Helping A Lost Pigeon
From time to time pigeons will lose their way. There are a variety of factors that may cause this. It can be inclement weather during a race, a persistent predator attack that drives them far from course, or they simply got out of the loft to which they were never trained to return. Pigeons are frequently bought or traded from far distances and are used specifically for breeding. These pigeons are not flown and as such are not “homed” to their owner’s loft. When they accidentally get out, they are disoriented and get lost easily.
Because they are used to people handling them, domesticated pigeons will seek shelter in a home or other structure that vaguely resembles their loft. Some may not consider you a threat and come right up to you in search of food or water. Whatever the case may be, lost pigeons happen and we’d like to give you some pointers on how to locate the owner and keep the pigeon as stress-free and healthy as possible until the owners are found.
Locating A Pigeon’s Owner
It’s not hard to tell if a pigeon belongs to someone. You can usually tell if a pigeon has an owner and is not a feral street pigeon by taking a look at their legs. They’ll typically sport one or several identification bands around their legs.
Though there are many kinds of bands, the bands you’ll want to specifically look for will have some combination of this information:
- Year of birth
- National club initials
- Unique id number
- Local club initials
- Web address (less frequent)
- Phone number (less frequent)
- Email address (less frequent)
Assuming there’s no personal identifying information like web address, phone, or email, of these, the most important bits of information to help you find the owner will be the national club initials, the local club initials, and the unique number.
Each national organization will keep a list of pigeon bands they have distributed along with the local club to which they were sent. The local club, in turn, will know which set of bands was sent to a particular member. They can then look up the owner get them in contact with you.
Breaking Down Band Information
Let’s start with the most important information first: the national club and local club initials. The national club initials will usually be separated from the rest of the information on the band. They’ll be a few characters long. For example, bands that have “AU” on them will typically be bands issued by the American Racing Pigeon Union. There are many national clubs and they may be different from country to country.
The next thing to look at is the local club initials. In some cases they’ll be the owner’s personal initials. These are important as they’ll be the next leap from national to local that you’ll need to make. When you contact the national club, make sure you give them these initials. They can then look down their list of who bought them and where they were sent.
Year and Unique Number
These pieces of information are pretty obvious on the band. The year will either be a 2 or 4 digit number. The unique number will also be another multi-digit number, sometimes containing letters. These two bits of information will only really come into play if the bands were bought and sold by a distributor of generic bands. For example, bands with AU FOYS on them will have been sold by Foys Pet Supplies and they may have sold hundreds or thousands of them. They will know, however, which subset were sold to whom.
Look Up List
Here’s a list of national clubs that you can look up if you’ve found a lost pigeon. If you know of national clubs we’ve missed in this list, regardless of country, please contact us with this information and we’ll add it to the list. Please include initials of the club, country of origin, and either a website, email address, or phone number we can add for a contact.
What To Do If You Can’t Find The Owner
Sometimes you’ll run out of luck tracking down the owner. It happens, either because good records weren’t kept, the bird was sold a few times, or worse, the owner doesn’t want it back. You have a few choices.
You can contact your local animal shelter and let them know the situation. You’ll find that a lot of shelters have people that can take them and care for them.
Another option is that you can decide to keep the pigeon and care for it yourself. You’ll find that keeping a few pigeons is one of the most rewarding and relaxing hobbies you can have. They are not jittery or jumpy like most other domestic birds. They coo softly, which can have a meditative function. They are also a great vehicle to teach kids responsibility.
You’ve Decided To Keep Your New Friend
If you decide to keep the pigeon, you’ll need a few things to make sure you’ve got what the bird needs for a comfortable and stress-free life. You’ll want to pick up a book or two on caring for the pigeons. We recommend these titles: Pigeon Racing: Handling, health, keeping, housing, breeding, racing, and training. Facts & Information, Pigeon Keeping: Hints To Beginners, or Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird. You can also check around the web for great sources of information on raising pigeons.
You’ll also need a few essentials. Make sure to get pigeon-friendly drinker, a pigeon-friendly feeder, pigeon feed, oyster shell supplement, bird grit, some bedding and a small rabbit cage until you can build it a small loft. A rabbit hutch will also work for a long term solution if you only intend to keep a pigeon or two. Otherwise, there are lots of sources of plans for larger lofts.