Monday, May 4, 2015

A Brief History of Homing Pigeons

Rock Pigeons, or Rock Doves, are found all over downtown St. Louis and in most cities around the United States.

Pigeons perched (photo: the wikipedia files)

They are commonly considered a nuisance and even a potential health hazard in urban settings, but some of these birds have a distinguished history. Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years, and during this time have been used for multiple purposes, such as carrying messages.

Pigeons that were used to carry messages all had a common ability – the ability to find their way back to the same location even over long distances. Wild pigeons have this innate ability to a degree, but the pigeons we refer to as homing pigeons have been selectively bred for this trait.

Three thousand years ago, homing pigeons were carrying communications from one location to another. Of course, homing pigeons can only find their way back to one “home,” so pigeons were a one-way line of communication.

Pigeon in flight (photo: the wikipedia files)
 Homing pigeons were especially useful in times of war. During World War I and World War II pigeons were used to carry messages from the front lines. Pigeons were more difficult to intercept than radio transmissions. Even in the 21st century, homing pigeons have been used to carry messages by certain police departments in India; however, in 2002 the pigeon messenger system used by these departments was discontinued.

WBS Homing Pigeons have often been released at weddings (photo: Gay Schroer)

Although homing pigeons are not often used to carry messages anymore, they can still be used for a number of fun occasions. At World Bird Sanctuary we have our own small flock of homing pigeons. Available for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events, our homing pigeon releases are a beautiful addition to any occasion.

For more information or to book a Homing Pigeon release at your event call the World Bird Sanctuary at 636-225-4390.

Submitted by JoHanna Burton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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