What's pigeon racing all about?
Put simply, pigeon racing is a competitive sport where you take a group of your strongest pigeons to a designated drop off point (usually a club) where a truck will take all other competitors birds to the ‘starting line’.
The birds are all released at the same time and it is a race back to their homes. The time it takes the pigeon to cover their distance is measured and the bird’s average speed is calculated and compared to all of the other birds in the race. The pigeon with the highest average speed wins. The time finishes when a pigeon goes into their loft and their ring is ‘clocked’ (scanned). Seems simple enough right? There’s more to it than just dropping them off and waiting for them to get home. The pigeons need to be trained by letting them fly regularly, this could be at home or taking them ‘tossing’ which is like a mini race without the timing or the competition. The birds are dropped off usually at a high point somewhere a few hours away and then fly back home to keep their homing skills sharp.
Risks of pigeon racing
There is also risks you have to face when racing pigeons. The main risk is loss of pigeons which could happen when your group of birds mix with another group and some of your birds continue to the wrong destination with the wrong group. When a big flock of tasty pigeons are flying together, predators like peregrine falcons, hawks, and Wedge-tailed eagles are also a big concern when racing.
One more reason for loss of pigeons is if they just can’t make it back. This would mainly be because it doesn’t have the energy left to make it. Birds will sometimes get caught in different wind currents which exert more energy. If a pigeon is found it is easily traced back to the owner. Each pigeon has a personal ID ring usually on their right leg which states the issuing organisation (VHA in Victoria) followed by the year of birth and then the ID number. By calling the organisation (Victorian Homing Association) and reading the ring number, they are able to trace it back to the owner so that they can come and pick up their bird. One last risk that pigeon owner’s face when flying is contracting a disease or parasite which can happen when pigeons are flying in close proximity of another group of pigeons infected. To avoid an outbreak in your loft, it is suggested to treat your race birds when they return with a broad spectrum antibiotic or medicine.