Kyle Burridge, 15, of Oswego, N.Y., has been breeding and racing homing pigeons with his father since he was 8 years old. A member of the Syracuse Racing Pigeon Club, Burridge cares for 200 birds and trains them to fly home from up to 300 miles away. The Oswego High School sophomore talked to Upfront about his hobby.
Why do you race pigeons?
My whole family has been doing it forever. And I just think it's fun. The competition is a big part, too. It's just amazing how these birds can fly back from 300 miles away and how accurate and fast they are.
How do you prepare your birds for racing?
Every other day, we'll drive them 5, then 10, eventually 50 miles away, let them go, and have them fly home, just building their instincts of the area around us. We don't feed them before we take them training, which makes them want to come home even more.
What's been the biggest challenge?
Over the past year, we've lost a lot of birds. In most cases, they're probably getting killed by hawks and other animals. We also think it's because of all the technology—the antennas and satellites that are leading them off-track.
Any drawbacks to the hobby?
Just the time it takes: Twenty minutes, twice a day, and then if you're working on the coops, up to three hours just maintaining them. And it can be expensive. Sometimes you'll have to buy birds costing up to $1,000, plus all their food and medication. But it's worth it.
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