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Such a handsome pigeon!

Racing (or homing) pigeons are bred to fly home in a race against time. Some get lost and land in gardens, tired and hungry. Some get attacked by sparrow hawks and are found injured.

I love racing pigeons. They’re big, chunky birds with lovely faces. The ones that I have seen are mostly healthy and just tired and hungry from getting lost. I’ve also seen ones that have been attacked by sparrow hawks and have injuries and feather loss. A few I’ve seen are seriously ill and thin and require longer care.

The saddest case that I’ve come across was a racing pigeon that appeared with a feral pigeon to the garden at my work. At first glance it looked like it was a healthy lost racer that had paired up with a feral and come down for food and water. But after watching them a moment I realised that the racer had a horrific injury to its crop – a gaping hole from which all the seed the racer picked up fell out of. It was horrible to watch. We set up a humane cage trap to capture the racer, and after a day and a half we finally caught it. The crop injury was too big and the vet was unable to repair it so the poor racing pigeon was put to sleep. I was very upset about it because I kept thinking about how much the racer had suffered: it had been so hungry and kept trying to eat but the seed just fell out as soon as it was swallowed.

The guidelines for finding a racer is to check the numbers on the leg band and contact the owner. It is their pigeon and should be returned – if they want it back, that is. Some racing pigeon owners want their lost or injured pigeons back, but some don’t. If you find a racer and have contacted the owner, please let them know that you will find an alternative home if they don’t want the pigeon back (e.g. at a pigeon friendly rescue centre). Give them that option. Some people say that the owners will just kill the pigeon if it is returned because an injured racer or a racer that gets lost is not worth anything (since it did not or is not capable of winning the race). Other people say that the owners will give the racing pigeon a second chance (e.g. it may be a young pigeon that needs more training). Since I have only ever once personally spoken to a racing pigeon owner (who did want his bird back), I cannot state anything as a fact – only what I have heard from others who have had contact.

This post tells a positive tale: Pigeon Rescue

The following racing websites advise you what to do if you find a lost racer:

http://www.homingpigeons.co.uk/straypigeons.htm

http://www.homingpigeons.co.uk/lostpigeon.htm

http://www.pigeonbasics.org/lostbirds.php

I am intruiged about racing pigeons – about the race and how they train them, etc. And I guess I would visit a racing pigeon loft and meet the people behind it all – just to see for myself what it’s all about. On the one hand I can understand the fascination, dedication and interest in the art of racing pigeons, on the other hand, however, I don’t like the exploitation of the birds. Are they racing them solely for money and prestige? Or do they really like pigeons and want to be with them? I guess, as with any hobby, activity or venture,  it can be either, neither or a little bit of both. It takes all sorts.

But, as I said in the beginning, I love racing pigeons because they are big and chunky with lovely faces. And they usually have a great personality to match. Some are feisty and tell you off, and others I’ve held just sit calmly in your hand with not a care in the world. Wonderful creatures!


In the beginning of April this year we received a young pigeon at work (I work at a wildlife rescue centre) that had been caught by a cat. The little pigeon had blood coming from her nose and a small wound on her chest, and at first we were worried she’d fade away, however, she made a full recovery!! We named her Peaches.

Here she is a week after treatment:

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At first we thought we’d release Peaches but on second thought we decided against it. In general, fancy pigeons don’t do well in the wild since many have reduced preditor avoidance instincts. Many have unusual feather growth that could hinder quick flight or shorter beaks that can make it difficult for them to feed in the normal way, so it is never a good idea to release unusual fancy pigeons.

We then thought we’d rehome her, however, after I pointed out that we needed a few more females in the aviary Dora lives in, we decided to put Peaches in with the resident pigeons, hoping that Peaches is female (otherwise we would have to find her another home). … After observing the behaviour of the male pigeons towards Peaches I can say with almost 100% certainty that Peaches is female. Yay!

Horatio, our speckled single male, has been pursuing Peaches and today I saw her following him, so I think we have a new romance blossoming! I really could watch the pigeons in the aviary all day. I am obsessed I admit. I’ll try to take photos soon of the two together.


Nearly everyone has seen an ill, injured or orphaned pigeon in their life – be it in a city, town, park or a garden. There are a lot of predators, disease and harmful things out there that affect pigeons, and sometimes people don’t know what is the right thing to do when they come across a baby pigeon or an injured or ill pigeon.

First, let me just say that pigeons do not carry millions of diseases that humans can contract. That is just scaremongering, mainly from pest control companies (that are out to make money) and ignorant people (who either hate pigeons or are afraid of them). All living beings carry disease – humans included! – and some do pass on to other species, however, if everyone just used a bit of common sense, such as good hygiene measures (e.g. wash your hands after coming in from outside), then this myth that pigeons are infested with disease that will kill you and your family wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is. You can contract disease from a dog or a cat but are they hated as much as feral pigeons? Makes little sense to me.

A pest or vermin is defined by people as any animal that is unwanted or destructive, such as rats, mice, pigeons, foxes and racoons, but this term could very well be attributed to cats, dogs, parrots and songbirds, depending on which country and area you are in. ‘Pest’ and ‘vermin’ are not synonymous with ‘disease’.

The following website supplies good points on the subject (particularly the last paragraph): Pigeons and disease

Ok, back to what to do when you come across an injured, ill or orphaned pigeon.

First, after you have correctly assessed that the pigeon is indeed in need of rescuing (a broken wing or foot is pretty easy to recognise, however, read the following about Recognising a sick pigeon and Rescuing a baby pigeon), you need to safely capture it and place it in a box, cat carrier or other secure container (make sure there are air holes!). Put an old towel, cloth or tissue paper in the box so that the pigeon can grip onto something and to also keep it warm.

After you have the pigeon in a secure box and put it in a warm, safe place (not outside!), contact your local animal rescue centre or wildlife hospital and ask if they can help. Unfortunately, some places do not treat pigeons (since they may consider them as pests) so you need to find a pigeon friendly rescue centre. The best place to find your local rescue centre is to search for it on the internet or look in a phone book. Your local vet or pet shop may also know of an animal rescue centre in the area.

You can take the rescued pigeon to a veterinary surgery, however, many will simply euthanise the bird unless you are willing to pay for its treatment and care. Ask before handing the pigeon over. Some veterinary surgeries will transfer the pigeon to a wildlife rescue centre.

Please read the information on these websites as they contain good instructions on pigeon rescue and first aid: Pigeon and Dove Rescue, Pigeon Aid UK and Pigeon Recovery.

The following link contains a list of wildlife hospitals, sanctuaries and veterinary surgeries around the world that are pigeon friendly: Matilda’s List

This website lists pigeon friendly places in the United Kingdom: Pigeon Friendly Rescue Centres in the UK

The main thing is to not panic. Find someone who can give you advice and help you and the pigeon. Hopefully you’ll feel good about rescuing a pigeon in need. :)

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Editors note: Due to various commitments I am unable to check messages and comments frequently, so if you have an injured or orphaned pigeon please search the internet for your nearest pigeon friendly rescue centre or vets that can give you advice and help (some helpful links are already on this post).

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Feral pigeon caught in netting. Photo courtesy of Dave Risley.

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Baby feral pigeon – few days old

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2 baby feral pigeons – few weeks old