Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pigeons

One of the things I love about doing this job, is all of the interesting people we get to meet. Just down the road from the RV park is the American Racing Pigeon Union...yep, you heard right. I never knew pigeons were unionized but...

So I've been working with a woman there for the past couple of days on her ad and I learned so much about what their organization does. For anyone out there who is up on this stuff, don't hold me to all of the info. I took in a lot of info...hopefully I've got the details correct.

They have a great website and I've tried to read up on the art of flying, etc. but not a whole lot of spare time as we're finishing up this job tomorrow.She shared with me that the birds are gotten very young and around 28 days old they learn where "home" is. I don't think I mentioned these are homing pigeons....not the garden variety, sit on the ledge outside city hall type...pooping on everything. Well, I'm sure they do a fair share of that but anyways, I digress....

If you look on their website, their lofts are pretty cool. There are pictures of ones folks have built. These pigeons race anywhere from 100 to 600 miles. They have little bands on their legs and that is how the whole "Who came in first ?" thing happens in a race. The birds are crated Friday and then driven to the release point (however many miles away that is). Each bird pays an entry fee of $425 to race and around 300 can be in a race (you do the math). On Saturday morning, a half hour after sunrise the pigeons are released. Off they go for home! When they get home and come in the little trap door, saying "Honey, I'm home"...their little band is automatically scanned by a device and this is their official time. Those times are entered on the computer and a winner is determined and a hefty prize purse is awarded. Cool, huh ?

We talked about bird conditioning and training, etc. and I was fascinated that this sort of thing even exists. Seems it's been around since the 1800's and is really huge....with clubs all over the U.S.and the world for that matter. Next door to the Union building is a nondescript building with a sign out front that says "World of Wings". Thought it was probably part of their operation. In between the two buildings is a building that is just being built. Turns out it is the new museum for the organization. A 6000 sq ft. building that will be awesome when it's completed. Today I stopped at the World of Wings to learn more about what they do.

This area is where there are several buildings of pigeons. In where Randy (the caretaker of the birds) was, is the quarantine area. (I was a little worried when he first told me that...thought bird flu, something nasty that maybe people could catch, etc. Not to worry...nothing like that. It is an area for new birds before they are incorporated with the other birds there. This is where I met Blinky. Blinky was just purchased and is the last offspring of one of the most famous racing pigeons from Belgium. Seems his father was purchased by a rich American from the owner in Belgium when the bird was around 15 or 16 years old. A pigeon usually lives to around 20 years of age but usually loses the ability to breed around that age. The other thing that can make the bird go sterile is the trauma of being shipped overseas as this one was but the American was hoping that he could still sire babies and darned if he didn't. Blinky is one of the last offspring and was purchased for $7000. Yep, that's three zeros after the seven. Wow! Blinky is seven years old and did have a sort of regal look about him. Reason his name is Blinky is he has a problem with a tear duct in one eye and once a month, when it gets clogged, he starts Blinking a lot and then they have to drain it. Talking to Randy is where I learned about the entry fees (the museum gets some of that). People take their pigeons to this facility to train them or have meets. The whole thing was really quite fascinating...I could have stayed there for several hours listening, learning, petting the pigeons but duty called and I needed to get back to work. It's a tough life but you know, someone has to do it. Last week it was a baby elephant...this week it's about pigeons. Perhaps, you could say this job is for the birds.

1 comment:

Jim and Bobbie said...

Very, very interesting post, Linda. And it was written so well, too!!! How often do they have these $425 entry fee races? I remember reading about young boys and old men raising pigeons in coops on top of tenement buildings in NYC.

Good job, well done!!!