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Homing Pigeons

You may already know that in Spain there are quite a number of keen followers of the hobby of long distance racing with homing pigeons. A surprisingly large number of afficionados to Colombofilia, as it is called in Spain, reside here in the Balearic Islands. A Felanitx Colombofilian club have their headquarters in a local coffee bar just down the road from where I live.

A recently hatched bird of barely four months can already be trained by its owner to fly home to roost, from a short distance away, like the other side of the village. This distance gets increased slowly but surely, from 2 to 5 to 10 to 20 km. Soon enough the bird will be taken to the other side of Mallorca.

Once the bird has proven its sense of orientation and a talent for speed, the real test begins with a race home from the island of Ibiza, some 140 km away from Mallorca. Other races from mainland Spain follow, from Galicia perhaps, or Alicante, or the Basque Country, before a challenge with the longest distance is set: like Portugal, some 1,200 km away. Even races from the Islas Canarias to the Illes Balears are staged, now and then, with a staggering 2,100 km distance.

A racing pigeon can easily fly at a speed of 95 km/h. Top  speeds of 120 km/h have been monitored.

Champion pigeons have already sold for up to 150,000 €. Offsprings of champion birds get sold for 600 €. Not bad for a common pigeon, or is it? Apparently, the Japanese have now discovered the joys of pigeon racing and especially, the merits of betting on the race results. Japanese buyers have been purchasing pigeons from Mallorcan breeders, during the last few years. 

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Spain. The date: September 10th, 2008. The time was 20:12:58.

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