2012-09-06 / Local & State

Racing Pigeons Appearing Unexpectedly in Lancaster




LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) – Why are racing pigeons dropping out of the sky into the laps of Lancaster County residents?

At least three banded racing homer pigeons, specially bred for racing, have shown up in various parts of the county in the last eight days, much to the surprise and concern of local residents.

The birds have alighted at a man’s garage near Columbia, at a retirement community in Manheim and at a business off Route 283 near Elizabethtown.

Imagine Kevin Gavaghan’s surprise a week ago when he walked into his garage and found a snowwhite pigeon sitting on the leather seat of his expensive Harley-Davidson chopper motorcycle.

“He scared the heck out of me. He followed me around the driveway,’’ said Gavaghan, who lives near Prospect Road in West Hempfield Township.

“I thought a cat had got him.’’ What’s amazing to Gavaghan is that after about 90 minutes the pigeon took off, presumably never to be seen again.

But lo and behold, on Wednesday, there was the pigeon again in his garage.

From a website of the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers, Gavaghan was able to determine that the bird belonged to a member of the Phoenixville Western Pigeon Club, one of the region’s largest racing clubs.

Club member Gary Moore, cousin of the bird’s owner, noted that the pigeon had been involved in a 100- mile race last weekend in which the birds were released in Carlisle.

He speculated that the bird was probably dehydrated, dropped down for some rest, hit the jackpot with Gavaghan and stayed in the area for several days, stopping by for another handout of birdseed and water.

He noted that a band on one of the pigeon’s legs showed it was a bird hatched this year.

“Young birds born this year are not very smart,’’ he said. “He knew where to get feed and water.’’

On the bird’s other leg was a band containing an electronic chip. When racing birds return home, an electronic pad at the entrance to their roost scans the time, telling owners how long it took the bird to fly the race.

Moore said his cousin and Gavaghan are arranging for the pigeon to be reunited with its owner.

On Monday, Carey Wentworth spotted a multihued pigeon with bands on both legs strutting around the grounds of Pleasantview Retirement Community in Manheim.

Residents fed the pigeon birdseed and gave it water. All that could be read at a distance on one of the bands were the letters “NEW.’’

The next day, the pigeon was still there, but Wentworth did not see it.

“I hope he makes it to his destination,’’ Wentworth said. “We have seen it fly, so we know it’s not injured.’’

The third racing pigeon appeared Wednesday, Aug. 22, at a machine shop at Greiner Industries off Route 283.

The pigeon was coaxed into a cage, where it was given food and water. It was released and flew away two days later.

A band on one of the bird’s legs contained the letters “WTCM,’’ which means the bird likely was scheduled to race in the World Trade Center Memorial Band Race, the largest pigeon-racing contest in the Northeast, held each October. It has a top prize of $50,000.

Moore said there are a lot of pigeon races this time of year and that the three birds might have taken timeouts from various contests.

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