THEY travel long distances and don’t need fuel or a roadmap.
The Goulburn Homing Pigeon Society’s latest crop of birds flew the flag for our city this season.
In a three month period pigeons from the local club claimed the Broken Hill to Goulburn Combined, Menindee Lakes National and the Crookwell to Goulburn races – two of those in record times.
Now, in the peak of the sport’s off-season, the Society’s members are already planning for higher honours in 2013.
“We’re flat out breeding now,” Lester Adams, a member of the Society for 10 years and owner of this year’s Broken Hill to Goulburn race winner, says.
Adams has 25 birds from which he breeds potential winners. The sport, he says, has a similar philosophy to thoroughbred horseracing: genes matter.
“The better bred they are, the better they go,” he said.
“You don’t go and get any street pecker, you’ve got to have the right bloodlines.”
The pastime is one that continues to perplex even those with the most intimate knowledge.
With a few months training, pigeons navigate their way home from even the most remote of locations.
Whether it’s their beak, intuition or the magnetic forces of the earth, one thing’s all-but guaranteed: the birds return to their loft, and in good time too.
In full flight the best pigeons travel at of speeds of 1500 metres a minute, or 90km an hour.
And many of the most proficient pigeons, it seems, hail from Goulburn.
The 10-person club’s birds upstaged those from societies at Canberra, Wagga, Temora and Cowra.
One of Adams’ finest claimed the Broken to Hill Goulburn and birds belonging to duo Leanne Richardson and Leicester Dewsbury the Menindee Lakes National and Crookwell to Goulburn races.
There are no hard feelings among the state’s pigeon racing fraternity, however. There can’t afford to be.
Clubs rely on one another to transport pigeons in cages and release them on race day.
The novelty of the sport comes not from increased heart rates or physical contact, but from admiration and camaraderie.
“It’s relaxing to watch them do what they do,” Richardson said.
“The thrill comes when they’re close to home. They come in like bullets.”
There’s no compromising race results.
Each bird – competitors can field a maximum of 30 each – has its own serial number and is branded with a race reference code every meet.
Upon arrival the race reference bands, placed on the pigeon’s leg, are run through a time clock. The clock must match a hand-kept race log. If it doesn’t, the bird’s owner is disqualified.
Manual logs will soon be a thing of the past at the Goulburn Homing Pigeon Society. The club is on the cusp of purchasing an electronic timekeeping system thanks to a donation from Veolia Mulwaree Trust.
The up-to-date timekeeping system will be a welcome addition when the club’s season commences in May.