Shasta Racing Pigeon Club
● By Christy Milan
Thoroughbreds of the Sky
By Christy Milan
FLYING HIGH above on any given day is a feathered friend who shares much of our history. Sometimes seen throughout time to be a nuisance, the pigeon is a bird with honor, bravery, intelligence and speed.
Messenger pigeons have played a role in humanity and have been exploited since ancient times. The species has a history from Christian representations of the Holy Spirit to China and represents fidelity and longevity. The pigeons in our cities and towns are descendants of domesticated pigeons and wild rock doves, and they exist in nearly every corner of the world.
In Mesopotamia the fertile fields provided seeds, and houses on farms and in cities provided roosts with plenty of nesting places. Fat, young nestlings provided protein in a time when sources of meat were scarce. Once they became domesticated, the birds become more than just a dietary staple. People found them to have traits like humans, including having one mate, a homing instinct and strong protection of home and family.
Pigeons began to populate the cities and the ones who were captive became useful during wartime. The battles of the Greek city-states to World War II used pigeons to deliver messages with a 95 percent arrival rate. They can be trained to carry up to 2.5 oz. on their backs, and German apothecary Julius Newubronner delivered urgent medications by way of carrier pigeons. In 1977 England, laboratory specimens were transported between two hospitals using this method. Pigeons can gain altitudes of 6,000 feet or more and their speed averages nearly 80 mph.
That speed is celebrated by the Shasta Racing Pigeon Club. Last November in Shasta Lake City, the club participated in the Veterans Day Parade by introducing a race release trailer complete with banners and birds. Scott Hepburn and Ron Schmidt set the racers free for the crowd to experience the joy of flight. While the birds enjoyed the parade from above, Lex Winkler introduced a racing pigeon to the crowd for a closer look at the magnificent creatures. Members strive to connect with their community and to help promote the world of racing pigeons.
Spectators and flight enthusiasts are invited to witness the release on May 12 and 19 at the Redding Rodeo Grounds between 6 and 6:30 am. About 1,500 pigeons from the Los Angeles Pigeon Racing Club will begin their journey back home. Then on May 20, the Los Angeles Pigeon Club will in turn release Shasta Racing Pigeons to return home to the North State. •