Another O.T. Bird Post

In July, I posted this, which is about the remains of some white doves or pigeons I found, and about the practice of “dove releases” for “special occasions”:

Something happened recently that made me change my thinking on the practice, and also got me thinking about the similar practice of racing pigeons.  The short version–regardless of whether the “dove” releasers are licensed and professional–is that there is no such thing as “ethical” dove release, or pigeon-racing.  It’s a cruel way to make a profit, and, as a “sport”, pigeon-racing is unjustifiable.

Here’s what happened to make me feel this way:  A couple of days ago I took my dog out for a walk, and we came across a beautiful little white pigeon with a band on her leg.  She was obviously sick, and unable to fly, so (as I’ve done so many times in the past) I took her in.  I put her in a cage I had in a quiet room so that my dog wouldn’t bother her, and hand-fed her some water (she drank as if she hadn’t had any in days), and left some seed for her, although she didn’t look as if she was going to be able to get anything down.  Her breast-bone was sticking out–a sure sign that she was sick and starving.

I called around and, using the information on her band, found out that her “owner” owns a coop about 30 or 40 miles away, and that he races pigeons.  I was hoping that the bird would recover, and I knew damn well that if she did there was no way I was going to send her back, only to possibly be killed (although I can’t confirm it, I’ve read that returned racing pigeons sometimes simply get their necks broken by their owners because they can’t “perform”), or sent out into the dangerous wild again.  I would have given her a safe home.

But I was too late–a couple of hours after I took her in, I found her rolling on the floor in agony, her head twisting around.  Her beautiful gray eyes seemed to be pleading with me for help, but all I could do was pray that the suffering would stop, and tell her that I loved her and that I was sorry.  It was horrible.  And then she died. I found her on her back, with her wings spread out on either side.

Earlier in the day, when I went to a wonderful site where people can go to get advice on caring for pigeons and other birds, a member who does both dove releases AND pigeon races told me that if the bird recovered, the “ethical” thing to do would be to return her to the owner.  The more I thought about that, the angrier I got (and I was already pretty angry).  A person who sends DOMESTICATED birds out into the wild, sometimes very long distances from home, telling me that NOT sending her back would be “unethical”?  Really?  I responded that if I had come across a young child who had been injured because his parents thought it was OK to let him just wander the streets alone, I wouldn’t be bringing him back to his parents–I’d call Child Protective Services.  ((I subsequently learned that “my” bird’s owner had sent her 80 miles away, and that she was less than a year old, and that he’d recently lost six birds–who, he assured me, would all “come straggling back”–although the one I’d found clearly would NOT.)

I did call the owner that night, after the pigeon had died.  When I told him what happened, he said, “Oh, that’s too bad.  But it’s OK–I have lots of other birds.”  I responded that it was NOT “OK” with me, but he didn’t seem to get it.  The bird was just a commodity–a piece of equipment for the “sport” he entertains himself with.

Dove (or pigeon) release is not a “beautiful symbol of peace and whatever”–whether the birds are trained homing pigeons or not, there are still too many dangers out there.  A lost bird can spend days suffering because it doesn’t know how to get food and water in the wild–and even trained pigeons get lost.  And, for the same reasons, pigeon-racing is not a “sport.” The death of the little bird I found was not a fluke–she was the third casualty I’ve come across in less than three months, and there are many, many others (if you look at the “I Found a Pigeon or Dove” forum on the site to which I’m about to give you the link, you’ll get a better sense of how often it happens).

If you come across a pigeon, dove, or any other bird that is sick or injured–whether the bird is banded or not–please catch it and put it into a safe container (like a small dog crate or box) and go here to get advice on how to help it:

And, even if you find the bird’s owner (and even if he or she offers to pick it up or have it shipped “home”), I suggest that you don’t return the bird.  If you can keep it, do so (they’re amazingly smart and affectionate creatures).  If not, the people on the site can help you find a home for it.  THAT’S the ethical thing to do.  If you’d seen, and held, the bird I’d found, you’d understand.



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12 thoughts on “Another O.T. Bird Post

  1. posttraumaticcommuter September 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm Reply

    Very sad story, but at least you tried to help and she would have felt safe. And you are right, these are domesticated animals and they cannot feed themselves. I have an ex racing pigeon that was injured, I found it and looked after it, it’s owner didn’t even bother to tell me what to feed it as it was recovering. Or offered to pay the vet’s bills. I was lucky to find a good avian vet. The bird is still with me – in fact, another vet, who was a racing pigeon vet, said the bird would have a better quality of life with me, even though I had a very steep learning curve as I knew nothing about pigeons at the time!

    • holdingbreathmemoir September 30, 2013 at 11:48 pm Reply

      Thank you for writing! I hope I made her feel a little safer, but it’s still painful to think about it.

