Not many people realize that pigeons are actually very intelligent birds. Homing pigeons are particularly smart, and can find their way home from distances over 600 miles. Scientists are still trying to figure out how they do this. It’s as if they have a mini GPS installed in their heads. For this reason, pigeons were used to send very important messages during wartime. In both the First and Second World Wars pigeons saved thousands of human lives by carrying messages across enemy lines. Their service was so important, that some were honored as heroes. Before we had phones, pigeons were commonly used as a form of communication by delivering letters and notes. Pigeons are pretty easy to take care of; all they need is pigeon seed, water and a predator proof shelter. Pigeons have been in my family for generations. My grandfather had pigeons as a kid in Brooklyn. Most coops were kept on the tops of buildings. To pigeons, big buildings look like a cliff, which is why they make their nests on them. Pigeons mate for life. The female pigeon will lay two eggs at a time. Both the male and female will take turns sitting on the eggs until they hatch. Once they do, both parents will take care of them. They will develop a substance called crop milk that they feed to the babies – known as squabs. For the mature birds, there are many different types of seed available. Each food has a purpose. For example, foods with protein help with breeding, and foods with fat help with racing.
Joe Bonavita (left, Victoria’s great grandfather) & Michael Bonavita (right), Victoria’s grandfather -Brooklyn, NY 1943
Training your homing pigeon is usually pretty easy – you will just need to have a pigeon door on your coop. (A pigeon door has bars that only open one way.) If possible, try and start with a pair of young birds and leave them in the coop for a few months. When you feed them, shake the food in a tin can so they get used to hearing it. After a few months, let one of the pair out. To get them back in, shake the can with the food so they hear it. Then sprinkle some food outside and inside the pigeon door. Your birds will quickly learn their way back into the coop. When you first release your bird, do it close to the coop. Then each time, you can go further and further away. There are many different breeds of pigeons. Some are fancy like the Fantail Pigeon. Fantails get their name from their fan like tail feathers. Then there are exotic ones like the Victoria Crowned Pigeon and the African Green Pigeon. The Victoria Crowned pigeon is one of the largest pigeons in the world. They primarily live in the forests of New Guinea. Victoria Crowned pigeons are known for their beautiful blue plumage. Pigeons also come in many different colors. There are pigeon fancier shows that you can go to that show off all the fancy breeds of pigeons.
Victoria when she was young getting ready to release her homing pigeon 🙂
The white pigeon is a fantail pigeon.
Victoria’s Fun facts and Tips:
• The Nicobar pigeon is the closest living relative to the Dodo bird.
• Pigeons can live up to 15 years.
• Pigeons bob their heads to see better.
• In ancient times, Olympic ceremonies supposedly released homing pigeons to let villagers in an athlete’s hometown know that their athlete had won a competition and that’s why Doves are released at the start of the Olympics today.
• Many celebrities love pigeons, including Boxing Champ Mike Tyson.
Written by Victoria Bonavita
For more information on me, please visit www.VictoriasAmazingWorld.com. And if you’d like me to visit your school or library for one of my animal education programs, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org