Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Celebrate our first 100 years.
Share a toast to the next 100.
The AU's Centennial Convention is right around the corner.

Activities begin on Wednesday, November 10, and conclude on Sunday, November 14, 2010.

Questions? Call the AU office at 800-755-2778

Monday, July 26, 2010


July 25, 2010

Racing pigeon hobby takes flight
Rural Janesville man’s unusual hobby a competitive sport
By Dick Hagen
The Land Staff Writer

JANESVILLE — Some play golf. Some plant potatoes. Some collect old tractors. And then there’s Chuck Stensrud of rural Janesville. He flies racing pigeons.

Stensrud and his special birds literally travel middle America for special pigeon racing events. After the birds are liberated, Stensrud drives back to Janesville. His racing pigeons, however, fly home — and usually get there before he does.

Rare birds? Not really. The racing homer was developed in Europe in the 1800s. It is a blend of five different breeds of domestic pigeons. Originally they were bred to carry messages and were used by the military as recently as World War II.

Competitive sport

Today they are raced for pleasure. Stensrud belongs to a club called Gopher State Racers. Two national organizations of Racing Pigeon clubs exist in the United States. The organization that Gopher State Racers is a part of consists of about 700 clubs. Clubs are organized along geographic boundaries — the intent for club members to live in proximity to each other so there is less racing advantage due to distance or prevailing winds within a club.

This unusual hobby is indeed a competitive sport. “We fly in competition within our club plus there are two other clubs in our combine which we also compete against. We compete with other clubs at the state level and at the Midwest level,” Stensrud said. He said there are probably a dozen racing pigeon clubs in Minnesota.

On a quiet Saturday afternoon this spring, he, his pickup and three baskets, each with eight to 12 birds, were parked along a country road near St. Clair. “This is the first time out this year for my birds so this is just a warm-up flight,” Stensrud said. “We’re only about eight to 10 miles from my house.”

Baby birds must be “settled” to their loft upon leaving the nest. The first thing they have to learn is how to get back into the loft. As they get stronger, they make their “maiden flight” around the yard and back to the loft. With each passing day, they fly farther until pretty soon they are “traveling” for up to an hour at a time and will venture several miles into the countryside.

Homing instinct

Their homing instinct brings them to within 12 to 15 miles of the loft, but from there on they must know the area. Almost everyone breeds and raises their own birds, and each bird has an imprint of its home loft.

“They always try to come back to the loft,” Stensrud said. “I had a bird that I had sold eight years previously that got loose from its owner and came back to my loft. That was only about 40 miles.”

Stensrud said he has birds that have flown 500 miles on a single race day. A race is from a given liberation point to the bird’s home loft. The race winner is determined by speed, essentially yards per minute.

“We know the longitude and latitude of the release point, and the same information for the home loft. We compute the distance down to one-tenth of a yard. We know the release time, the arrival time at home loft, so we compute the elapsed time. From that we figure the speed in yards per minute and the fastest bird wins.”

An electronic chip fastened to a pigeon’s leg registers the arrival time of each racing pigeon back in its home loft. Racing pigeons average about 35 miles an hour, but they have been clocked as high as 75 and 80 mph. “I’ve had pigeons released in Rapid City, S.D., at 6:30 in the morning and they were home at 4:30 that afternoon,” Stensrud said.

What is this “homing instinct” of the carrier pigeon? Scientists have experimented with the birds and theorize they can sense the earth’s magnetic fields. They home better on sunny days, but sunspots have an adverse effect upon returns.

Old birds, young birds

There are two seasons each year: Old Birds and Young Birds. The old bird season is for birds hatched in previous years, their races held during May and June. Young birds are those hatched during the current year, and their races are held in August and September. With younger birds, only a couple are released and they are taken shorter distances from the home loft.

During “spring training” for his birds, each time Stensrud takes a bird out he doubles the distance. On this day it was only about 10 miles back to the loft, but the first race of the 2010 season is 100 miles. Birds, just like marathon runners, need to be in shape.

How did Stensrud get into this unique hobby?

“I first read about it as a boy when racing pigeons were used as carrier pigeons for relaying messages,” he said. “So I caught some barn pigeons and made pets out of them. After high school I bought some homing pigeons. I flew my first race in 1970 and I’ve been racing ever since.”

He doesn’t know precise “flight patterns” of his birds but estimates they’re flying at 300 to 400 feet. That depends, however, upon winds on any given day. When the birds are flying into a headwind, they will fly low to the ground, sometimes so low that they have to go up and over fence lines. He doesn’t sell “breeding stock,” but he does raise a few baby pigeons as gifts to folks who want to get into the sport.

