Saturday, December 17, 2011

Completed Moult

The last feathers to drop are  the second from the outside tail feathers. This should be completed  by December fifteenth.

Twenty words or less TCC Loft series

Thursday, December 15, 2011

History of Racing Pigeons

Pet Article World
By Dave Peterson

Today's generation is fortunate enough to experience the wonders of modern communications. Letters are electronically sent in a matter of seconds via the Internet, and real time conversation with colleagues from far away is now possible through Instant Messaging.

Ah, thanks to technology. Did you ever wonder what was it like a thousand years ago, when ancient man was still one with nature and empires were just about to be built? Tribes communicated with each other through pigeons, and the racing pigeons were animals that were revered by many because of their speed and agility.

The great civilizations from East to West made full use of the racing pigeons as messengers that deliver important messages coming from the emperors out to the most remote areas of their lands. As empires expand, more and more racing pigeons were sent out to the sky.

Because of their intelligence and swiftness, racing pigeons were regarded as prized possessions during the ancient times. Just imagine empires having only horses and caravans as their message-carrying tools. It would take weeks before messages can be exchanged from one area to another. Animals that travel by land are also more prone to danger, especially during warfare.

One famous incident in history where racing pigeons proved their worth was when Napoleon was defeated in Waterloo. No other person knew about this event right away, except for Count Rothschild, who got this first-hand information through a racing pigeon. This knowledge enabled Rothschild to make decisions way before other persons had a chance to meddle. He was able to collect a large amount of money to start up a banking dynasty.

Racing pigeons were not only used as an important military weapon. During the Industrial Revolution when people started to revolutionize their way of thinking, racing pigeons were used as news-carriers not to aid a war, but to keep people informed about the society. Julius Reuter, the founder of the world-renowned Reuter News Service, was actually established as a line of pigeon posts. Up to this day, the symbol for many European postal systems is a racing pigeon.

As years go by, a lot more people have taken to raising pigeons. Gone are the days when only the nobles can have them. Most of the time, these birds are seen with racing enthusiasts, with the birds as the main attraction.

The most successful modern racing pigeons were developed in Belgium. They were a result of a cross between the Cumulet and the Smerle. The Cumulet is often described as a pigeon that has the ability to fly high and can be gone out of sight from the sky. The Smerle, on the other hand, doesn't fly as high as the Cumulet, but is much faster and hastier.

It's no surprise that the Belgians were the ones who first enjoyed the hobby of pigeon racing. The first long distance pigeon race was in Belgium in 1818. After 1875, the hobby of pigeon racing gained popularity in England. In the 19th century, the popularity of the hobby reached the United States.

Today, the world continues to be enthralled with the speed, endurance and the intelligence of racing pigeons. Amidst the technology that we have today, these pigeons still surely know how to get our fancy.
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pigeons under attack in Moss Park

The Toronto Star
Friday December 10, 2010
Curtis Rush
Staff Reporter

This red-tailed hawk has been seen eating pigeons and rats at Moss Park.

A red-tailed hawk, showing no fear of people — or anything else for that matter — has set up a killing zone for pigeons in Moss Park.

It lunches on them in broad daylight and in clear view of motorists and pedestrians at the corner of Sherbourne and Queen St. E.

People wandering to and from Moss Park Arena snapped cellphone shots of the hawk devouring a pigeon in a tree on Wednesday, not far from a sidewalk and within steps of the arena’s front doors.

It carried the pigeon to the lowest branch on the tree, and within minutes all that was left of it were the feet and a few feathers — still visible on the branch a day later.

Meanwhile, other pigeon carcasses lay nearby, apparently previous victims.

But observers say the hawk’s diet is not limited to pigeons. Squirrels and rats have reason to fear for their lives, too. And like coyotes found roaming in the city, this hawk is unusual because it seems totally urbanized.

“It seems to like this corner,” said Graham Willcock, who operates Moss Park Arena.

“When I saw it, it was just sitting on the branch cleaning itself with its beak,” said another observer, Ruth Dundas, who was here from Thunder Bay to watch a grandchild participate in hockey camp.

Willcock said the bird has been lurking around the park for three years. He tells a recent story of the hawk on the ground just outside the arena doors, clutching a rat with its talons, as kids walked by, lugging their hockey equipment.

