It all began at the ripe age of 6.
Even then, Charles Morgan knew his interest in pigeons was more than just a flight of fancy.
“I lived in Chelsea and neighbors had pigeons in the eaves of their house,” he said. “My best friend and I caught a few of these and kept them for pets.”
His fascination with the birds became a full-fledged passion when his father, an engineer, transferred the family to Texas for work. Soon after the move, Morgan caught a lucky break when he discovered his neighbor down the street had pigeons and doves. At only 10 years old, he saved enough money to build his own pigeon loft. After that, there was no looking back.
Except for a 10-year stint in the Army, Morgan, now 74, has owned pigeons since his start in Texas. It was not until the ’60s that he began to race them, however.
“They’re just like athletes,” he said.
He has a point.
During the races, pigeons fly anywhere from 100 to 600 miles before returning to their home base. With such immense physical feats required of the birds, Morgan trains them multiple times per week.
Morgan, a retired New York State Department of Transportation worker who lives in Rhinebeck with his wife Leslie, 61, has come a long way since his 10-year-old loft-building days. His handyman skills helped him to build not one, but seven lofts for his winged friends.
“They know which loft to go in,” he said. “They fly home, they land on the loft, and they walk very quickly right in the door.”
“I say ‘incoming’ when I see one coming in,” Leslie Morgan said. Over the course of their 24-year relationship, she has become nearly as invested in the birds as he is.
“He spends more time with the birds than with me,” she said, semi-jokingly.
With the number of factors involved in raising pigeons, the fact that Morgan spends three hours per day at the lofts is no surprise. In addition to making sure that no predators approach the housing, he also mixes his own feed for the birds, checks to see if any of them are sick and provides medication when needed.
Morgan’s pigeons are some of the best-kept birds around, which is why he races them regularly with the Northern Catskill Pigeon Club. Although he also used to show pigeons professionally, he said he prefers the athleticism that underlines the races. On race days, he transports his fastest flyers to a predetermined release site. The competing birds, which have had computer tracking chips in their legs since they were 5 days old, are placed in a special truck to ensure a simultaneous release.
When the birds return home, their unique chips are scanned to determine their race time down to the second.
“It’s an exact science,” Morgan said.
While racing pigeons remains one of his preferred activities, he also relies upon his feathered flock to bring joy to others. Together, he and his wife run Wings and Memories, a white bird release business. Morgan is quick to point out that the birds used for releases are pigeons, not doves, since doves do not have the same uncanny sense of direction.
“We let the birds go at weddings and funerals,” he said. “We do a lot of support for autism walks, suicide prevention and local causes.”
They work with charities such as March of Dimes and Relay for Cancer in addition to their standard slew of weddings, funerals and even gender reveal parties.
Through the business, Morgan has also worked with a number of brands on photo shoots and commercials. Members of his flock have been featured on everything from a Maybelline Cosmetics and a Prudential commercial, respectively, to a photo shoot with Bride Magazine and the December 2016 cover of Real Simple Magazine.
Morgan recalls kidding around with the photographers at one of the shoots. He jokingly told his birds to stay put, a command which others thought was in earnest.
“I would herd the birds back in a crate” whenever the crew needed to make an adjustment to the scene, he said. “Once I walked away and said ‘stay’ (to the birds) and one of the photographers went ‘wow.’”
Although his talents with the feathered fleet may not be that extensive, his devotion to them is unparalleled. Leslie Morgan recalled a touching moment when Morgan braved the elements to rescue one of his younger birds from an impending storm.
“We had a baby that got discombobulated and landed on the shed near the loft,” she said. Because the birds will not fly at night in the dark, the little one remained glued to the roof even as the clouds approached.
Seeing this, Morgan “gets out a ladder in the dark with a storm coming. As it’s starting to rain, he’s climbing up there to pick up the little bird and make sure it’s OK. They’re all part of the family, and he makes sure everyone’s OK,” she said.
Morgan wholeheartedly agreed. He and his wife may have a fully grown human brood, with two sons, a daughter, and a number of sisters and brothers in the area, but their pigeons are part of the family as well.
“They’re just something I grew up with,” he said. “The pigeons amaze me. You can take them hundreds of miles away and they will still return home.”
Home is where the heart is, after all.
About Pigeon Patrol:
Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.
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Contact Info: 1- 877– 4– NO-BIRD (www.pigeonpatrol.ca)