      And thank you for taking in the “racing” pigeon (whose owner sounds like a twit, to say the least!). As far as the “steep learning curve” is concerned, I think that love and compassion and the willingness to find out what would help your pigeon were the most important attributes you could have. That’s a lucky bird. 🙂

  2. Logan October 4, 2013 at 2:20 am Reply

    There’s a lot more to pigeons than racing pigeons and white homer “dove” releases. There’s over 300+ breeds of pigeons and sometimes accidents happens. Bird flys out the door or gets chased away from a hawk. Your view is very narrow because it doesn’t take into account all the other breeds which people fly for fun and do not take away from the home or people who let them outside.

  3. holdingbreathmemoir October 4, 2013 at 2:49 am Reply

    My “view” is based on personal experience, and what I’ve heard of others’ experiences on Pigeon-Talk. There are plenty of cases documented on Pigeon-Talk in which the bird that was found was found to have been a racing pigeon (the one I write about here included) who, for whatever reason, got lost and had to be cared for by someone other than the owner.

    Sure, there are other situations, and of course accidents happen, even to birds in the care of the most well-meaning people. Those instances are very sad too. The difference is that people who race pigeons and who release “doves” know the dangers in advance, and release their birds anyway. They may even be saddened when some birds don’t make it back, but it doesn’t stop them from INTENTIONALLY sending even more birds out to try their luck in the wild yet again. To me, that seems criminal.

    I’m getting tired of seeing and trying to help the “collateral damage” of other people’s “hobby.” When the bird I write about here died, my heart got broken–all because of some stranger’s negligence (and he didn’t give a damn).

  4. Logan October 4, 2013 at 4:45 am Reply

    Well I don’t keep racing pigeons. I keep a breed of flying pigeons but that are not racers. I just fly for enjoyment. I don’t want to see that baby thrown out with the bath water. Racing pigeons is bad for the pigeon hobby as a whole. Every one of my birds has a band that says “please call” with my phone number on it. Some people do care and would like to see there bird get come back.

    • holdingbreathmemoir October 4, 2013 at 4:59 am Reply

      I know that some people do care, and I’m glad you don’t race your birds. It’s also great that your bands actually have your number on them. I understand that homing pigeons need their exercise, and I can ALMOST be OK with their being let out close to home (there are always dangers, but at least they’re not likely to get lost) for a while. But sending them so far away from safety and “hoping” they’ll make it back just seems so wrong.

      • Logan October 4, 2013 at 7:17 am

        There’s many breeds not homing or racing pigeons that just get let out from the loft to fly around. Some people don’t like keeping the birds confined all there lifes. I keep new York flying flights but there are many breeds like tipplers, high flyers. tumblers and rollers people fly. Your going to see the worst people into racing pigeons because all they want is money. There’s no money with other breeds.

  5. holdingbreathmemoir October 4, 2013 at 7:20 am Reply

    I can certainly understand not wanting to keep them confined, and allowing them some safe exercise outside of the loft, as long as they can get back easily. I wasn’t even sure if there was money in the racing. If that’s the case, that explains a lot!

  6. Dani October 22, 2013 at 3:54 am Reply

    Completely agree with your post. To say you ‘care’ about your birds, only to ship them 200+ miles away purely to see if they can make it through the journey without being eaten alive by hawks, hit by cars or starving to death, is absolutely barbaric.

    • holdingbreathmemoir October 22, 2013 at 4:18 am Reply

      Thank you, Dani! At times I was wondering if I was living in some kind of alternate reality, because so few people seemed to understand what I was talking about (or, at least, publicly agree). A week or so ago I saw some posts on the site about a racing pigeon someone had found. The advice (given by the club) was to LET THE BIRD GO WITHOUT FOOD FOR A DAY, and THEN let him go and try to find his way “home” again–just in case he didn’t get a chance to starve enough the first time. My own pigeon has two paralyzed legs and a broken wing, and I have to move her from one place to another so that she can get to her food and water, or she won’t survive (this has been going on for about 11 years, mind you 🙂 ). If I let her go without food for a day, she’d be in terrible shape (and mad), and she doesn’t have to fly hundreds of miles. But no one said a word…

      I wonder if all of the people who “love” their racing pigeons so much ever think about what’s happening to the ones who don’t make it back.

      Ahem…I just let off a little more steam there. 🙂 Anyway, thanks again for writing.


  7. Allyson Gray July 24, 2016 at 9:52 am Reply

    I completely agree with you. I like the people on overall, but I find it incredibly disturbing how nonchalant they are about sending their birds out to potentially die. Some say they care about their birds and are upset when they lose them – but then, why send them out at all?!

    The ‘sport’ has been idealized to an absurd level, both among racers and to the general public. I really wish things could change (I’m considering starting some kind of movement to outlaw it in my country).

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