Pigeon racing is a very popular sport and is one of the main reasons why people keep pigeons as pets.
Typically, the messenger pigeon is used in these races, as they have been bred to fly very long distances, and are usually always able to find their way home.
But with races reaching as long as 1000 miles, it is no surprise that a few pigeons may get lost along the way.
If you have never seen a racing pigeon before you may not know what to do or whether you should try to help it should you come across one.
Sometimes a racing pigeon is stopping for a short rest and some food, but if it hangs around for more than two days, it could be that it has got lost or is injured
If you think this is the case, then there are a few things you can do to make sure that the bird gets home safely.
Read on to learn all about racing pigeons and what you should do if you see one in your garden.
What Does A Racing Pigeon Look Like?
Racing pigeons look exactly like a regular pigeon you will see on the street, with the only difference being a little tag that is wrapped around one of their ankles, usually on the right side.
What To Feed Them?
The pigeon may be staying around your home because it is either hungry or thirsty. Giving it some food may encourage it to have a meal then fly home.
Racing pigeons can eat birdseed, crushed cornflakes, uncooked rice, and lentils. You must never give racing pigeons bread though.
Bread is not a healthy source of nutrition for racing pigeons or any other birds.
White bread is especially harmful as it does not contain any of the fats and proteins that pigeons need to sustain their health and energy.
Large pieces of bread can cause digestive blockages in the bird, and if bread is left outside for too long it can get moldy, which can make the bird seriously sick.
If you want to give the pigeon some water, use a large deep dish and leave it by the food outside.
What To Do If The Bird Doesn’t Move On
If the pigeon does not seem injured but has stayed for longer than 48 hours, then remove the food and drink to try and encourage it to move on.
It could be that it has become too comfortable living on your property and doesn’t want to leave the food source.
What To Do If You Have Removed The Food Source But The Pigeon Still Won’t Leave
If you have taken away food and the pigeon is still hanging around, then it could be that it is injured or it is too lost to find its way home.
If that is the case then you will need to capture the pigeon to examine it and find the contact details on the ring on its foot.
When capturing the bird you will want to be very careful not to injure it. The pigeon should be tame enough for you to pick it up, as it has been raised and cared for by people its whole life.
The best way to catch it is by very gently grasping it in both hands, covering the wings so it does not panic and flap them. Then place it into a cardboard box or pet carrier if you have one.
If the bird is a little skittish but is clearly injured then approach it slowly and throw a large towel or blanket over it before picking it up.
This will calm down the pigeon and also prevent it from injuring you if it tries to get away as you pick it up. Once you have it put it in a box.
If there is no chance of you getting close enough to the bird, you could use food to coerce it into the box.
How To Find The Owner’s Contact Details
Once you have captured the bird, you will be able to take a look at the ring on its foot.
Make a note of all of the numbers and letters on the ring, as each ring is unique and gives certain information that helps the owner identify their pigeon.
Usually, some of the numbers will mean the year that the pigeon was bred, and others will denote the specific bird from that year.
The owner’s contact details will either be on a separate ring or stamped onto the inside of the pigeon’s wings.
Gently open each wing to look for these details, take a note of it or take a picture of it, then return the pigeon to the box.
Once you have all the details you need from the pigeon, place the box somewhere warm and quiet.
If you are using a cardboard box make sure that the lid is secured to prevent escape and add some air holes.
To avoid causing the pigeon stress, you should minimize contact with the bird and keep pets and small children away from the box.
Once you have the contact details for the owner, call them immediately to let them know of the situation, and then you can arrange a time for them to come and pick up the bird.
What To Do If You Think The Pigeon Has Been Attacked
If you think the bird has been attacked by a cat or any other animal, then you must seek urgent help.
The bird will need to receive medication within a few hours of being bitten or may develop fatal septicemia.
Try contacting your local wildlife center first, as a few may be open 24/7 and may have room to take in the pigeon.
If you cannot contact a wildlife center, then call your local vets.
While they will not have the facilities to care for the bird long-term, they may be able to provide a one-off dose of antibiotics, possibly for free or at a reduced price.