“The kids weren’t scared. They were fascinated,” Willcock said.

Some people weren’t sure whether it was a hawk or a falcon, another raptor species that has taken a liking to downtown Toronto.

But Ron Ridout, a biologist from Bird Studies Canada, a non-profit group that monitors bird populations, confirmed from a photo that it was a red-tailed hawk.

The bird has a brown-streaked belly band on a pale underside, and of course a red tail, which wasn’t visible in the photo.

While falcons are known to take up living quarters in high rise buildings, it’s more natural for hawks to nest in trees, the biologist said.

Red-tailed hawks are quite different from falcons in other ways: they’re bigger, with broader wings. Their hunting styles differ as well.

Falcons normally rely on speed to chase down their prey, while hawks soar high overhead and dive quickly, catching their prey by surprise.

The arena operator at Moss Park said he has seen the hawk strike pigeons right out of the sky. The pigeons have come to sense when the hawk is close by, and will panic and fly off.

Being migratory, red-tailed hawks often fly down to the central United States in the winter. But not all of them; if the supply of food is sufficient, some will stay behind, the biologist said. And this hawk clearly likes the food supply at Moss Park.

However, it is highly unusual “to see them on a street corner eating a pigeon.”

Sympathy for the pigeons was in scarce supply among people outside the arena Thursday. One man, asked if he’d heard about the hawk’s hunting habits, said he hadn’t, but added: “Good for it.”

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Jim Jenner's pigeons

by Brad Webber
The Rotarian -- December 2011

Fifth grader Kane, with Jenner, is among the Philipsburg, Montana, students taking part in Young Wings. Photo by John Nilles

“I’ve heard every joke,” says Jim Jenner. Those laughs come at the expense of Columba livia, or the rock dove – also known as the humble pigeon. Jenner bristles at the bird’s bad PR, particularly Woody Allen’s famous characterization of pigeons as “rats with wings.”

With their uncanny ability to find their way home from hundreds of miles away, pigeons deserve a little respect, says Jenner, an award-winning filmmaker whose 1990 documentary, Marathon in the Sky: The Story of Pigeon Racing, remains an inspiration for hobbyists. Actor and director Michael Landon narrated the film in exchange for Jenner’s footage of birds in flight, which Landon later used in his TV movie Where Pigeons Go to Die.

Doves, which mate for life, are often a symbol of peace, but as Jenner noted during a speech to England’s House of Commons in 2005, they’ve also played a vital role during wartime, braving flak to carry code across battlefronts. One of the earliest domesticated creatures, pigeons boast a diverse group of famous fanciers, including Charles Darwin, Pablo Picasso (Paloma, his daughter’s name, is Spanish for dove), and Queen Elizabeth II. A program on the Animal Planet network, Taking on Tyson, follows former prizefighter Mike Tyson as he races his pigeons against birds owned by trash-talking wiseguys.

Thomas, who is featured in Jenner's documentary, is part of a pigeon program in Belgium. Photo by Jim Jenner

Jenner, a member of the Rotary Club of Philipsburg, Mont., USA, “is a pretty dynamic figure in our world,” says John Heppner, president of the National Pigeon Association.

"Young Wings, a program Jenner started in 2009, brings children in Philipsburg, a 19th-century mining town, closer to the natural world. Through the program, children raise pigeons in a horse-trailer-turned-pigeon-loft. “This domestic creature, this wonderful, hardy, easy-to-care-for, inexpensive, and profoundly intelligent pet, can fit in with helping kids,” Jenner says.

He is completing a documentary about the program and similar projects, including one for former gang members in South Central Los Angeles and another for juvenile offenders in England.

Pigeons can help “young people become better people,” says Jenner. “I decided to make a film where I would tell a little of my own story and look for evidence that these birds can have a profound effect on children.”

Mike Cutler, superintendent of Philipsburg School District No. 1, says he’s seen how Young Wings has turned things around for some youngsters. “We’re a small community, but we have children from broken families. When those children find a love for pigeons, it kind of replaces things they may not be getting elsewhere. And it has taught the kids about the birds and the bees. It’s been a great science lesson.”

