Editor’s note: This is the fourth in the series which I started some time ago. The information comes from a website published by Jones and Son Pet Control Supplies Ltd.

13. PIGEONS ARE BIG BUSINESS. We normally think of the pigeon as being an unwelcomed guest in our towns and cities but most of us are unaware racing pigeons can be worth huge sums of money. One racing pigeon recently sold for a staggering $132,517! The three year old bird was a champion racer beating 21,000 other pigeons in one long distance race. For this reason he was bought by one British company that breeds racing pigeons for “stud”. One very happy pigeon! The previous record price for a pigeon was $73,800.

14. HOW DO PIGEONS NAVIGATE? There are many theories about how pigeons manage to return “home” when released hundreds of miles from their loft. A champion racing pigeon can be released 400-600 miles away from its home and still return within the day. This amazing feat does not apply to just “racing” or “homing” pigeons; all pigeons have the ability to return to their roost. A ten-year study carried out by Oxford University conluded that pigeons use roads and freeways to navigate, in some cases even changing direction at freeway junctions. Other theories include navigation by use of the earth’s magnetic field, visual clues such as landmarks, the sun, and even infrasounds (low frequency seismic waves). Whatever the truth, this unique ability makes the pigeon a very special bird.

15. FAMOUS PEOPLE AND PIGEONS. The humble pigeon has attracted some very famous fans over the last few thousand years ranging from Royalty to rock and roll singers and actors through fashion designers. One of the most famous royals is Queen Elizabeth of England who has lofts and pigeon keepers at her estate in Sandringham, Norfolk. Elvis Presley had a soft spot for pigeons and Mike Tyson is an enthusiastic pigeon keeper. Even Maurizzo Gaucci, the internationally renowned fashion designer is a keen pigeon fancier spending a reputed $10,000 on one American bird. One famous couple, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, are keen pigeon fanciers, but after being swamped by autograph hunters at a pigeon show, they are apparently less comfortable to show their affection for the birds publicly.

16. PIGEON DISASTERS. Probably the greatest disaster to befall the species was the extermination of the passenger pigeon in North America in the early part of the 20th century. It is estimated that there were 3-5 billion passenger pigeons in North America at the time. Flocks of 100,000s of birds would blacken the skies as they flew over, but early settlers managed to wipe out every last bird by 1914 by over-hunting. A more recent, and quite bizarre disaster, befell tens of thousands of racing pigeons released from Nantes in France as part of a race held to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Racing Pigeon Association in England. Sixty thousand pigeons were released, but only a few ever arrived back at their lofts throughout southern England. One theory suggests that a sonic boom created by Concorde as it flew over the English Channel, at the precise time the pigeons would have been at the same point, completely disoriented the birds, compromising their inbuilt navigation system.


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