There is a very nice article in the October 4 Tribune. Here is a portion and a link to the complete story provided. Great description of racing from the club members.
Excerpt from Chicago Tribune 10.04.09
by By SAM SMITH, Sauk Valley Newspapers
STERLING, Ill. - These aren't your garden-variety pigeons. Let these birds go, and they'll fly 300 miles straight home in a half-day.
Norbert Padilla has been breeding and racing homing pigeons for about 70 years ever since the Belgian population in Kewanee introduced him to the birds during his childhood.
Now Padilla, 79, of Sterling, is the oldest among an aging population of Sauk Valley residents who are looking to promote the sport of racing pigeons and attract a new generation of pigeon fanciers.
About 30 people meet at the Rock River Racing Pigeon Club, on Sterling's west end, on Fridays during the summer. They send their birds to a designated drop point often 300 miles away or more.
When released, the homing pigeons shoot straight into the air, then circle for 2 or 3 minutes. "And all of a sudden, they'll make a straight beeline for the direction their home is," Padilla said. "It's something no scientist has ever been able to figure out: how these birds find their way home."
Some attribute the homing to the sun, others to the Earth's magnetic field. Some say the pigeons can sense tidal movements and adjust accordingly.
Whatever it is, retired Dixon schoolteacher Devoe Manning calls the phenomenon "an amazing thing to see."
. . . To the lay person, there appears to be little difference between common pigeons and homing pigeons. But homing pigeons are the result of thousands of years of selective breeding of the common rock pigeon, which has a latent homing tendency, Manning said.
For pigeon racers, though, a world of difference exists between common and homing breeds of pigeon.
"It's like putting a mule next to a racehorse," Padilla said.