I breed pigeons that are bred and trained to steal other pigeons. AMA
Posted this in /r/ama yesterday, but thought maybe I'd get more traction here, if anyone was interested. Example of one of my thief pouters here.
Little background: Thief pouters have been around for centuries. In the beginning, they were used to steal racing pigeons from others as the birds returned home.
This practice was eventually outlawed, naturally, since no one likes having their stuff stolen. That's when thief breeders turned on each other and started (sometimes not so) friendly competitions to see who could capture whose birds. If someone else's thief caught your thief, they got to keep it. Those are the rules of the game.
As the hobby spread out to other countries/continents, there were fewer people to compete with, so breeders started practicing what is called "zuritero" - which is where they compete to see who can catch the most feral pigeons.
While catching ferals lacks some of the excitement of trying to steal other thieves, it does present its own challenges. Ferals are much more wary of people and pigeon lofts than a domestic pigeon would be, so it can be hard for the thieves to actually lure them into the loft.
AMA about pigeons, thief pouters, or whatever you want to ask me - related or not.
Edit: Here's an article National Geographic did on the hobby in Scotland. It's pretty big over there.
Edit edit: Hope this counts as proof?
Edit x3: It's late now, the questions are slowing down, and the wife is demanding I get off this ole machine and pay her some attention. I'll check back sometime tomorrow to catch any stragglers if they have novel questions. It's been a lot of fun, you guys. Thanks a lot for being here!
I've had thief pouters since 2012, but I've had pigeons in general for over 20 years.
As for how I got started: When I was a little kid, one of my grandmas raised a lot of exotic game birds. She was well-known enough that people would come to her and pay her just to hatch eggs for them because she had a huge industrial incubator. When she passed away, she specifically left some of her birds in her will to me. Because of this, I'd always been in love with and fascinated by birds of all types.
One day, when I was around 8-9 years old, my grandpa on the other side bought some pigeons to use to train his bird dogs. Considering how much I loved other birds, it's no surprise that I instantly fell in love with the silly little dudes and told him that he had to give me some.
He gave me about half of the ones he bought and then took me to meet a guy he knew that raised all sorts of different breeds. He let me pick out a pair to truly call my own. After that, I was hooked. I've never gone a moment in my life without them since.
I still enjoy pheasants, chickens, ducks, etc.; but pigeons are my true passion now.
I'll try to get a few pics later tonight if I remember. I don't really go around taking pictures of where they live since the focus is on them. :-)
I don't have a question, I just wanted to say this is beautiful. I love animals and I love people's passions for niche hobbies. Oh, I guess I have a question: how do prospective partners typically react?
It can depend a lot on the style of the pigeon doing the seducing. Some are better than others. Some birds get way too aggressive in their excitement and start pecking at their prospective mate. This can scare them off.
If a cock or hen is super receptive, they will start dancing back. They spread their tail and jump/run at the other pigeon while nodding.
If they aren't into it at all, they will either run/fly away or try to fight the pigeon off.
If they are being coy and trying to decide if they are interested or not, they may do some little half-hearted pecks that usually don't even make contact. Kind of like a person playfully slapping your arm while smiling and saying, "Stop it," when they don't really mean it.
This is an incredible answer I love you so much. Though I think they were asking how your prospective partners react :)
Oh, okay! Well, if it's about me, I'm already married. My wife has her own pigeons (arabian trumpeters) and she helps me with the daily chores.
Very cool! Did she have the pigeons before you guys met?
Nope, she was a city slicker vet student.
How did she react to the fact that you had a bunch of pigeons?
She thought it was pretty cool. Lame as it may be, our first date was literally me taking her to my farm and showing her all of my different animals.
You deserve this gold for my all time favorite answer on reddit
Well, thanks a lot! You deserve all the coy honeys you desire.
I meant for you, but thanks for the super interesting answer!
I answered from my perspective in another comment in that chain if you can find it!
How do you train a bird dog with pigeons, or are they uh, one time use?
Depends on the person. Some people do use them for one-time usage. They have their dog point them, they release them from a spring trap on the ground, shoot them, and have the dog retrieve.
My grandpa didn't use that method. He had a giant pole with a rope on it and he would tie the rope to the pigeon so that it would fly around the pole when his dog saw it. He wanted his dogs to flush the birds naturally without a trap (though he did have one he used a few times, but didn't like it as much). He never shot them, though, because he's a practical and frugal man. Waste of money to have to buy more all the time.
Do you have a video of a pigeon stealing another pigeon? Is that like bird-napping lol
Here is someone else's video on YT.
How it usually works is: Your pigeon flies off and finds another pigeon. Your pigeon then seduces this other pigeon and tries to lure it back to your loft. If your pigeon is successful in luring the other one to the entrance of your loft, you drop a trap door that prevents the lured pigeon from escaping.
You can see the person's own pigeon coming in and out of the loft like, "Hey, it's great in here. Come get some good sex." The other one finally lands on the doorway and BOOM! caught.
So like a pigeon honeypot.
So do the bait pigeons expect to hook up too? Or are they trained to just do this to other pigeons all the time?
Odds are, if a pigeon has brought another one home, he/she has already gotten lucky and it's just trying to seal the deal by getting them to move in.
But you bring up something I think it's important to touch on because it can be a problem in the hobby. Some people work these birds so hard for so long that they don't even know how to raise babies. All they know is screwing. When it comes time to raise the young, there's nothing there. They just want more sex.
I think it's important to let them take breaks to learn what it's like to be a parent.
Some guys swear letting a hen breed will ruin her, but I've got a four year old hen that has raised countless babies and she's still out there doing her thing.
This entire time, I imagined your pigeon just snatching another pigeon out of the air flying and bringing it back. Not gonna lie, a bit disappointed that it's not what I thought.. but this makes A LOT more sense to be a hobby.
Edit, for anyone curious, these are called moroncelos and they are some of THE MOST driven thieves in the hobby. That cock is literally trying to screw that hen as she flies.
How exactly do you train a pigeon in the art of seduction? We're going to need details here...
Most of the training is just in teaching them where they are supposed to go when they get home. Their ability to seduce is more genetic than trained. You have to breed for pigeons that exhibit the qualities you're looking for. Things like a decent sized globe (I explain what a globe is in another comment onhere), strong flying ability, strong drive (desire to seduce), a gentle disposition so they don't scare the other pigeon (some thieves get too into it and turn aggressive while showing off - you don't want to breed from those), predator awareness/intelligence (a thief is no good to you if it's dead), and of course having a look that you prefer (like color, shape, size, etc.).
Do your pigeons know what's up? Or is it a surprise?
