You open the door and it flies away. You call it, and it comes back. And it is not necessary to train it.
The Carrier Pigeons can provide exclusive emotions to their breeders. They are not very popular, and people rarely think of them as pets. But they are very docile and grow attached to their owners very easily. They will stand on the owner's hand or shoulder, coo around us, and show trust and sweetness. The characteristic they have of flying, when released, and returning later, makes the breeding of this bird a very special activity. Specially for those who, having birds in captivity, would like to see them flying freely, and, enjoy their presence at home at the same time.
Surrounded by houses and buildings, João Damberg, from Dovecote Damberg, in São Paulo, has more than 400 individuals in 10 aviaries at his house. Every day, he watches (along with the more observing neighbors) an incredible show.
In the morning and in the afternoon, Damberg opens the aviaries. The Pigeons fly away. They form a group in the sky, moving in circles, varying altitude. Many times, when reaching a certain point, they follow in a straight line, and disappear in the horizon. They come back an hour later. If they are in Damberg's eye reach, just a whistle is enough to make them come back, and, one after the other, go into the compartments where they live. This is an ordinary ritual for anyone who has Carrier Pigeons, even if only one individual.
They always go back to the place where they were born, or where they were taken as soon as taken out of the nest. They come back even if there is no whistling call, in which case they take up to 2 hours to return. The response to the call is learned through conditioning. "When I feed them, I whistle to call them. In only 3 days they associate this sound to food," explains Damberg.
The Carrier Pigeon is resistant. It can fly up to 800 kilometers in a day. Fast, it flies at 84 km/hour, and may reach the speed of 108 km/hour. Because of these qualities and the trustworthiness of its flights, the Carrier Pigeons are used until today to perform specific tasks. For exemple, in France and England, they are bred in laboratories of clinical analysis, and then taken to hospitals, where they await for emergency missions. They transport blood and hemoglobine in capsules, stuck to their feet or in bags tied to their abdomen. They are the fastest and cheapest alternative for these urgent exams.
Due to their 360 degrees vision, they are used in the United States to find shipwrecked people. They stay in a see-through box, in a stratetic position, inside a helicopter.
They soon notice when there is someone lost at sea, and signal by beating the beak on a pin, something they learn through conditioning.
Another option for people who breed Carrier Pigeons is to participate in speed competitions organized by specialized clubs. It's an outdoor activity, which provides entertainment and trips. To compete, each breeder takes his/her pigeons to places that are far from where they live, where they will fly to, and duration of the return will be timed.
Just how these birds find their way back, remains unknown. It is believed that they mark the initial point of route (during their circles in the air) through electromagnetic waves. Orienting themselves by the same waves, they proceed in a straight line. With their eyes covered, they can also localize this point, but they have difficulty if a magnet is tied to their back. With all these qualities, these birds maintain the interest of the people who know them, perpetuating its breeding through the years.
Ideal age for Purchase: From 28 to 40 days of
age, so it will learn to fly after living at your house. That way, when you
release it, it will come back to you. Another option is to buy a couple of
reproducing birds (or borrow it) and wait for babies to be born.
Where to buy: Look for qualified breeders, indicated by specialized clubs.
Where to get information about clubs and breeders: Federação Columbófila Brasileira (Brazilian Pigeon Federation), tel: (031) 286-2779 / 291-7420, Belo Horizonte.
Average Life Span: 15 years, but may live up to 20 years.
Research: Carmen Olivieri Text: Marcos Pennacchi
Picture: Luiz Henrique Mendes
Owner: William Mazza Lessa