People often ask; "How do you race a pigeon?" It's pretty simple really. You take
several pigeons down the road, turn them lose at the same time & whichever bird
comes home the fastest wins. Assuming these pigeons are owned by different
people and they are "homing" pigeons, they naturally will return to different homes.
So it isn't the bird who gets back first, but the bird that flies the fastest average
time that is the winner. They often average more than fifty miles per hour and even
faster if the wind isn't against them. The Missouri-Illinois Combine flies races from
one-hundred to six-hundred mile distances each spring and summer. The birds
are collected from all five clubs and transported in a special trailer to the race
release point. At an agreed upon time, soon after sunrise, the birds are released
together to fly home. The exact time the bird comes into it's loft is recorded. All
the flyers know the exact distance of their loft calculated from the release point.
So it's a simple matter to calculate just how fast in yards per minute it took the
bird to get home. Their are two methods to time the birds. Each racing pigeon
has a permanent registered leg band. When the bird is placed in the trailer to
be sent on the race, the older and traditional method is to attach a numbered,
color-coded rubber band to the bird's other leg. The number and color are then
recorded and matched to the permanent band number by the race secretary.
Each flyer has a clock which is set to an exact time of shipping and synchronized
with each other members clock. The flyer is given a capsule for each bird entered
in the race. When the bird returns, the owner retrieves the numbered rubber band
from the bird, places it in the capsule, inserts it into a slot in the clock, turns a
crank which prints the exact time on an internal paper tape while the capsule is
stored in the clock. These clocks are sealed at the club on shipping night &
cannot be opened until the race secretary and the flyers meet at the club to
compare the results. The newest, and most popular way to time pigeons
today is electronicaly. Each bird has a snap on band containing an RFID chip
which is matched to the bird's permanent band in a file on the club's computer.
Each owner has a small computerized clock which has a memory card containing
the same band number file as the club's computer. To enter a bird in the race
the race secretary attaches each flyer's memory card to the club computer via a
scanning device and the bird is simply scanned into his clock's memory then placed
in the trailer.
On race day the flyer sets up his own antenna where the birds enter their loft on
returning home. When the bird steps on the antenna, which is a small platform,
The exact time is automaticaly registered on the electronic clock's memory
along with the bird's band number. It's much the same as scanning your
groceries at the market.
Here the birds are being placed in the trailer. Then the driver takes the
trailer to the next club where the process is repeated. The birds will travel
through the night untill they reach the race release point. They should get
there sometime durring the night. The birds get to rest until daylight when
the driver will give them some water. When the agreed upon time arrives,
the birds are all released together to begin the race.
The flyers return to the club at the conclusion of the race with their clock and memory
cards to calculate the average speed of each returning bird. The club's computer has
special software designed for pigeon racing and by downloading the electronic clock
data the speeds are automaticaly calculated and merged together into a single file
with bird band numbers ordered from first to last. Those with the traditional wind up
clocks have them unsealed by the race secretary and the paper tape results are read
and entered manually into the same data base as the electronic clocks were and speeds
are again calculated and ordered.
At this point the race data for each club is e-mailed to the Combine race
secretary, merged into one file and winners calculated. The Combine
race secretary will then e-mail all the flyers with these results. At this
point the celebrating or comiserating takes place until preparations for
next week's race begin.
This is one of the
clocks our grand-
fathers used to time their pigeons.