You don’t get a lot of pigeons in Brighton – seagulls rule the roost down here – and certainly not many snowy white ones who fly at your backdoor, and then stand there, waiting for you to open up.

That was what greeted us at breakfast one morning last week. My daughter opened the door. The bird was clearly tame and, judging by the rings on its legs, a homing pigeon. We watched as it hopped into the kitchen and, right in front of us, crapped on the floor. It was unceremoniously shown the door.

When I got home from work that evening I was told that the pigeon hadn’t left the garden all day. That it had come into the house several times. That the kids had fed it. And that it had taken a dump on our floor again. It was clearly lost, confused and badly house-trained.

The following morning there was a suicidal crash at the window. We threw the bird some Rice Krispies and called the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, who asked for the number on the bird’s ring.

No 25257 belonged to Mr Pile in Barnstaple, Devon. “I was wondering where he had got to,” he said. “Don’t know what he’s doing in Brighton. He was on his way to Weymouth.” What does he want? “Some grub, of course. He’s hungry. Beans. Corn. Seeds.” So, if we feed him, he’ll fly home? “Might do. Then again, he might decide to stay.”

There are 60,000 pigeon-fanciers in the UK and thousands of their birds get lost each year. “It’s the peregrine falcons,” said Pile. “Them and the sparrowhawks. They attack them and so they fly off in any direction. It’s getting so bad that many are giving up the sport.”

After four days, No 25257 disappeared. I called Pile. “No, he hasn’t turned up yet. But a friend of mine lost one once. Ten years later, it came back.” Pile has promised to call me when 25257 finally returns. I hope he does.


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