Take a closer look at that pigeon

That pigeon in your neighborhood may not be your typical bird. Seattle Animal Control Officer Kevin Mack reports several “banded” pigeons found in the city recently.

“We’ve received at least two banded racing pigeons in the last couple weeks,” said Mack. “And I’ve had at least three sightings of banded birds that were moving through the city.

“These birds are essentially identical to local feral pigeons you see in the city, Rock Pigeons. But they really are domesticated birds and they usually have owners that want them back.”

People who race pigeons usually have a coop at their residence. They raise the birds, register them with their organization of choice, and then race them.

The race consists of driving the pigeon a pre-determined distance from their coop, setting them loose, and then seeing how long it takes them to return. Some pigeons are better at homing than others so sometimes they get lost on their way back. Other times they get injured or just plain tired.

The American Racing Pigeon Union is one of the most popular pigeon racing groups. You can tell the pigeons belong to someone who belongs to the group because they have bands on their legs with the letters “AU” on them. If you find an AU-banded pigeon, you can report it online: https://www.pigeon.org/arpu2021/pages/lostbirdinfo.html

The site also has good information about how to read the information on the band and some links to other organizations for birds with other types of bands.

The pigeon that is being sheltered at the Seattle Animal Shelter is from Jeanerett, Louisiana because its band includes the local club code. “2022” is the bird’s hatch year and the long number found on the other side of the band is the bird’s unique identifier.

Read about one pigeon who took a 4,000-mile detour.