E. Lowell "Robbie" / "No Sweat" Robbins
My loft partner, John Hayes, and I recently got back our fifth racer from a distance of nearly 600 miles. This turned out to be a disastrous toss for the 118 pigeons that I released; 83 of them were young birds and nine were solid whites. The rest were yearlings with one two year old in the group. That two year old came home this week. She is a blue bar splash hen, Sion. I did not train her any last year. But the year before she came back on the second day as a young bird from 200 miles with ten of her twelve tail feathers ripped out of her along with talon wounds along her back; the results of a hawk attack, most likely a Cooper's hawk. Because of her miraculous flight back from Chattanooga I named her, after that city. And it was Chattanooga that recently came home from the near 600 miles in 29 days, saturated in oil. To see and handle her would have you doubting that she could fly 100 yards, let alone the distance she achieved. John and I have been washing her daily with Dawn's Dish-washing detergent but it has been having little effect on her caked in Vaseline-like grime. Dawn's dish-washing detergent may have helped the birds with oil on them during the oil spill along the Gulf but it is not proving to be much for us. I am now also using some alcohol napkins soaked in alcohol which is helping a little, but like the Dawn's, not much. We are just hoping to do this enough times so that eventually the hen will come back to being close to her old self. She is undergoing great care and after this last ordeal will permanently be stocked. She has proved beyond all measure that she is quite special. I have the mindset to send a photo of her into the top pigeon magazine and have that picture of her in all her desultory-look be published on the front cover. To me, she could not look more beautiful as I feel that below that mired appearance is the heart of a champion. And that she truly is what our sport is all about.
My intent with training young birds, etc. so hard the past several years has been to seek out exceptional racers, particularly at long distances. It is these distances of 600 miles and over that genuinely take over in showing just what kind of homing ability and instinct a pigeon owns. And it is this homing instinct that is the one thing that is more important for a great racer to own over all other qualities. Paul Sion created a reputation breeding down from exceptional long distance pigeons and so did my old friend, Charles Heitzman. Once you find truly great long distance pigeons you are on your way to success. Building physical qualities in racing pigeons is quite simple, a matter of genetics and one's understanding of what is recessive and dominant. And a mind's eye to understand aero dynamics.
One of the interesting notes I have observed this year, that something which I have greatly concerned myself about, is that homing instinct. In this recent experiment with 118 pigeons, 83 of which were young birds, only five have returned. Those five have been four yearlings and one two year old, "Chattanooga." NONE of the young birds have thus far returned. And that may well have been expected by the sport as the sport just naturally assumes that the older birds are more mature, stronger and better trained.
But that was actually NOT the case with this toss.
In truth, I had far more young birds than old birds in this toss; 83 of 118. And this particular group of young birds were actually better conditioned; better physically, better almost everything. As far as strength was concerned and probable ability, these young birds should have easily dominated the old yearlings that I sent. And yet, they did not. Thus far, not even close.
And what has this experiment said to me.
It hints that in some way the homing instinct itself, over time, becomes stronger in a pigeon living at a place.
This area of study is one that I have not seen employed by any scientist studying the homing instinct in pigeons, other birds or any animals.
What causes this homing instinct to grow stronger as the bird matures is an area I now find interesting.