In 2020, a Belgium-raised 3-year-old racing pigeon named Little Kim was sold at an auction for $1.9 million. The bird beat the previous all-time record set in 2019 when Belgian-bred Armando sold for ONLY $450,000.
What does this mean to the pigeon world?
In China, where the winning bidder of Little Kim lives, the country regularly features one-loft racing, where pigeons all get accustomed to just one coop for months and then are released many hundreds of miles away to make their way back with their unique sense of orientation and special speed training. Prize pots can reach into the tens of millions of dollars.
In this day of cell phones, emails and various technologies, it can be difficult for us to imagine how humans communicated using pigeons flying across distances during urgent times.
A kindergarten homeschool group of children and parents learned one unique way this occurred Friday at the “Best Little Library in Texas.”
Within the grounds of the library, Harvey Young, deemed locally as the “Professor of Pigeons” in Medina, Texas presented to an enthusiastic audience of little ones about the strong and brave birds.
He explained that during World Wars I and II, that while it was very difficult, pigeons were used by military operations to send messages from battle areas back to headquarters resulting in the saving of numerous lives by flying through really dreadful situations.
One pigeon, named G.I. Joe, was an American bird which saved more than 1,000 lives when it flew a message through that a village about to be bombed had actually been recaptured by British forces.
Lessons Learned From a Special Homeschool Activity
With the advent of video games, online streaming and internet, the outdoor activity of pigeon raising and racing was dwindling just like bicycling, skating and other sports.
For several parents, this was the first they learned of pigeon racing and experienced their initial close-up encounter with these beautiful birds.
Young began his presentation showing four pigeons, some descendants of renowned champions in races as far away as the $1 Million Race of South Africa.
“Pigeons mate for life,” he explained. “By the time they are babies, when out of the nest, they have an innate instinct of where their home is.”
“A first cousin to doves, mom and dad feed their babies by regurgitating food to them directly,” Young noted to the parents. “A female lays two eggs every 28 days.”
Addressing both the children and mothers, he enlightened the attendees with more interesting information:
🔹There are about 900 different breeds of pigeons.
🔹Each racing or carrier pigeon is registered with the federal government and protected by law from hunters or others.
🔹It’s a standard practice to register each bird with the Racing Pigeon Union so that individual pigeons can be tracked.
🔹Technology has advanced to the point that individual birds can be tracked by location and speed rate during races.
🔹”A pigeon can fly five to six hundred miles per day,” Young said.
🔹Most pigeons live about 15 years, with maybe 7 of those years capable of racing.
Young, who first became enthusiastic about pigeons at age 10, spent 36 years in the Midwest raising and racing them.
“Racing pigeons on flat, prairie land is different from here in the Texas Hill Country,” admits Young, who is current president of the Kerrville Pigeon Racing club. “I have a couple of mentors, who I listen carefully to, that have guided me with invaluable information about flying pigeons around these hills.”
“Even today, especially in remote areas, pigeons play a critical role like transporting blood or aid materials across hard to access distances,” he added.
After students touched the actual birds and colored pictures of pigeons, Young awarded each child with an “I PET A PIGEON” sticker.
Two secret messages thought up by the children, were inscribed on two smalls strips of paper and rolled into the carrier containers attached to two white pigeons (normally used at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies). The group then traveled two miles away to the Harvey and Jill Young residence to watch the two white pigeons return to their roost with the messages.
Via a text message to the library, mom Rebekah Bailey released the pigeons who flew straight to the children miles away.
Mrs. Bailey and Misty Duvalle organized the homeschool group with preschool aged children in 2021 as an answer to COVID restrictions. In 2022, the group meets once or twice a month at the library for activities and learning.
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