He mixes his own feed, with different rations for different times of the year. Corn, wheat, millet, milo, safflower, sunflower seeds and a couple of different kinds of peas are part of the formula.

“It’s the only hobby I’ve ever had, and it truly is a great sport. In Europe, especially Holland and Belgium, racing pigeons is as popular as baseball is in the United States. Yep, give it a try and it grows on you.”

Friday, July 23, 2010


The Rock River Valley Racing Pigeon Club's FAMILY FUN DAY AND PIGEON EXTRAVAGANZA  yielded a message to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.  Event attendees were invited to send messages in a unique family entertainment day that included a fishing tournament for the kids, prizes, lunch, an animal menagerie for kids, displays from police, fire and military personnel, and much more.

Once the message carrying pigeon arrived at his home loft, he was transported to the Governor's office to deliver the notes, making a super ending to a great event!

Above, Chad Compton is shown approaching the Governor's office.

Shown here, with messages delivered, are Chad Compton, Sara Moore (Gov. Quinn's Assistant), and Irvin Force.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010



Lynn News, out of the UK reports:
Fly, fly, fly . . . World War II’s daring pigeons remembered
Published on Tue Jul 20 15:52:32 BST 2010

DURING the war, the country was known for the bravery of its airmen with epic encounters such as The Battle of Britain etched in the memory for years to come.

But what might be less well-known is the role another highly-significant air-borne force played in the fighting - the humble pigeon who proved a vital way to relay messages.

At the outbreak of World War II. 7,000 of Britain’s pigeon fanciers gave their birds to the war effort to act as message carriers.

Such was their role the National Pigeon Service was formed during which nearly 250,000 birds were used by the army, RAF and the Civil Defence Services including the police, fire service, Home Guard and even Bletchley Park.

Since the beginning of the 20th century pigeons have been used for surveillance purposes, escalating during both world wars. In World War II, every military aircraft leaving Britain was recommended to carry two.

According to the Royal Racing Pigeon Association, aircraft carried pigeons in special watertight baskets so if the aircraft had to ditch, the pigeon could take a message back to land.

“Thousands of servicemen’s lives were saved by these heroic birds that often flew in extreme weather and sometimes under fire,” a spokesman said.

Pigeons carried messages in special containers - photographs of which are just one of the items on show at a special Lynn exhibition now being held.

Birds were dropped by parachute to help the war effort, photos of pigeons in flight also part of the display which is taking place at The Shakespeare Barn at Lynn Arts Centre galleries.

Australian-born artist Lyndall Phelps was particularly interested in devices that denied pigeons their natural behaviour, such as the message carriers that were strapped to their bodies with elastic harnessing, and being attached to parachutes.

Replicas of the harnesses are also included in the exhibition which, called The Pigeon Archive, includes a range of differing media from large-scale photography to objects which have been meticulously made.

It also includes fascinating video footage taken from a bird in flight.

The enigmatic film, shot in 2008, shows a pigeon’s eye view of the Cambridgeshire Fens after a light-weight surveillance camera was strapped to a pigeon’s body and the bird then released.

It is poignant that, in reality, large numbers of pigeons lost their lives, through starvation, being killed by the enemy or exhaustion and exposure due to harsh conditions on homing flights.

“This exhibition is sure to make you reconsider the dubious reputation of these humble birds,” a spokesman for the arts centre said.

The exhibition, which opened on Sunday (July 18), takes place until Saturday, August 14.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The Rock River Valley Racing Pigeon Club treated public to a fun event this weekend that included a fishing tournament for the kids, prizes, lunch, an awesome bird release, an animal menagerie for the kids, fire department, police and military displays, demonstration loft, military and white bird tribute release, and a chance to send a message to friends and family by pigeon.

Messages were also sent by pigeon for Governor Quinn & President Obama.  The bird carrying the message for the Governor will be transported from his home loft to the Governor's office Monday morning.

If you missed your chance to see and take part in the event, you can still contact contact the club at 815-225-7399.

Saturday, July 17, 2010



Sporting competition and fun, and camaraderie  That is what it is all about.  Great work by the Texas Center Convention organizers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010



2010 Texas Center Pigeon Convention is in Fort Worth this week

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/07/11/2327703/2010-texas-center-pigeon-convention.html#ixzz0tfpvz25c

Ron Caram knows why people get attached to racing pigeons.

"They become your children," said Caram, who is helping coordinate the 2010 Texas Center Pigeon Convention.

About 175 "pigeon parents" will attend the convention in Fort Worth this week. And many will pit their kids against one another in Friday's race, a 200-mile adventure that will begin in New Braunfels.

None of Edwin Lane's pigeons are racing, but he's the surrogate dad to many that are.