"That's the 3rd lover this week who got kidnapped"
Both, really. It's one of those things where they just get conditioned to expect it. I mentioned to somebody else that some guys take it too far and end up with pigeons that don't know how to raise babies once they decide to actually breed them because they have no experience with a "real relationship".
Do you need to be watching the coop to know when to spring the net? Otherwise how does your own pigeon not trigger it?
Do you then keep the feral pigeon? Do you train it in the art of pigeon seduction, expanding your harem?
Yes, the guys that use trap doors have to watch so they can spring the trap. Some of us just wait to see what pigeons have been brought in when we shut the birds up. I'm in the latter category, but I'd like to have an actual trap door in the future if I ever live in an area with more pigeons.
I live out in the country, so my pigeons have to fly pretty far just to find anything to bring home. It's not the same as someone working from inside the city.
Ferals cannot be trained to be thieves. It takes very specific genetics to accomplish. Some people do breed ferals to their thieves believing that it will increase their ability to survive predators, but no one would try to use a feral itself as a thief. They just don't have it in them.
So you're saying they just have to be born hella sexy?
Yeah, baby. If you ain't got it, you can't flaunt it.
But on the crazy side of things, some of these birds come out so damn horny that they are literally trying to show off as soon as they fledge the nest. It's hilarious because they still squeak instead of having a normal pigeon voice.
So when you "keep" the thief birb, does it work for you now? Are they smart enough to know where their home is and try to go back?
It depends on the individual bird. I read of one that a guy sold and it came home seven years later. I just had one come home this week that I sold three years ago.
Those are things you more often hear about homing pigeons than thieves, though.
Thieves do tend to have a lot of homer blood in them because we like to improve their ability to go long distances and still come back.
Often, if you catch someone else's thief, it's just a trophy. Some people may breed from them sometimes, but it's more likely you don't want to. You don't breed from losers.
If a bird you sold comes back to your roost, does that mean it's yours again? Or are you supposed to return it to the purchaser?
If a bird I've sold comes back to me, it's mine. For one, I rarely know the buyer because I sell most of my extras at auctions. For another, it's not my fault if they aren't able to keep track of their purchases. Buyer beware. May sound rude, but it is what it is. I don't personally know of anyone that would give it back.
How do they break the habit of a bird returning to where it was trained at? Is there a process for "re-homing" a bird so to speak?
Yes, the most effective way is to let them raise babies. They're more likely to see their new loft as their home after they've actually turned it into a home.
Even then, some just have too strong of a desire and will still leave.
How do you know if you catch another thief?
You can tell by appearance and personality. It may not be quite so easy for the layman, but to an experienced pigeon breeder, they'll know.
What's usually the goal with the captured pigeons?
The prestige of saying I was able to do it. There's a friendly rivalry between us on Facebook to brag about who has caught more ferals.
Don’t you feel like trapping wild pigeons is a dick move?
Not really, no. While I tend to turn them loose with no harm done, there are arguments for keeping them once you've trapped them.
For one, domestic pigeons live far longer than their feral counterparts. Feral pigeons have an average lifespan of about three years (I've also read as low as one year and as high as six, but I think it really depends on the environment they are living in) while domestic pigeons often live to 15 years or longer. I've got several right now in the 12-14 range.
For another, they are feral pigeons. Meaning pigeons that were once domesticated, but have reverted to a wild state. They are not native to North America and are one of the few birds that require no license to kill. While people like you (and me) may argue that they deserve their freedom, others see them as nothing more than a nuisance to be exterminated.
Removing a few from the feral population while also extending their potential lifespan could be seen as positives, don't you think?
Also, worth noting that once they get settled into your loft and see it as home, they won't leave of their own volition. They will stay even if you open the door and toss them out. Now you've got a pigeon that was once simply trapped, but is now a member of your flock. They can enjoy all of the freedom they used to have, but in a relatively safer environment.
Do you give your feral releases rings?
Not the captures, no, but I did have a flock that decided to breed in the upper levels of the barn. I would band all of their babies because I was curious to see how many would stick around.
Spoiler: None of the ferals I've ever banded have stuck around into maturity.
Do people put the equivalent of a collar on their pigeons? I'm wondering how you know if one is feral or not, or wild for that matter.
Yes. Legbands are a common identification for pigeons. Most of mine have them, but a few have slipped through the cracks. Usually when I don't find the babies in time (you have to band them before two weeks of age or you can't fit the band over their toes), but the band suppliers often run out fairly early in the year. If I don't buy as many bands as I ended up needing, I have a lot of bandless babies.
Do you have to delouse the feral pigeons or give them medicine if you decide to keep them? I imagine there are some wild birds out there with weird bugs.
I give my birds Quest horse wormer in their drinking and bathing water every few months. When they drink it, it kills the endos. When they bathe in it, it kills the ectos.
So I have to admit, the first image that popped into my head when I read the title, was a pigeon grabbing and flying off with another pigeon in its claws, like a bird of prey would. Except they’re the same size. It was ridiculous lol.
You mentioned in another comment that you’ve had all sorts of birds but you like pigeons best. Can you elaborate more on the reasons for that?
pigeon grabbing and flying off with another pigeon in its claws
There are several reasons that pigeons are my favorite bird. Aside from their intelligence, which I touched on in another comment, some other reasons are:
They genuinely love to fly. They play in the air. They fly in huge circles together just to say, "Fuck the ground, this is awesome." Most birds you see flying are just going from point A to B. I'm sure you've heard the expression, "Such and such miles as the crow flies."
Pigeons don't do that. While, yes, they will obviously go from one location to another, that's not their only reason for flying. They just absolutely love to do it. They will push through a strong wind just to "let go" and let the wind carry them off at high speed only to turn around and do it again. They will do little tricks in the air like flapping their wings wildly while they zigzag. They will clap their wings and show off when they see their mate or just feel like being a bad-ass. They will stop flapping and just lazily drift towards the ground just to fly back up and do it all over again. Some will even go up so high they are just pinpoints and then dive as fast as they can towards the ground only to pull up at the last second.
They love it so much that some breeds have been bred to fly for like 16 hours nonstop just flying around their loft.
To me, that is what it means to be alive. To be so carefree and happy that you can expend energy just enjoying yourself instead of only fighting to survive. Not many animals do the same.
Then there's also their personalities. I enjoy my chickens and pheasants, sure, but they are so damn aggressive. Cocks killing each other over their desire to mate. Others killing each other because they've seen a little blood and exploit the wound for food. Needing plenty of space just so they don't pluck each other out of boredom and stress.
These are things you rarely hear about in pigeons. Yes, if you keep them overcrowded, they will kill babies. Because they want to have locations to raise their own babies. But if they are given the things they need, they are happy being peaceful.
