HONOLULU (KHON2) — You’ve probably heard of racing boats, cars, and horses but what about racing pigeons? Well, one Hawaii pigeon racer said he does just that, and he isn’t the only one.
Racing pigeons is not what you might think. Pigeons are known to be smart birds that can retain simple commands. Lester Batul said he trains pigeons on an extension of his loft, and it only takes a couple of weeks.
“They go there daily as part of the training for 2 weeks straight,” said Batul. “Then after I open the door, which becomes a landing board, so they can land and enter the drop entrance.”
According to the American Racing Pigeon Union, this hobby has been around for centuries with chapters all around the world. In the 1860s, homing pigeons were imported from Europe and in 1872 the first club was formed to conduct races. They report the fancier clubs flew pigeons individually or in challenge matches.
Now people race pigeons in a few different ways. Either at a club or organization or in the comfort of their backyard.
The Royal Pigeon Racing Association classifies pigeon racing as a sport in which specially bred and trained pigeons are released from specific locations. They then race back to their start location and the fastest pigeon to return wins.
It’s not cheap to be a pigeon racer because you are taking care of living animals. RPRA said if you plan to keep your own loft, then there will be upfront costs to get started, along with the added costs for feed, vaccinations, and other equipment. Some people choose to keep their pigeons in someone else’s loft and would rather pay a boarding fee to house them elsewhere.
RPRA reports racing pigeons, sometimes called flyers, can live for upwards of twenty years. Whereas wild or feral pigeons like the ones you see in downtown Honolulu have a lifespan of three to four years.
Batul said back in August one of his racing pigeons was flying with others as part of their routine when one of them didn’t return.
“He doesn’t land on other houses or buildings other than the wires near my flying loft,” said Batul. “So, when I didn’t see him, I already knew he might have flown together with other loft flyers pigeon as there are more flyers in Ewa Beach.”
Months later, his pigeon finally made his way home however Batul noticed its wings had been slightly trimmed. He believes another flyer may have caught the bird and trimmed the wings.
“Both sides of the wings was trimmed to prevent it from flying high,” said Batul. “I think my bird saw an opportunity to get out and fly with the help of the strong wind.”
Batul said it took him an hour to get the bird down from the wire where he landed as it was high, and since the pigeon’s wings were clipped, it would have been hard to safely land on Batul’s loft.
Although his pigeon’s wings had been clipped, Batul said this bird can still be a flyer later in life. He’ll just have to wait until his wings grow back to their proper size.
“It can still be a flyer once he gets healthy and all wings have grown,” said Batul. “It will take a while for him to get all his wings back.”
Batul said this can be a learning experience for people and if they noticed a distressed pigeon with a band around its leg it could be a racing pigeon.
“Just give the pigeon some water and feeds or rice not cooked,” said Batul. “Then release it the next day but if it is injured then keep it till it can fly.”
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He said if anyone does come across a lost pigeon they suspect is a flyer they can post about it in their Facebook group called Racing Pigeons Hawaii FB Group.