Aerial Thoroughbreds Fly the Skies over greater Spokane
The Spokane Racing Pigeon Club has a long and storied history. While some accounts claim that the actual “club” was founded around 1938, many an old-timer remembers hearing about a number Belgium immigrants moving into the Spokane area right after World War I and bringing their beloved racing pigeons with them. Some say that the first club was organized way back by those early Belgians in the 1920’s.
But, no matter the actual starting date of an organized club, after nearly one hundred years the sport of pigeon racing has held a number of local enthusiasts captive with their uncanny ability to return home after being released many miles away from their little backyard lofts.
Scientists and university studies conducted all over the world have concluded that this one pound of mostly muscle and feathers, with a hollow bone structure, have an incredibly complex GPS system provided by Mother Nature. By utilizing a sensitized magnetic element in their beaks to determine north and south and then comparing sun location at the time of release to their “mind print” of where the sun should be at their home loft, these little wonders triangulate a directional course for home while traveling an average of 45 miles per hour. Amazingly, they can reach speeds of up to 80 with a strong helping wind.
Spokane RPC members live and race their own teams of birds from backyards ranging from Davenport, WA to Plummer, Idaho to Spirit Lake, Idaho. There are old timers and junior members working and racing side-by-side in this family sport.
Beginning races often start in April with releases from Pendleton, OR on the southern course or from Plymouth, WA on the SW course and conclude some nine weeks later for the older birds from places like Carson City, NV (600 miles – measured by straight airline) or Hallelujah Junction in California. The young birds (born that calendar year) fly a 6 week schedule in the fall concluding with locations like Bend, Oregon 300 miles away.
Distances are measured by GPS from release points to the exact home loft location and birds carry microchip bands scanned the night before into individual computer clocks that record their arrivals to the second as they travel over an antennae at their home lofts.
“…this hobby has a great appeal to those who enjoy working with animals, to those who appreciate athleticism, to those who like friendly, wholesome competition. The allure of these amazingly athletic birds can be overpowering.
“(Individuals) can seek out your own comfort level with the birds. If you desire a lower-key approach, with only a handful of homing pigeons for the family to enjoy, that’s certainly an attractive approach for many. The spectrum also includes those who are deeply committed to racing. Races range in distance from 100 miles to 600 miles, with 300 miles being among the most popular distances.”
The national organization (American Racing Pigeon Union) has long recognized local… racing pigeon events as a positive setting for membership interaction, entertainment, and education. These events (races, shows, seminars, auctions, etc.) provide an opportunistic arena for members to gather and celebrate their love of the sport and to work together in making this wholesome hobby an even more enjoyable pastime.
The Spokane RPC can be contacted via club secretary Dave Long at 208-704-5201 and email@example.com or club race secretary Jerry Michielli at 509-990-3244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.