Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Scottish visitor

When I glanced blearily and wearily into the garden early yesterday morning I noticed a pigeon busily feeding. It took a little while for my sleep-deprived brain to recognise that there was something different in the appearance of this bird.
It was the same size as a woodpigeon but that has a grey back and this pigeon's back was pale grey with two broad, long black bars across its wings. I began to think it was a rock dove. Though the white 'shield' over its beak was too prominent for it to be a pure-bred dove – increasingly rare, apart from some areas of northwest Europe - its colouring and patterning were perfect. After observing her for a time (I decided this bird might be a female – Barry asked if it was because she had a big bottom!) the realisation dawned that this might be a homing or racing pigeon and sure enough, when I focused on her legs I saw she was wearing two rings – a green one on the left leg and a white one on the right.
Our homing pigeon came to the bird feeders several times giving us plenty of photo opportunities. When I looked closely at the photographs Barry had taken I was able to identify her as a Scot! Her number was SU04 NE 757.
The local woodpigeons were rather perturbed by the interloper and gave her plenty of time and space to sate her hunger and thirst.
If a homing pigeon gets lost it will sometimes seek shelter near a house or garden so that it has an opportunity to rest and feed before continuing its journey. If it is still around after a day or two there is a stray pigeon service – one such is 'Pigeon Force Couriers' – that will collect a pigeon that's flown off-course and return it to its loft if it comes from a distant location, like our visitor. So, if this beautiful bird is still with us tomorrow we have the job of capturing her! If we can accomplish that she will apparently be perfectly happy in a cat carrier. Racing pigeons are accustomed to travelling with others in wicker baskets to the starting point of their races.
She has visited the feeders twice today and has also spent a long time on the roof ridge, basking and dozing in the sun. She really is a very pretty bird and looks fit and healthy so I'm hoping she will resume her journey and reach her home without attack by sparrowhawk. I suppose we will never know if she arrives safely – sigh!
Pigeon racing is very popular around the world. It is banned in Chicago!


  1. What an exciting find. I like being able to enlarge my digital pictures. You never know what you will learn in doing so. I hope that your pigeon makes it home.

    Why is pigeon racing banned in Chicago?

  2. I don't think I have ever seen a homing pigeon this close up. Nice photos!

  3. Linda - I really don't know! Perhaps 'the authorities' were afraid pigeons might be shot during the Prohibition (gangsters and so on . . . )More likely they're trying to preserve monuments, buildings from some of the messier excesses of birds ;-)

  4. Very observant of you to notice her bands, and to figure out where she came from. Cool!

  5. When pigoens come the rest of the small birds have no chance. I have a flock of pigoens that come to my house to feed my food.


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