Since ancient Egypt, carrier pigeons have been trained to transmit messages all important. Heroic during the two world wars, birds have been supplanted by modern means of communication. Today, pigeon fanciers enthusiasts continue to breed these winged messengers for the purpose of participating in competitions. Close-up on a real sports practice.
What is a carrier pigeon?
Belonging to the Columbidae family, the carrier pigeon (Columbia livia) is also known as rock pigeon. This species has been specially selected for traveling. Its main characteristic lies in its ability to travel hundreds of kilometers, equipped with a ballast (of approximately 250gr maximum) without getting lost and always returning to its own. starting point. With an innate ability to orientate himself, the homing pigeon is a true athlete, able to fly 1000 km without stopping. The bird has its own identity in the form of a Ring which is placed on its leg shortly after hatching (between 8 and 10 days). Its registration number bears a unique number ofidentification indicating their year of birth and their country of origin (F for France). A second ring indicates the address of the owner and his telephone number.
What are carrier pigeons used for?
The breeding of carrier pigeons has been practiced by different civilizations (Egyptians, Persians, Chinese, Greeks …) since theantiquity. The oldest dovecotes have been found in Upper Egypt. The birds were trained to send a message wrapped around a paw to a chosen location. Over the centuries, the use of these flying messengers has been particularly developed for purposes military : the French army, among others, used them during the First World War to liaise between the forehead and command. The birds have thus brought back valuable information on German progress and discreetly transmitted highly strategic information. The pigeons reiterated their heroic deeds during the second World War.
How does a carrier pigeon find its way?
A combination of several mechanisms allows the carrier pigeon to orient itself.
- In order to accomplish its exploits, the carrier pigeon first uses its vision. Observation of the position of the Sun facilitates its orientation, which is why the moment of release is important. It is thus noted that the flight performance in clear weather is better than that obtained in the event of sky. covered ;
- To the role of vision is added that ofsmell. Experiments have indeed established that birds whose olfactory nerves had been cut off were in the wrong direction: some took one more day to return when others did not return to the loft;
- The pigeon has the ability to perceive information from magnetic field earthly. The core of the planet, located more than 3,000 kilometers below the earth’s surface, consists of 85% molten iron which generates small electric currents at the origin of the magnetic field. The pigeon, like migrating birds, bees, dolphins or sea turtles can feel it;
- The points of landmark would also contribute to the return of the pigeon to its loft. By dint of traveling, the bird memorizes characteristics along its route (rivers, mountains, highways, etc.) which help it find its way;
- Finally, the determination pigeon to find its nest and its own is used by pigeon fanciers through the technique of “widowhood”. The method consists in depriving the male of his female, or vice versa, until the day before the competition and thus, to sharpen his desire to return. Namely that other tips exist to motivate the bird.
Who are the pigeon fanciers?
The pigeon fancier breeds carrier pigeons in order to present them to official competitions. To obtain a successful colony, the breeder selects his pigeons over several years and makes reproduce the specimens having gleaned the most rewards. From 1800, the pigeon sport grew considerably. The first National Federation of Colombian Societies in France was founded by decree of July 28 1927. Its president, the lieutenant Albert Leroy-Beague, had created mobile dovecotes having been used during the First World War. The practice today is supervised by two structures official:
- The French Colombian Federation (FCF), headquartered in Lille, is an institution that brings together regional associations and breeders in France. The organization deals with various subjects (international standards, scientific and medical research, pigeon protection measures, competitions, etc.);
- The International Colombian Federation (FCI), headquartered in Brussels, brings together the pigeon fanciers. The institution is responsible for the organization of world championships and the approval of competition devices. Like the FCF, this organization also looks into issues relating to the preservation of the species (state of populations, research, etc.).
Pigeons: what are the competitions?
The French Colombian Federation has set up several types of competition, such as :
- The test of speed. The pigeons are released at distances varying between 50 and 250 km from their loft. In principle, all birds should be home within 10 minutes;
- the middle distance. The pigeons are released at distances ranging from 250 to 500 km from their loft. This race requires a prolonged effort, from 4 to 8 hours of continuous flight;
- the background. The birds are released at distances between 500 and 1000 km from their loft. Some may take two days to return, depending on the weather conditions which differ from region to region.
From the age of 2 months, a squab is trained to recognize its habitat. In order to win a prize, pigeon fanciers must prepare their athletes throughout the year.