Their social dynamics can be so much more advanced, too. They can have best friends that aren't their mate who they prefer to fly and forage with. They can form nesting friendships where two or more cocks will band together to protect one's nest from a would-be usurper. Heck, they can even be gay and a pair of gay cocks often make better parents than a cock/hen pair.
I don't know. There's just something about them.
This is the most interesting thing I've ever seen on Reddit. (I don't get out much.)
OP, can a whole flock of birds be stolen by another flock?
I seem the remember being a kid in a neighborhood where Italian and Portuguese men kept dozens of birds and sort of raced them against each other. Two groups would suddenly merge into one and they'd all fly off together. Is that a thing?
Thanks for posting!
So that's pretty much how stealing racing pigeons worked. Someone would release a bunch of thieves as the homers approached which would distract the homers and convince them to land. From there, it was just a matter of the thieves buttering them up enough to get them to enter the lofts.
Homers have a very strong drive to return home, but they are still gregarious birds by nature and can be tricked to give up the race if there's enough motivation to do so.
How do they steal a pigeon? They’re free to do what they want, right? Aren’t you just making a better offer?
It can be kind of hard to explain to people outside the hobby, but essentially: Thief pouters are uber seductive and have this drive and skill to "turn on" other pigeons. Think of a peacock with his train or those cool videos of birds with wild plumage dancing around and singing.
Thieves are bred to exude so much confidence and sexiness that they are hard to resist. They are so good at their jobs that even hens can lure in other hens. Some hens can even be hard to tell from cocks until they lay eggs because they've got so much drive that they will act exactly like a cock.
In human terms, thieves are "Sexiest Man/Woman of the Year".
So they convince these other pigeons that, "Hey, this place I live is awesome. Because I live there. If you move in, you get to spend all of your time with me and you know it's worth it."
Edit: And of course, if the pigeon belongs to someone else and you keep it, that's stealing. It could also be stealing in the sense that these pigeons they bring home aren't necessarily mate-less. Thieves can cause a lot of infidelity!
So... you breed thot pigeons? lmfao! Also. This a much more interesting explanation than I was expecting. God speed you glorious pigeon pirate
If you want an even bigger chuckle, some people actually put jewelry on their birds. I don't because I think it's a bit unnecessary (and unfair to the pigeon), but there are actually types of jewelry made specifically for pigeons.
This is the best AMA I've read in years.
For some reason this came to mind.
I really wanted to forget that is a thing.
Edit: Here's an example I found on Google. This kind of stuff is more popular in the Middle East than here in North America.
There are also whistles and bells people attach to them.
Do you consider yourself a real-life flying type Pokémon trainer?
Haha, just kidding. Mostly. Have you ever had a favorite pidgeon? Also, you've been talking about Falcons and hawks, have you ever had a problem where a predator was targeting your flock or figured out where they lived?
Also, since your pigeons are constantly in contact with feral pigeons, how to you make sure they stay healthy?
This is all quite interesting!
I touched on my favorite pigeon in another comment. :-)
I actually have a pair of cooper's hawks that nest in the creek by my barn, so my pigeons get targeted very often. Almost daily. I don't see it as a problem, though, because it helps my pigeons have predator intelligence.
When I first moved to this location, I only had around 40-50 thieves in my open loft. At first, the hawks hit me hard and took many of them.
That was four years ago and now I have almost 200 in that loft (and just sold 60 a couple months ago). You could say that they have definitely adapted and overcome.
The really funny thing is watching when a hawk dives them while they are all outside together eating. I've seen the little bastard knocked out of the air by all of their wings.
Now, it's rare that I lose any at all in a given month.
So disease isn't something I really worry about because I incorporate a strong immune system in part of my breeding program. There are many diseases that pigeons can carry without ever showing symptoms. This goes for ferals and domestics alike. I cull any bird that gets sick because I don't feel it has genes worth passing on.
In all of the years I've had pigeons, I've had very few actually show any signs of illness. Unlike the people that pump their birds full of medications and care more about appearance than natural health.
Also, the fact that my pigeons have the ability to fly every day helps keep them healthy because pigeons know what they need to eat to get better if they are ill. It used to be a somewhat common practice that pigeon breeders would simply toss a sick pigeon out of the loft to fend for itself because they were more likely to survive that way than keeping them in the loft. Then once they were better, they'd let them back in.
I have a couple questions about the sale of pigeons if you are still around!
- How much do pigeons sell for?
- Does the price ever depend on the "quality" of the animal?
- Who do you usually sell to?
Thanks again for doing this AMA - it's very interesting!
1 & 2: Oh yes, the price can vary wildly depending on the quality. The most expensive pigeon ever purchased was a racing pigeon bought for $1.4m.
I usually charge between $5 and $100 for mine depending on breed, quality, etc. I've bought some worth $400 a piece.
I sell all over the place. Sometimes as gun birds, sometimes to people new to the hobby, sometimes to friends or other people I already know. If I have a lot to get rid of all at once, I take them to a local auction. I just sold 60 there a couple months ago.
Thanks for the detailed reply
So since I stumbled on this thread maybe you can offer some insight. I found myself owning rollers after I rescued one that was hanging around my house for over a month before winter, got it a mate and after some time here now have 6.
Anyway, I don't let them fly because when I was new to it all I did but there are many hawks nested nearby in a swamp that attacked them several times. Usually I only had a single bird out at a time due to one on eggs and they spent most of their time sitting on the roof so they were sitting ducks.
They have a rather large space to fly during summer in their aviary but winter I move them to a bit smaller and more protected area.
Should I be flying them, are they smart enough that they are longing to get out? Will they even have the strength or response time needed to survive if I did allow them to fly?
I haven't really found very much info about rollers in captivity and appreciate any thoughts you may have. They're more so pets than a hobby.
Rollers aren't known for their survival skills. They are not strong or fast flyers (they are bred to roll, not be fast or anything). If they are pets, wouldn't let them out. Especially since you've been keeping them caged.
It can be difficult to acclimate already adult birds to a life of flying because they lack that sense of predator awareness and also take a while to build up their wing strength to be effective flyers.
Imagine jogging around a small room occasionally and then being asked to run a 5k. It wouldn't be easy.
Edit: But you could totally train their young if you wanted to.
You mentioned in another comment part of the fun is seeing the new pigeon faces, how do you recognize new birds if you have nearly 200? Also do you feel you have a personal connection (even if it's one sided) with the animals or would it be more of a group connection with the flock?
I'll try to explain in a relatable away, but I don't know your background, so this may not work.
I went to school where the HS population was around 600 kids or so. I may not have known all of their names, but I knew their faces. It was obvious who was a new kid whenever someone transferred to our school.
