Friday, September 25, 2009


Excerpt from
Flying the coop, By KATIE KOLT HALL, Staff Writer
The Daily Journal

Pigeons find their way home after being released in the Falls

Saturday morning, hundreds of birds are set to pepper the Borderland sky as they head southward toward their homes near the Twin Cities.

But if their owners have anything to say about it, they won’t be in the Falls long . . . This is the second weekend in a row that the group has used International Falls as its starting point for the race.

The group hires a driver, who will release the gold-band pigeons all at the same time. At that point, bird owners wait for their flock to return home.

According to Paul Rudolph, race secretary for Twin City Concourse, if the birds are released around 9 a.m. in International Falls they should start arriving in homes near the metro area around 3 p.m. That means the average speed of the pigeons is about 50 miles per hour, depending on the wind and weather.

This is a shorter race only for the youngsters, he said, adding that older pigeons can travel up to 600 miles in one day . . . “They’re way smarter than we ever thought of,” Rudolph explained. “The term ‘bird brain’ is actually a compliment. There’s a lot more to them little creatures than we give them credit for.”

The birds have an innate instinct to return to their home coop, which is guided by a natural global positioning system, he said.

“There’s a magnetic force that helps them,” he said.

He also added that, “their eyesight is way better than humans’.”

The pigeon owner’s job, then, comes with training the birds to come back to their coop as quickly as possible. When they are very young, after they start taking short trips on their own, a pigeon owner will take the bird 25-30 miles from the coop and allow them to find their way back, he said. That leads to trips of 100 miles, 200 miles, and up until around 600 miles as a veteran racer.

“As much as the boys don’t want to believe it, the athlete is the bird — not us,” he joked.

Rudolph also noted that there is now technology that can be banded on the bird that will track the exact time when it lands on the home coop, making record keeping easier than in years past.

“It’s a different sport,” he remarked . . . And when Rudolph finally catches sight of one of his pigeons flying into the coop after a long trip, he said, “I still find that as big of a thrill as I ever did.”