MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you think of pigeons, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not, “world class athlete.”

“People know ’em as ‘rats of the sky’ and things like that. Sitting down on the buildings downtown and pooping on people,” Paul Rudolph said. “Pigeons have gotten such a bad rap over the years.”

But among a small group of people here in the Twin Cities, these birds simply inspire awe.

“It’s an enjoyable sport,” Rudolph said.

Competing in a sport most people have probably never heard of.

“It’s like having a kite, with no string,” Rudolph said.

Pigeon racing.

“Yeah, most people I run into, don’t have a clue on it,” Rudolph said.

Race day begins before sunrise. On this Saturday morning, the release point is just across the Iowa border, just south of Albert Lea.

Rudolph works to get everything prepared. There is a starting gate, if you will, but the unique thing about pigeon racing is the finish line is different places all over the Twin Cities, since the birds use their homing instinct to fly back to their own coop.

There are about 60 pigeon racers in the Twin Cities, and in this trailer, about 1,500 birds.

This race is only about 100 miles, but others are as long as 600.Then, at the designated moment, the race begins.

“They average about 50 miles an hour, but if they get a tailwind, 85, 90 miles an hour,” Rudolph said. “And on some of the long races, when you think them birds been pumping them wings for 15 hours, that’s pretty impressive.”

This race will only take a couple hours.

In the meantime, at coops like Rudolph’s in Maplewood, it’s a waiting game.

The winner of this race is going to win by how much?

“Seconds. Seconds. If that bird just pauses for one second, you lost the race. Just that quick,” Rudolph said.

How that’s measured is high-tech.

“These are what we call antennas. And as the bird walks over, he has a little chip band on his leg, like this, that triggers the clock,” Rudolph said.

Since they finish in different places, a calculation must be done — total time divided by total distance — to determine an average speed. The fastest is the winner.

“In time you find the birds that can do the distance, do the tough stuff, and so you naturally mate them together and you weed out the ones that don’t. And, ah, sell ’em to somebody else,” Rudolph said.The keys to this sport are breeding and training — actually a lot like horseracing.

Is there prize money?

“There’s some. But it’s so minute,” Rudolph said.

It’s not a sport you do for the money. It’s for the love of the game.

“When I see a bird come home from a four, five, six hundred mile race, and you think of the hours that bird was on the wing,” Rudolph said. “You can take ’em 600 miles and they’ve never been there, you turn ’em loose and they come home? Pretty amazing. I don’t know what other animal can do it.”


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.

Voted Best Canadian wholesaler for Bird Deterrent products four years in a row.

Contact Info: 1- 877– 4– NO-BIRD (www.pigeonpatrol.ca)