It's like that. I may not have a close connection with every bird out there, but I know what each and every one looks like. I can tell if there's a bird I haven't seen before.
I would say I have a personal connection with some of them, but not all. Just like the school analogy. You have your friends and then you have the kids you just pass in the hall.
Fascinating hobby, OP! Are any of your current pigeons descendants of your first pair? Like, do you track pigeon lineage? Can you even keep track in a hobby based on seducing randos?
I don't have any descendants from my very first pigeons because I've admittedly changed my focus in the pigeon hobby several times. Thieves are what I've stuck with the longest, and yes, I still have descendants from some of my first ones of those!
There are actually pedigree programs for pigeons just like there are for people, horses, dogs, etc.
It's not 100% reliable because it's estimated that roughly 20% of young pigeons hatched in an open loft are not actually the child of their father. I'd imagine the odds could be much higher in a thief loft, too, where the best thieves will get the most side tail.
Do you mean a hen can hold multiple eggs from different males (like cats can), or that someone else's eggs were in the same nest?
The former. A hen only lays two eggs at a time, but if the mates with another cock, one or both of the babies could be his. There are even cases of eggs hatching with genetic material from multiple fathers, but it's very rare.
I'd like to drop a book recommendation for you amongst this sea of comments called Terrier by Tamora Pierce. The main character can see the ghosts of the dead, who ride on pigeons.
And in return, I'd recommend: Gay Neck: the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji. You'll never have known you could be so invested in a pigeon.
I am a property manager for a shopping center. We have pigeon problems sometimes. Could someone like you be for hire to help me eliminate a population of pests?
I think that would be difficult because you'd have to find someone that lived close enough that their pigeons would be willing to head out to your shopping center.
Two things you could try: Hire someone to humanely trap them (or do it yourself if you know of someone that would take the pigeons off your hands after). What you do is build a large cage with one-way doors (look up pigeon bob trap) that you build on the sides. Throw out feed to the pigeons every day at the same time. Once they are accustomed to eating in that spot at that time and start to gather when they know it's around the time you do it, put the cage on that spot and throw the feed inside it. The pigeons will go through the trap doors and be unable to get back out.
Another option would be to find local falconers and hire them to use their falcons to catch your pigeons. Maybe a little less humane, but it'll get the job done.
Do you have to be present to "trap them" or has anyone made it to where once they are lured they're just automatically caught?
Also can the thief get out and go lure another on their own? That may be an unrealistically sophisticated trap, but it came to mind.
I think it would be hard to design an automated trap since your own bird would be going in and out of the loft to lure the "target" inside. If you accidentally trapped your own bird, not only would you be defeating the purpose, but you'd be teaching any strange birds how it works and it would be even harder to lure one in.
Plus, I think breeders would like to be present at the moment. It'd be like designing a machine that shoots hole in ones for you. There's no fun in not experiencing the sport for yourself.
Yes, they can and will do it on their own. That's entirely how my setup is. My thieves fly all day and go and do whatever they want and bring home however many they want. For me personally, the excitement is walking out into the loft at night when it's time to shut them up and seeing all the strange faces.
There are other breeders that use much more refined methods, though. There's a thing called a "dark box" where they keep a pigeon all by itself where it can't see or interact with other pigeons. They then release this pigeon and let it take off to do its thing. They believe it'll make the pigeon even more seductive since it's so horny from being all alone. I can't attest to how much more effective that method may or may not be, but mine do just fine without that.
Just train your pigeon to spring the trap by pecking a button when the prey is inside. Easy-peasy!
You know, you may be joking, but I honestly think that could be done. Pigeons can be taught to perform some fairly complex tasks like discriminate between different artists.
The challenge would be in getting the pigeon to do it at the right time and also to think with their head and not their cloaca.
So are you saying your thief can come and go as it pleases but the others cant get out or your thief goes out and lures several pigeons and once they've followed it in they're all trapped for the day?
If yours leads them to the door, watches them go in, then flies away...that's pretty clever.
So I've actually got quite a few of them and they do this thing called "ranging" which is something you mostly see in homers. That's where the pigeons fly off away from home just for the sake of flying.
In the process they come across other pigeons which they then convince to fly with them. They bring these pigeons back home and then further convince them that they should move into this totally rad pad.
At night, I collect whatever birds have been lured in and move them somewhere else until daylight when it's safe to turn them loose. They usually won't come back just from the experience of being captured by a "predator" in the night. Makes them think it's not safe to live there.
Unfortunately for a guy that lives about five miles away from me, his rollers also really like to come back home with my pigeons. Rollers have no homing instinct of their own, so once they are here, they are here until I give them back!
What’s a roller?
A pigeon bred to do flips in the air. There are both rollers and tumblers. Often, rollers are the ones bred to do multiple flips/somersaults at one time while tumblers just do one or two at a time. A good roller will look like a ball spinning in the air when they drop.
There's also a breed that can't fly, but instead does flips across the ground. They have competitions to see who can roll the longest distance.
There's also a breed that can't fly, but instead does flips across the ground
Wait what tell me more about this, because that sounds hilarious. What are they called?
That's wild. are they the same species as yours, just bred for different characteristics?
Yes. The domestic/feral pigeon that we're all familiar with is descended from the rock dove - Columba livia. Pigeons have just been bred to be many, many shapes and sizes with many, many different skills. Just like dogs!
There are other species of dove/pigeon in captivity, but the rock dove is the one most people are familiar with.
Secret fact: White dove releases are almost always white domestic pigeons. Actual domestic doves don't have the instincts/flying ability of pigeons, so they would almost always get lost/die = if they were used. That isn't to say some idiots don't use white ringneck doves, but the people serious about the profession use pigeons.
How smart are pigeons, compared to other birds?
How affectionate are they? Do they get attached to their owners?
Pigeons are incredibly smart, but one of the difficulties in measuring pigeon intelligence is that they are a prey animal. Because so many things have historically preyed on pigeons, they have a very strong flight response. This can be strong enough that many pigeons will outright abandon their eggs/babies if a predator comes near the nest.
Interestingly enough, nest abandonment is a genetic flight response and can be bred out. There are many pigeon breeds now that will attempt to fight off predators rather than flee.
That being said, there have been attempts made to discover their talents - and they have quite a few!
They can pass the mirror test and also have better cognition in recognizing themselves than a three year old human can.
They can also discern different styles of art.
They can also remember hundreds of images.
Like crows and ravens, they can recognize human faces.
