In any pigeon race there will be a number of competitors which lose their way and are unable to find their way back home and these are refered to as strays. There can be a number of reasons for this occuring with the most common being injury, fatigue, and adverse weather conditions. Sometimes strong winds can blow a race bird off its normal flight path and add considerably to the time and distance needed to make the trip home. This can lead to fatigue and with pigeon races in Australia generally being between 100 and 1000 kilometres it is understandable that they sometimes need to stop for a rest. Unfortunately a tired racing pigeon makes easy prey for many animals, those stopping in a backyard can encounter pet cats and dogs while those stopping in rural areas can encounter foxes. Birds of prey are the major cause of injury to racing pigeons, although collisions with unseen power lines can also cause serious injuries.
So what should you do if you find a lost race bird?
1/ Firstly give it a drink of water.
2/ Something to eat. Racing pigeons (unlike feral pigeons) only eat grain. A bird seed mixture of any type available from supermarkets will be quite suitable. Racing Pigeons generally will not eat bread or other scraps.
3/ Check the pigeon for injuries. Often physical injuries will be quite obvious but be sure to check under the wings as these can often hide serious wounds.
4/ Rest. After food, water, and a couple of days rest, a racing pigeon can be released and will in many cases have recovered sufficiently to complete its journey home.
5/ My pigeon keeps coming back, what should I do? Even after rest and food, there can be internal injuries that can prevent a bird from continuing its way home. If this happens check the birds legs. If it is a racing pigeon it will have at least one band or ring on its leg. One of these rings will be hard and plastic coated and will carry information which will allow you to find the birds owner. Quite often the ring will have the name of the town the pigeon has originated from and the phone number of someone in that area for you to contact. Before phoning the contact number on the ring make sure you make a note of the other information on the ring. This other information will include a series of letters, a year, and a number for example VHA 2010 1234. In this case the VHA would stand for Victorian Homing Association, 2010 is the year the pigeon was born, and 1234 is the pigeons identification number.
6/ If your ring does not have a phone number on it then check this list of contacts for someone in your area
7/ If your pigeon does not have a ring on its leg then it is not a racing pigeon. It may be someones pet or a feral pigeon.
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