Lane, one of about 20 members of the convention-hosting Rodeo City Racing Pigeon Club, has one of seven lofts that are temporary homes to birds that are participating in the race. As the handler for several dozen of them, he said he'll get a familiar adrenaline rush as they return to his Burleson loft on race day."It gets pretty wild watching the birds come in, even when they're not my birds," Lane said. "I put all the work into them and, if the results come out well, it means I did something right."

Having bred and trained pigeons since he was a kid, Lane said he guesses "it just got out of hand."

The loft he intended to be a 10-by-12-foot building quickly became a 16-by-40, said Lane, who is training homing pigeons for enthusiasts from as far away as Hawaii.

"It started growing while Ronnie [Caram] and I were building it together," he said.  Caram said the fascination that makes people go to such lengths to raise and train homing pigeons is global.  "Go to Holland, Belgium and Germany, and you'll see it's a way of life," he said. "It's a family deal that's passed down to sons and daughters. They race every day, and it's big money."

Caram said that pigeons' determination to return to wherever they're raised is a mystery. But people have exploited that talent for centuries.

"A lot of people think that GI Joe was a man," he said. "It was a pigeon, a decorated war hero. There were four of them decorated by the U.S., France and England in World War II . . . "

. . . Hundreds of homing pigeons will climb into the sky over New Braunfels about 6:30 a.m. on race day, said Hilmar Sibley, race secretary. Carried to the release point on a large trailer, they will soar northward roughly 200 miles to reach the lofts they've been trained to find in Burleson, Cedar Hill, Joshua, Mansfield, Venus and Waxahachie. 

As each bird enters its coop, a sensor reads the band on its leg and registers the time. Lane said he and other handlers will carry the recording modules to the convention, where a computer will upload the data and determine the fastest birds.

Birds that clock in the top 20 percent earn points that accumulate through the race season, Sibley said.
Top-performing pigeons are the big payoff for owners. Lane said that breeders will pay as much as $40,000 for a fast bird and that its offspring can sell for as much as $5,000.

It's understandable, then, why pigeon people are paying $150 each to attend the convention. Seminars include experts on breeding long-distance fliers and on pigeon nutrition.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/07/11/2327703/2010-texas-center-pigeon-convention.html#ixzz0tfoQgGz0

Friday, July 9, 2010


CONTACT: Pat Kelsey

WHAT: A fun day for the family to learn about racing Homing Pigeons, includes:

· Kids Fishing Tournament
· Prizes
· Free Lunch
· An amazing bird release – 1000 pigeons!
· Animal Menagerie for the Kids
· Fire Trucks
· Armories
· Mounted Patrol
· Educational & Entertaining Videos
· Actual Pigeon Loft for viewing.
· Fire Engine Rides
· Military Tribute with White Bird Release
· Messages by Pigeon to Governor Quinn & President Obama
· Messages to Friends & Family

So much fun! So much learning! And it benefits the Sauk Valley Youth Racing Pigeon Program. There, kids learn life skills as they provide the finest of care, nutrition and training for their registered and pedigreed feathered athletes that travel as far as 600 miles in a day at speeds over 50 miles per hour.

WHEN: Saturday, July 17, 2010
Opens 9:00 a.m., continues all day.

WHERE: Oppold Marina
532 Stouffer Road, Sterling, Illinois


· Amazing Bird Release
· Witness messages to the Governor and the President
· Examples of clocking and loft equipment, along with informative brochures, will be available.
· Local pigeon experts from the Rock River Valley Racing Pigeon Club will demonstrate handling of the birds and discuss pigeon racing and the care of these registered pigeons.

Friday, July 2, 2010


The Torrington Telegram
July 2, 2010
John Miller

All types of birds, from parakeets to cockatiels, have been valued as pets for thousands of years.

But one Torrington resident has taken his fascination with homing pigeons to a competitive level.

“I was 14 when I flew my first race,” Allen Hunter said in recollecting the start of his racing career. “Years ago, my dad raised pigeons and we found some in a building that was being torn down, took the young ones and hand-raised them. After that I was kind of hooked on ‘em.”

Hunter, who owns Heartland Embroidery with his wife Deb, owns about 150 pigeons. He has been training, caring for and racing them competitively for more than 40 years. In 1986, his birds placed first, second, third, fifth and seventh overall in the nation.

He recently drove a boxful of pigeons to the Iowa-Nebraska state line for a workout, releasing them to fly home 450 miles to their loft in Torrington.

“I left when they did. It took me about eight hours to drive home,” Hunter said. “I was home about 20 minutes and here come the first couple, droppin’ out of the clouds. The fastest race that I’ve clocked mine at is about 1,400 feet per minute. And they will go faster.”