Most pigeons are not overtly affectionate with their owners because pigeons pair bond. They can be very affectionate with their mates, but an interactive owner is usually just seen as another pigeon and/or a perch. I have several that will perch on my head and stuff, but I've also had some "fall in love" with me and treat me as a mate.
but I've also had some "fall in love" with me and treat me as a mate.
What does that entail? Is that bad for them? Do you have to break them of that habit?
It just means they show off for me, follow me around, preen me, bend over wanting me to mount them, etc. It's not bad for them, really, because they are still sociable with the other pigeons. They just don't want one as a mate.
It can be hard to break them of it because it's nearly impossible to keep them from seeing you since you do the chores every day and whatnot. It's usually young hens, though, and their desire to procreate will eventually overshadow their love for you when they realize you aren't going to stick around and you don't give them the "mating cues" they are programmed to expect.
For example, the cock will choose a nesting sight and he will get inside of it and start "moaning" for lack of a better word to get her attention. She'll enter the nest and preen him. Then after they've mated and the hen is close to laying, the cock will "drive" the hen by constantly pecking at her and following her around trying to keep her in the nest so that she will lay her eggs there. Since human-bonded pigeons will never get these cues/interactions, they usually give up for a pigeon that will.
So where does pair bonding come into the mating equation? Are they affectionately bonded for raising young but more like polygamists when it comes to sex? If not, why would they follow a sexy bird away from their own home?
Pigeons, like people, can have different personalities. Some can take pairing up very seriously and be completely loyal. Others, not so much. I had a hen that went through five mates in one year because she switched every time her babies fledged. I've had others that I can toss into separate lofts for a year or more and they'll go right back to each other if reintroduced.
Pigeons can be opportunistic breeders. They may be paired to a great father, but he may not be the best looking guy around in her eyes. So here comes Chad strutting up looking like the cock of the block and she's super turned on by him because he's everything Necky is not. She has a tryst with Chad and Necky raises the babies, unaware.
It doesn't mean she's not bonded to Necky. It just means she wants to produce the fittest babies she's capable of. Those may not be Necky's this time around.
This is pretty common for animals, really.
Bluebirds are a great example. Female bluebirds will pick a duller colored mate if all the signs say he'll be a great father, but while he's off doing bluebird things, she'll sneak off and touch cloacas with a more brightly colored male. She sticks with the dull guy for the protection and comfort. She meets up with the bright guy for better babies.
The name of the game for most animals is passing on your genes. You need good ones to pass on to succeed.
When it comes time for you to leave, will your pigeons all latch onto your coat and carry you off majestically into the sunset like that scene from Hey Arnold? Or will you drive?
First time I saw that as a kid, I so wished that was possible. That episode really hit home for me.
Have you ever had a totally suave pigeon bring home two birds at once? Perhaps he was named Hugh Heffbird?
I've had things crazier than that. I had a cock once with four mates. Had them spread out all over the loft and would visit a nest whenever he was in the mood to visit that particular nest.
Do you call yourself an apigeonado?
We call ourselves "fanciers". Is that worse?
This is a great post @op!
Your pigeon is fancy AF - it's a weird proportion to the wild ones here in the UK, is it just hench?
Nearly all domestic pigeons differ from feral/wild pigeons in body style. For thieves (and all pigeons under the pouter/cropper label) the biggest defining characteristic is the globe. Which is what you call their crop when they fill it with air.
ALL pigeon breeds inflate their crop to show off for a mate. It has just been enhanced and refined in pouters to be much larger. Some breeds even keep it constantly inflated, but all of them are capable of deflating when they want to. Kind of like how dogs with curly tails can still let them droop.
So what you're seeing is my thief pouter showing off with his crop inflated. It makes the birds look bigger and gives more surface area to show off their iridescence. Neck plumage is one of the mate selection factors in pigeons, so the more of it you're showing off, the more irresistible you are to other pigeons. Like how peacocks with the longest and prettiest trains will get the most ladies.
Thank you for really explaining it to me, I appreciate it. Your thief is very handsome!
How do you actually train a pigeon to go and trap a wild one?
Seems quite a complex chain of things to happen to get to that point, and I can't see where the reward is for the thief?
A lot of it is just building on natural talents of the pigeons. Even wild pigeons have some semblance of a homing ability (roughly 25 miles, but some can be trained to go further), so there you've already have the desire to return home in your thieves.
All pigeons, like many animals, have procreation high on their drives list, so thieves are just pigeons selectively bred to have more of that.
All pigeons are highly social birds in general, so thieves going off to find others of its kind to socialize and mate with is normal.
The thieves don't see it as a reward system, though. They are just doing what they have been selectively bred to do. Just like hunting dogs will track game even if they've never been rewarded for doing so.
Do you eat the pigeons or something?
No. There are pigeons bred specifically for that, though. If you've ever seen squab at a restaurant, that's pigeon.
So you just bait and trap pigeons?! Like a pigeon jail?
Haha, I guess you could say that. Usually, though, ferals are just turned loose. Sometimes, a person may keep one or two and breed them into their thieves. Some thief breeders believe that ferals have traits for instincts and survivability that their thieves may be lacking due to their long domestication. I don't know if there's any research/proof to back those claims up, though.
Some of mine have feral blood in them, but from birds that I bought when I first started. I didn't add any.
In my opinion, the best way to give your thieves the instincts and survivability they need to get the job done is to just fly them. Let them build up that experience. Breed from the ones that don't become hawk food.
Do your pigeons ever get arrested by pigeon police for pigeonnapping?
If losing them to hawks count, then yes, sometimes.
You breed my absolutely favorite breed of pigeon. The fact that humans wanted to create the sexiest pigeon that they could steal other pigeons is delightful.
What advice do you have for pigeon admirers who hope to have their own small flock in the future? Do you find Thief Pouters to be good pigeons for newbies?
I think the first bit of advice is to do your research. Yeah, they are hardy, they are common, and they can be cheap. That doesn't mean they don't deserve your respect.
I think if you kept just a pair or two, thieves could be okay, but I wouldn't consider them for beginners to the hobby by any stretch of the imagination. It'd be better to go with something more common and established like rollers, homers, or some sort of show breed with a mild temperament. Mookees, for example, make excellent first pigeons. They are mild mannered, agreeable, and super sweet.
I'm slightly biased because they were my first breed, but anyone you ask that has encountered them will agree with me.
At your current growth rate how long until you control all the pigeons of the world?
Well, I'm going to try to cut back to just 50 pair this year because I want to move to another state, so it may be a while yet!
I live in Scotland but have never herd of this. Actually super interesting though. So stealing racing pigeons is illegal but you can have like theif wars? Kind of like a gentlemans agreement. Have you ever stole someone else's thief?
