Homing Pigeons

The Boston Herald

Flying a distance of over five hundred miles at a rate of speed which may be roughly estimated at thirty-two and one half miles an hour was the record made in the recent match of British homing pigeons. This match is an annual contest, in which the birds from all the best lofts in England compete. The starting place is Bordeaux, in France, about five hundred miles from London. In a straight line the birds going from Bordeaux to London would cross the English channel from the French coast at a point a little to the north of Cape Barfleur, where the channel is almost one hundred miles wide. It is possible, however, that the birds follow the French coast to the north and cross the channel at its narrowest point, for we believe that, as a rule, homing pigeons avoid flying over wide stretches of water when there is a chance to go round. This would increase the distance actually covered by the contestants. In all, 1,784 birds were liberated, and of this number thirteen made a record of speed better than seven hundred and twenty yards a minute. Seven hundred and twenty yards a minute means twelve yards, or thirty-six feet, every second. At that rate the birds would cover a mile in about two minutes and twenty-six seconds, marvelous speed for a five-hundred-mile race. The winning bird averaged nine hundred and fifty-three yards per minute, which, as we have said, works out roughly at more than half a mile a minute, or thirty-two and one half miles an hour for a distance in excess of five hundred miles.

The timing was very carefully done, so that there was little chance for a mistake. The distance from Bordeaux to each loft was closely calculated, and the velocity was easily made up from these two figures of time and distance. While this record made by the winning bird of nine hundred and fifty-three yards a minute was a wonderful performance, it is only the second best time that has been made in these yearly races from Bordeaux. The best mark was established in 1900, when the winning bird covered the distance at the rate of 1,297 yards per minute. The direction of the wind and the condition of the atmosphere doubtless have much to do with the speed made, but, looked at from any light, the performance of these homing pigeons was almost miraculous. Were it not for the fact that birds will fly only to their homes, there would be much greater use for them commercially than is now possible.
The Boston Herald.

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August 7, 1902

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