she had a small metal band around her “ankle” and we were further surprised that when we motioned to pick her up she moved towards us rather than away. The band had and alpha numeric code on it that we took down. Googling “homing pigeons” we found a website for American Racing Pigeon Union with a location to enter an id band code. We had a contact # for a man in a pigeon club in Michigan. We called immediately and left a message on an answering machine (it sounded like an old tape deck answering machine) after the beep, as directed by the older mad with the heavy german accent on the tape.
Later than evening the man called us back; we explained the story quickly, answered his questions regarding where the bird was and her health, then asked if we could hold the bird for 24 hours. After agreeing, he stated that the local racing pigeon chapter would be to our house within a day to pick up the bird. He thanked us and ended the call. I was left happy that we had done the right thing; but my curiosity had also been peaked. It seemed that there was some union of people across the ..nation.. maybe wold… that had racing birds. And they were all united in this hobby.
The next day I received another call from the local pigeon union member. He seemed more willing to chat as he asked for directions and we set a time for him to come pick up the bird. I learned that almost every city in the United States has a chapter of the racing pigeon union. That as a member they agree to help secure, care for, and return birds that have gone astray to there owners.
The union is part of a larger worldwide organization, that holds event around the world. Some of the events have races with purses in the tens of thousands if not more. The competition is fierce and longstanding. The birds are prized, and blood lines are coveted and maintained sometimes for generations of the humans who breed, raise, and train the birds.
It turns out the bird that landed in our garage was a young male on his first long flight. He had left a small town just off the Lake Michigan shoreline on the Michigan side.. two days before bound for North Chicago. He ended up in our garage north of Omaha NE. It was a 240+ mile overshot from his planned 80 mile trip. The man explained that it doesn’t happen very often but when it does the birds can go far! some races are 400+ miles. The birds average 45 miles per hour as a standard but have been known to fly as fast as 90 miles an hour!
All ended well! It was a great lesson for me and my kids, both in doing the right thing and to show there is so much in life to explore!
Side note – researching for this essay I came across a service online were you can order a unique custom message be delivered anywhere in the USA via homing pigeon. I was intrigued, but had to laugh reading the fine print that stated the bird would be delivered to your recipient via United States Postal service! LOL