I haven't, no. I don't live close enough to anyone else that has them. It's not very common in the states and even less so where I live. I only know of one other person with thieves within an hour of me and he's the person that got me started.
However, there is a guy about five miles from me that raises rollers (another type of performance pigeon) that I've had to return birds to when his have decided they really like mine.
The interesting thing about rollers getting stolen is that rollers don't have a homing ability. They are trained to recognize their loft and will still return to it even if it has been moved to a different location. So it's very odd that rollers would be willing to leave their loft to follow other pigeons.
So I'm guessing you have spent a lot of time on selectively breeding nice looking honeypot pigeons? Is that where the sports difficulty lies?
The true difficulty is in combining all of the necessary traits together. It can be fairly easy to breed pigeons that fly. It can be fairly easy to breed pigeons with globes (that's what it's called when they fill their crop with air and it's a defining characteristic of all pouter/cropper breeds whether they are thieves or not). It can be fairly easy to make a pigeon with a strong drive (seduction). It can be fairly easy to breed pigeons that are predator savvy and can survive while they are flying.
What's not as easy is putting all of those components into one star athlete pigeon. A very common problem is that people will focus too much on the bird's drive and end up with hawk bait because it's not intelligent enough to be aware of its surroundings and makes an easy target while showing off.
I see so on average how many generations in your opinion does it take to get there? With that perfect blend your talking about, or does it really never end?
It never ends. Just like with other types of competition, it's an ever-evolving process. Just because you have THE perfect pigeon doesn't mean any of his/her offspring will measure up.
That's like, they say in the chicken show world (yes, people show chickens AND pigeons just like dogs!) that you have to hatch 100 babies to have one winner.
What was/is the best pigeon you have bred?
That's a tough one. I don't know if she was "the best," but my favorite pigeon was one I had back in grade school. I trained her to do all sorts of tricks like landing on me when I called her name, striking various poses and such on command, and all sorts of other things. I loved her so much that I had considered getting her stuffed whenever she died so I could always have her. Unfortunately, that idea was shattered in middle school when a rat snake got into the loft and killed her as she defended her babies from it. It messed her up pretty bad.
Other than that, I've had some pretty interesting birds. I had a hen that refused to pair up with an actual pigeon because she was totally in love with only me. I actually had a pigeon just this week come home that I sold three years ago.
And of course I've got several favorites. The guy in the video and pictures being one of them, if that wasn't obvious! He's got a lot of drive, but he's overall a very calm bird with great flying capability. He used to scare me when he was younger because he would disappear all day! Every time, I wondered if that day was the day I'd never see him again, but he's still here!
Wait can you recognize individual pigeons for years or were they banded and the new owner just didn't change the bands?
I'm pretty good at recognizing individual animals, but I don't think I'd remember one I'd last seen 3 years ago.
Both. I have a very strong memory when it comes to my bird. On the ones I've managed to keep track of (some naturally slip through the cracks as life events happen and whatnot), I could tell you exactly who all of their ancestors are back to the original pairs.
As for bands, I use seamless bands that would have to be cut off. You wouldn't be able to replace them with a different seamless band because pigeons have to be banded when they are babies for the band to slide on.
I guess I will be the one, but how do you manage the guano situation I am sure exists?
So this may sound gross (and it is), but I really only do a cleaning once a year/every couple of years. I do what is called a "deep litter" method where I let the dry poop build up on the floor. I clean out nestboxes more often because those can get very messy, but the deep litter method is a proven method for keeping pigeons.
The pigeon poop just sort of absorbs the other pigeon poop, if you get what I mean. Like kitty litter.
It's one of those things that's debated in the pigeon community. Some people are clean freaks and have to scrape their loft daily. Others prefer the deep litter method. Others are just overall messy.
I can say that I've done it this way for over a decade now and I virtually never have sick birds, so it must work. Plus, I like my OWN health benefits of not breathing in the dust trying to clean it all the time. Pigeon lung is a real thing for people that spend too much time in their lofts.
Would you say that you have an appreciation of pigeons? A lot of people view animals as tools but others form friendships with them. Do you love your pigeons?
Oh, definitely. I wouldn't know what to do without them. The most cathartic thing for me is just sitting outside and watching them. I can do it for hours when I've got nothing else going on that day.
There was one time when I was younger that my grandpa got mad at me and threatened to sell them all. I literally cried myself sick and he was so taken aback that he took me out for ice cream and promised he would never ever get rid of my birds.
Could you train your pigeons to intercept the drug pigeons and keep the drugs for yourself?
If they flew nearby!
Is pigeon theft considered "fowl play?"
Only if you really cock it up.
You said that they can be trained to go farther than 25 miles with training. What is the limit on average for pigeons? I'm interested because I am thinking of messenger birds that were used whether those were or not pigeons.
The average pigeon can't go very far. They just aren't bred to. Homing pigeons can return home from hundreds of miles away. Most races are within the 250 to 600 range with some going a little over a thousand miles. There are various strains of homing pigeon bred for these different distances.
You wouldn't race a long distance pigeon in a short distance race because they are bred for endurance, not speed. Likewise, a short distance pigeon likely wouldn't survive the long distance race. Some strains are more flexible than others, though.
This is fascinating. Apologies if you've answered this elsewhere - I'm sure you said you have other birds? Have you any interesting stories on them? Have your pigeons ever managed to lure an entirely different bird species back?
I don't know if it's luring so much as giving a sense of security, but I've had both wild doves and starlings try to move in with my pigeons in the past.
Years ago, I had a starling that loved my pigeons so much it'd sleep in one of the nests with a pair's babies.
Hmmmm... I'm trying to think of a good story about something else...
Well, there was a time I had a hawk try to attack one of my hen's chicks. She was so pissed off she flew up into the tree after it and across the yard as it flew away. Something not many people know about chickens is that they aren't all the pansies popular media makes them out to be. Hens and roosters both will full on kill a hawk for fucking with their babies.
There's also a cool video somewhere on YT of a hawk attacking someone's chicken and their duck flying over and attacking the hawk.
Something involving chickens, but not quite about them: I had a cat when I was a kid that grew up around all of my birds. I would take her into the pigeon lofts to catch mice at night and she'd never touch a pigeon. She loved the chickens so much that she'd sleep in the coop with them in winter.
One year, she got pregnant and had some kittens. Around the same time, I had a bunch of baby chickens go missing. My first thoughts were either A) something was killing them with the cat missing or B) the cat is so hungry from taking care of her kittens that she's turned on her friends.
So a day or so later, I happened to be in the barn when I hear cheeping. Keep in mind, I had no idea where this cat had her kittens at this point. I'm looking all around for this damn cheeping hoping I can save a chick. Simply can't find it.
