Racing Pigeons! How do they know to come back.?

  Uboat 20:30 21 Jul 10
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Intresting point, ive been given three lovely racing pigeons that are only a month old, they are from a excellent breed of my uncle's, he told me today he's just had some birds taken too france some destination 500 miles from there home here in the uk

What i wanted to know is HOW do they know how to get back.? my uncle couldnt answer me although he's trained them for 20 years! anyone help pls.?

  Covergirl 20:52 21 Jul 10

Quote from Wiki "The homing pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeon derived from the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) selectively bred to find its way home over extremely long distances.[1] The wild rock pigeon has an innate homing ability"

click here
click here

  tullie 21:09 21 Jul 10

They actually use satnav.

  MAT ALAN 21:19 21 Jul 10

I sold one once ( 27 times) minted....

  Forum Editor 22:29 21 Jul 10

which offer explanations as to how pigeons do this, but I don't think anyone has really cracked it.

The fact that the birds tend to circle their release site before deciding on a flight path lend credence to the theory that they are orienting themselves using the earth's magnetic field. Once a pigeon starts flying home it seems to have an uncanny sense of direction, and it will cover great distances to get there - up to 1100 miles in some cases.

The instinct to 'home' is obviously very strong, and has been further refined by selective breeding over a long period.

  morddwyd 08:47 22 Jul 10

Swallows return to the same actual nest year after year, and from a lot further than pigeons.

So do others such as ospreys.

Many stories of dogs and cats returning home from long distances.

Salmon and eels return to the same river.

Such homing instincts are innate in many species, as the FE says, more developed in some than in others.

  GANDALF <|:-)> 09:24 22 Jul 10

My uncle used to interbreed pigeons and parrots. If they got lost on a flight they could always stop and ask for directions.

G

  Quickbeam 09:37 22 Jul 10

I thought that they just read the address from their ankle ring.

  peter99co 09:39 22 Jul 10

The only sad fact about these birds is that if they are late coming back they may get their necks rung in this selective breeding sport.

My friend had one stop in his garden and it had markings on its wings referencing its home destination. He took it to a local fancier chap he knew to ask what he should do with it. He was told to wring its neck because the owner would probably do so on its late arrival. It did eventually fly off in the direction of home.

  Uboat 10:42 22 Jul 10

Thankx for ALL your replies! i must stress one thing though "peter90co" you stated

"The only sad fact about these birds is that if they are late coming back they may get their necks rung in this selective breeding sport."

This is very true! my birds where going to be thrown in the bin if i hadnt of took them onboard what a sad heatless thing too do? my uncle has killed hundreds & hundreds over the years & i question myself HOW can he do it with no sense of guilt? he said oh i just hold them and break there neck's.? he doesnt even think twice about it...

  peter99co 10:49 22 Jul 10

In some tests with birds they fastened tiny magnets on the head of the bird and it caused them to fly in the wrong direction. The built in clock they have tells them how high the sun is and they fly north or south to correct the hight to the lofts normal level. They probably use memory of the ground when nearer home.

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