Jenner’s connection with pigeons began at age 10, when a classmate brought a cage with two street pigeons to their school in Seattle. “It was the first time a bird looked back at me,” he recalls. After talking his parents into letting him keep some birds of his own, “I had this responsibility, rain or shine, in all seasons, to take care of them. That teaches a child so much. Here I was, witnessing these very gentle, loving creatures. Their conduct with each other is a beautiful thing.”Besides, “it’s pretty neat to let something out of its cage and let it fly around the house at 50 miles per hour.”


Sunday, December 4, 2011

How pigeons produce ‘milk’

Deakin University
Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Deakin University scientists have revealed some of the secrets behind the pigeon’s rare ability to produce ‘milk’ to feed its young.Deakin PhD student Meagan Gillespie and research fellow Dr Tamsyn Crowley, along with colleagues from the University’s Institute for Technology Research and Innovation and CSIRO Livestock Industries, have studied the genes behind pigeon ‘milk’ production. They found that, like mammalian milk, it contains antioxidants and immune-enhancing proteins important for the growth and development of the young.

“Producing milk to feed babies is normally the domain of mammals, including humans. However, the pigeon is one of only three bird species (the others being flamingos and male emperor penguins) to produce a milk-like substance to feed their young,” Dr Crowley explained.“We looked at the genes involved in the production of pigeon ‘milk’ and found that it contains antioxidants and immune-enhancing factors. This suggests that, like mammalian milk, it plays a key role in enhancing the immune system of the developing baby.”Both female and male pigeons produce a nutrient rich substance in their crop to feed their young (squabs). This substance has been likened to lactation in mammals and is referred to as pigeon ‘milk’. This ‘milk’ is essential for the growth and development of the pigeon squab, and without it they fail to thrive.“Bird crops are normally used to store food. However, in the pigeon the crop changes prior to ‘lactation’ in response to hormones and returns to its ‘non-lactating’ state at the end of the lactation period, a bit like the mammary gland,” Ms Gillespie explained.“During ‘lactation’, a curd-like substance is created from fat-filled cells that line the crop and regurgitated to feed the squab. This ‘milk’ contains protein, fats, minerals and antibodies to provide nutrition to the young.”While studies have investigated the nutritional value of pigeon ‘milk’, very little is known about what it is or how it is produced.“This study has provided an insight into the process of pigeon ‘milk’ production by studying the genes expressed in the ‘lactating’ crop,” Ms Gillespie said.“Birds are different to other animals in that they don’t have sweat glands, but they do have the ability to accumulate fat in their outer skin cells (keratinocytes) which act like sweat glands. We found that the evolution of pigeon ‘milk’ appears to have developed from the ability of these outer skin cells to accumulate fat.“The way pigeon ‘milk’ is produced is an interesting example of the evolution of a system with similarities to mammalian lactation, with pigeon ‘milk’ fulfilling a similar function to mammalian milk but produced in a different way.”The results of the study will be published this week in BioMed Central’s journal BMC Genomics.About pigeon ‘milk’The crop in most species of birds is normally used as a food storage area. It is located between the oesophagus and the top of a bird’s stomach where food is moistened before further breakdown and digestion through the gastrointestinal tract.The pigeon is one of only three bird species (the others being flamingos and male emperor penguins) known to produce ‘milk’ to feed their young.In pigeons the milk starts to be produced in the crop of the parent birds two days before eggs hatch.During ‘lactation’, a curd-like substance is created from fat-filled cells that line the crop and regurgitated to feed the squab. This ‘milk’ is made up of protein (around 60 per cent), fat (up to 36 per cent), a small amount of carbohydrate (up to three per cent), a range of minerals and antibodies.Squabs are fed the ‘milk’ until they are around 10 days old. Once the young are weaned the ‘milk’ stops being produced.The unique qualities of pigeon milk have been shown in previous studies.One study tried replicating pigeon ‘milk’ however, for the squabs fed the artificial substance, their growth was either very poor or they died. This suggests that there is a unique quality to the pigeon milk that is necessary for squab growth and development.In another study, when pigeon ‘milk’ was fed to chickens their growth rate improved by 38 per cent. Since this study, it has been shown that pigeon ‘milk’ contains certain antibodies, which provides further evidence that it is not just a nutrient-based substance.


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