Eventually, after looking long enough, I realize it's coming from the hitch to my grandpa's camper. I reach inside of it, and not only do I find the three missing chicks, but a whole pile of kittens. The damn cat had stolen the chicks trying to nurse them with her babies.
Are you worried about your pigeons bringing back a pigeon that might be sick or have parasites? How do you prevent the spread of disease amongst your flock from these outsiders? Have you ever lost part of your flock to disease?
If a pigeon is sick, it won't be in the mood to find a mate, so it won't be coming back with mine.
I touched up on disease in another comment, if you want to look for it. :-)
What else can pigeons be trained to steal?
Human hearts. In the loving way, of course.
Pigeons have been used to transmit data (there was a guy that used a pigeon to carry data to prove the pigeon was faster than his local ISP), carry info for armies, carry cameras, and even transport drugs!
How does one get into this, it sounds entertaining?
If you ever get serious about it, I could hook you up with some birds and teach you whatever you need to know.
Are they a gateway bird? My mom warned me about this.
Anything can be a gateway bird if you love hard enough.
How many pigeons do you have, and how attached are you to individuals? You said you have to breed for survival instincts, and your pets have significantly more exposure to normal real-life dangers than other more traditional pets. Is this the type of thing where you can't really afford to get too attached to your pigeons, or can you normally expect them to live for a long time, and early mortality risk is relatively low?
There's a saying in the pigeon hobby that the predators know your favorites.
I've certainly lost favorites in the past, but usually, if it's very special to me it goes into a different loft instead of the flying one.
I have somewhere over 200 at the moment. I don't get as attached as I did when I was younger. I used to cry every time a bird died. But you get jaded to that over the years because death is an inevitable part of the hobby whether it's a predator, illness, old age, or just a freak accident.
Do you have any favorite types of show pigeons? The ones with the fluffy feet, etc. Would their fancy plumage make them good thieves, or does their breeding leave them too stupid for that kind of work?
One of my favorite show breeds is the archangel https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/63/Gimpel_(Archangel).jpg (Sorry, not sure how to format when the link itself has parentheses in it.)
The fun thing about these is that they used to be a "field pigeon" which means they were left to fend for themselves and just existed as rooftop ornaments.
A lot of them still have that very wild and feral-like temperament. I want to breed some of them into my thieves at some point for that good quality plus the plumage. The problem is finding ones worth the effort, though. Many are low quality.
Other than those, I'm also a fan of altenburg trumpeters. They aren't much for looks, but they have really unique voices. That's one of my cocks in that video.
I think the old german owl is super cute, but I've never owned any.
Gosh, I don't know. There are a lot that I like! I've owned probably 30 different breeds over the years and have a little fewer than a dozen right now.
As for thieving, if it hasn't been bred to be a thief, it just simply won't be one. There are very strong genetic components involved. You can incorporate other breeds into the genepool to get qualities you're looking for that may not be as important as the thief ones (but often there's no reason to), but you can't use purebreds of other types for the sport.
I had a pet pigeon as a kid that was an absolute darling. My favorite story to tell about him is that he ended up roosting on our neighbors roof but came back home years later and then passed away in our yard a couple days later. He knew it was his time and wanted to say goodbye T_T Seeing all of the hate pigeons get always makes me sad
What's your favorite pigeon story?
Hmmm... I'm not sure if I have a favorite, but one I'm fond of is a homing pigeon hen I used to have. I sold her to a friend and she eventually came back home. I called him up and told him I had his pigeon.
He said, "I'm not the least bit surprised. That damn bitch has flown at my head every single time I've gone in the loft trying to find a way to sneak past me. Seems like she finally succeeded. Just keep her."
While homing pigeons do have a strong desire to return home, it's usually not that strong!
Is there an easy way to find/contact a pigeon's owner with the band? A website or database? What should the public do if they come across an injured or sick banded pigeon?
I work in Wildlife rehab and we often get calls on banded pigeons. We are only able to work with native wildlife so we usually tell people to take them to a vet but if there is a something else you would suggest I would appreciate your input.
Depending on the type of band, your best resources are either the National Pigeon Association (NPA band label) or American Racing Pigeon Union (AU band label). If they can't tell you the individual, they may be able to tell you the club the bird was flown from.
This can be tricky, though, if you have a racing pigeon. Many racing people don't want a bird back if it didn't make it home. Some will outright cull them if they get them back. I'd say judge the situation and act in the way you think is best.
Some guys, even if they are just going to kill it, will demand it back because it's their money.
Not everyone is like this, though. In my experiences, some of the best birds end up being the ones that got lost. They gain real world experience and come out better racers.
One of my best friends had a bird that got lost as a YB go on and win races next year as an OB.
So birds are pretty smart, and I've been wondering for a while:
Can I train a pigeon or crow to recognize bags of weed and bring them to me?
Crow for sure. Pigeon, probably not because they don't really carry things as they fly unless it's attached to them. Crows are known for leaving gifts for people. Pigeons only leave poop.
how much LSD do I have to take before I too can talk to pigeons? For law purposes...
I guess that would depend on how poor your imagination is! Pigeons that trust you will talk to you whether you are willing to understand them or not.
If you steal a feral one will it stay happily and come back with the rest if let out to fly again?
Once they see your loft as their home, they will stick around, yes. It will happen faster if they have a mate and raise some babies.
If you want your proof to count, you'll likely have to make a new post, as the mods don't seem to give a flying fuck that you've updated with proof. Good luck to you.
I have a question, how to bird breeders keep track of all their birds? I know most birdkeepers use tags on their legs, but I've not done a lot of research into specifics.
I'm not quite sure why the message is still there because the mod responded to my proof saying I was good to go. Guess they are busy?
Legbands are the most common way. There are various pigeon organizations that you can get bands from. The most common two being the American Racing Pigeon Union and the National Pigeon Association.
These bands will have a unique code made up of letters and numbers along with the current year. Then there are pedigree programs you can use to log the birds with their band codes, the codes of their parents, offspring, etc.
You can also buy much cheaper bands that are not sealed for temporary identification (or permanent if you don't want to pay for the more expensive kinds).
Sealed bands have to be put on the pigeon before they are two weeks of age or else their toes will be too large to fit through it.
I’m late to the party, but have you been to The American Pigeon Museum located in the heart of Oklahoma?
No, but now I know I definitely need to!
Do you name your pigeons? Do you have any stand-out pigeons with super unique personalities that you can tell us about? Is there a pigeon in particular who is REALLY GOOD at the art of seduction? This is such a neat AMA, thanks for posting!
I rarely name them. I used to as a kid, but after you've owned literally thousands upon thousands, you give up. I'll call favorites by descriptors sometimes to distinguish them from the others when talking to people. Like, "Big Boy," or "Blue," or whatever. That's about it.
I mentioned this to someone else, but I once had a cock that had four different mates spread out across the loft!
Pigeon eggs, are they good to eat? Do they lay a lot of eggs?
Are the baby pigeons cute?
Do both female and male steal ?
I've never eaten a pigeon egg, but I can't imagine it tasting bad!
Pigeons only lay two eggs at a time, but they can raise around six broods a year.
I think they are absolutely adorable, but I suppose that's up for debate.
If you've got good hens they can do it, yes, but it's much more challenging to raise hens of that quality. Most successful thieves are cocks.
Cocks are also more likely to survive hawk attacks. It's something several of my fellow thievers have noticed.
Is there a subreddit for your hobby? For example, the guy who needs feral pudge is around his shopping center caught or maybe for people to figure out how to get into that hobby?
There is a subreddit for pigeons in general (/r/pigeon), but not one for thieves in particular that I'm aware of. Most of us keep in touch in various Facebook groups. There are lots of those!
What are racing pigeons and why are they so frequently shipped around?
Racing pigeons are pigeons trained to race over long distances. Races are often in the 250-600 mile range, but can be shorter or even over 1,000 miles.
They get shipped around because that's how they are taken to the race location. Everyone's pigeons are released from the same point at the same time so that it's fair. The bird that makes it home with the fastest speed wins. NOT the first bird home because they have to factor in distance from starting location.
do you eat the ones you catch?
Nah, you don't want to eat adult pigeons. You want to eat squabs so that the meat is still tender.
Fun fact: Did you know all chickens you buy at the store to eat are still babies? They are usually slaughtered for consumption at around 6 weeks of age.
Can I get a flyby on our place? I got about 159 wild bird crap makers that I want gone.
MIL keeps feeding them.
You just gotta learn how to appreciate them more. Start your own breed of thieves from your new feral friends!
I like the birds.
It’s the omnipresent bird crap that is layered on all my workshop equipment and tools, that I don’t appreciate.
It’s the mice that live ever so comfortably on all the birdseed that I don’t appreciate.
It’s replacing power cords for my tools Every Time I want to use them because the mice can’t be happy with the over abundance of birdseed that I don’t appreciate.
But I like the birds.
Ah, yeah, I can see your point. Maybe you could convince her to only feed a specific amount of feed? Like, I only feed my birds once a day. That ensures they eat it all and leave none for the mice.
Is there no way to close your workshop to keep them out? I don't let mine in various sections of the pole barn so my tractor and stuff stay clean.
I lived with pidgeons above all the windows of my apartment. It was constant noise and buzzing.
They do love to coo, don't they? I like the sound, but I can see how it would be annoying to someone that isn't quite so fond of them.
Have you ever tried to steal one of Mike Tyson's Pigeon?
I like staying alive, so no! Plus, we live in different parts of the country,so I'm safe.
Question about keeping pigeons. How many pigeons do people usually keep? Are they social animals where the more the merrier or can you get away with a dozen or fewer birds? I always see pigeons in the city in large groups.
You could get away with just a pair if that's all you wanted. I'm not sure what the average number would be because it's so varied. I have well over 200 spread out over four lofts, but some people think that's an insane number while others think it's chump change.
I'd say a flock of 12-20 would be decent. Not too expensive to feed, but still enough to enjoy watching them fly.
Have you encountered (or heard of) people who steal other animals using their own?
The reason I ask is that i recently encountered a beagle barking up a storm, running through my (relatively rural) property. I was going to chase him but then heard the owner calling him. So i go for the owner to hop in my truck to chase his pooch. Yep, I'm a proud dog owner.
He said it's not unheard of that other beagle owners will have their own pack and the stray will tag along on a chase and get scooped up. Dude paid $1,300 for his dog, so real money is involved. Needless to say, I was stunned this is a thing.
Edit: ultimately, after a lot of calling and listening to this dog bark all over my property, he came back to the owner on his own. An unbelievably gorgeous, young 7mo beagle.
I wouldn't be surprised at all that it happens. People are great at figuring out ways to con others.
Have you heard of Judas goats? If not, look them up. They are goats dropped off to lure other goats in the area so people can pick them off. It's one way they combat feral goats tearing up fragile ecosystems.
I guess the same reason people train dogs in agility trials, barrel race horses, or any other sport involving animals. It's just something fun to do.
My simplest guestimation is that this has routes in espionage, since carrier pigeons were really important throughout history. Can OP confirm or deny?
From what I've read in the past, the horseman pouter (the most popular breed of thief in places like Scotland) was originally used to catch other pigeons for the owner to eat.
The original "Spanish horseman" that is now extinct is the one I know of that was used to catch homing pigeons.
I honestly wouldn't be surprised if thief pouters have been used in espionage, but I don't know of it happening personally.
So cool! Thanks for the info. I always had an interest in the different uses of pigeons. Ever since that Hey Arnold episode. Maybe I’ll get a little pudgy pidgy or two of my own this year. Any recommendations or advice otherwise? Can birds be fiercely trained, and also sociable with human/caretaker? I noticed a lot with training dogs (and this is definitely in part to trainer habits) but the dogs that compete better ended up becoming “machines” so to say.
So the thing about thieves is that, because they are so socially driven to an extent more than your typical pigeon (which is already a social bird), they can form very strong attachments to their owners. I've found this more often in hens than cocks, but I've had both sexes "fall in love with me".
And the more time you spend with them, the closer to you they'll be. I've got pictures all over Facebook of thieves perching on my head of their own free will and various things like that.
When I first got started in thieves, I had a hen someone gifted me that loved me so much she refused to pair with an actual pigeon and would just follow me around.
Edit: As for advice, just find a breed you're truly interested in and go from there. Caring for pigeons is super easy in general, but can get complex if you want to ensure you're doing the best for them that you can. Consider dogs, for example. It's easy to feed them, house them, teach them basic commands; but there's so much more involved when you start looking into advanced nutrition, advanced training, competitions, etc. Same with pigeons.
I'd recommend starting with just one pair until you're sure you're ready for the commitment. You may decide you don't like them all that much after all.
Thoughts on the pigeon simulator movie Spies in Disguise?
It looks amusing despite being factually inaccurate! That's to be expected, though. Hollywood can't even get things right about cats and dogs. I wouldn't expect them to know much about pigeons.
I don't think accuracy was in their mind if they have talking pigeons
True, but they also shouldn't be saying pigeons fly over 90mph!
This is quite a peculiar hobby.I have a few questions if you don't mind.
-How long have you been doing it?
-How did you get started?
-Can I see your coop?
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