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Carrier Pigeons

Carrier Pigeons

The British Army Pigeon Service was widely used for routine communications during the First World War. Trained pigeons were particularly useful once troops had advanced or retreated beyond prepared field telephone lines. They were also used as as back-up to radio on warships and seaplanes.

Army pigeons were willing to fly through heavy bombardment. Therefore they could only be used from the frontline to the rear, not the other way round.

Still holding out, but we are sustaining a very dangerous gas and smoke attack. Must be relieved soon. Send us visual communication through Fort Souville, which does not answer our appeals. This is our last pigeon.

The breed was developed in England from a combination of non–European breeds, including the Persian and Baghdad carriers, and the pouter. [2] The largest of the flying pigeon breeds, the Old English Carrier was originally used for sending messages.

By the mid 19th century, the points in the standard of the English Carrier were deemed to have been achieved, and the breed was praised for its "perfectness to which all the points most admired have been brought". [3] At this point the colors of the breed were limited to black, white and dun (a brownish grey color). [3] Today, the English Carrier is strictly a show pigeon, and is not the modern homing pigeon. This modern homing pigeon is a breed known as a Racing Homer, a breed which was bred from eight different pigeon breeds including the English Carrier. [4]

Charles Darwin wrote of the Carrier in The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, "This is a fine bird, of large size, close feathered, generally dark–coloured, with an elongated neck". [5] Darwin compared the dimensions of the breed to the rock dove, showing the length of the Carrier to be nearly double that of the rock dove. It was also found that the English Carrier could open its mouth wider than the rock dove, 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) as compared to 0.4 inches (1.0 cm). [5]

The English Carrier is typically about 17.5–18.5 inches (44–47 cm) in height, with a long, slender body. [6] The breast bone should be straight and long, as should the back which should slope towards the rump. They have a slender neck which should appear long in proportion to the rest of the bird and the legs should be solid, with no feathering below the knees. [6]

The English Carrier has typically deep red eyes, and a distinctive wattle which should be large but firm with a rounded shape and a powdery white finish on the surface. The beak is long and thick, and is of the type known as a box beak. The National English Carrier Club standard states that ideally the distance from the pupil of the eye to the tip of the beak should be not less than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in females, and 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) in males of the breed. [6]

Carrier pigeon

Wild Rock Pigeons are pale grey with two black bars on each wing, although domestic and feral pigeons are very variable in colour and pattern. There are few visible differences between males and females.

The Carrier pigeon is classified as Least Concern. Does not qualify for a more at risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.

A carrier pigeon is a homing pigeon (specifically a domesticated rock pigeon, Columba livia) that has been used to carry messages. Using pigeons to carry messages is generally called "pigeon post." Most homing or racing type varieties can be used to carry messages. There is no specific breed actually called "carrier pigeon," so a carrier pigeon is any variety that is used to carry messages. More

Carrier pigeons should not be confused with English Carriers, which were once used many years ago to carry messages but are now bred primarily for their "carriage" and other show qualities. Carrier Pigeon Carrier pigeons historically carried messages only one way, to their home. They had to be transported manually before another flight. However by placing their food at one location and their home at another location, pigeons have been trained to fly back and forth up to twice a day reliably. More

A carrier pigeon is a breed of pigeon (specifically a domesticated Rock Pigeon, Columba livia) that has wattles, a nearly vertical stature, and that may once have been used to carry messages. The carrier pigeons of today are not good flyers they are instead kept as an ornamental or fancy breed, valued for their unusual appearance. They are about 33 cm (about 13 in) in length, with the male generally larger than the female. More

The Carrier Pigeon was an American clipper ship that was launched in the fall of 1852 from Bath, Maine. Her value was estimated at $54,000. She was wrecked on her maiden voyage, off Santa Cruz, California. History - On January 28th 1853, the Carrier Pigeon left Boston. The clipper was bound to San Francisco on her maiden voyage. As a commercial ship, she was to deliver general merchandise. More

Carrier pigeons are heroic birds that have carried messages over enemy lines in battle for thousands of years. Though true carrier pigeons are a relatively rare breed, homing pigeons carry messages for today's hobbyists. You can raise homing pigeons or carrier pigeons with the same basic approach. Difficulty: ChallengingInstructions 1. Step 1 Cultivate a love of pigeons as a whole and a love of your individual birds. More

The humble carrier pigeon was an important part of the war effort in the conflicts of the 20th century, used to carry messages from the front line. The carrier pigeon has been used as a winged messenger for centuries. They were first used by the Egyptians and the Persians to carry messages some 3,000 years ago. They were also used by the ancient Greeks to carry the names of the winning Olympians to all corners of the empire. More

homing pigeon carrier pigeon racing pigeon * The bare facts about pigeon racing revealed and how to choose great birds * The time-tested method that is proven to breed a great pigeon family * The very first thing you must do is to find out what equipment you will need for successful breeding and racing * How to quickly and More

Carrier Pigeons are pigeons that are used to carry a message from one place to another. Carrier pigeons were used by the U.S. military during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Homing Pigeons are a slate blue color. The necks and wings of these birds often have iridescent shades of yellow, purple, and green. More

Carrier Pigeons in the Frency Army Return to the Bookstore For a reprint of this article visit the Pigeoncote bookstore. Scientific American Carrier Pigeons in the French Army By Lucien Fournier Picture of pigeons Carrier pigeon with dispatch in tail. The dispatch tube is slipped over the tail feathers. A pair of french military carrier pigeons. More

Until radio, the carrier pigeons was the fastest means of long-distance communication. It was also simple: get the pigeon comfortable in its loft. You an ten take it great distances away and release it, and it will return home. Vast pigeon networks were built this way. The famous Reuters news service began in 1851 as a carrier-pigeon network. The US military used carrier pigeons up through the Korean War Iraq used them in the Gulf War. More

Brevdueforening carrier pigeon club and Alan Cox, a programmer at Linux leader Red Hat and top deputy of Linux founder Linus Torvalds. The pigeon protocol didn't mean the fastest of networks, though. Taking an hour and 42 minutes to transfer a 64-byte packet of information makes the pigeon network about 5 trillion times slower than today's cutting-edge 40 gigabit-per-second optical fiber networks. More

Every time Carrier Pigeon runs, it checks its mailbox for e-mail from approved senders. It parses each e-mail for information about the program to record (title, date, start time, channel, etc.), schedules each program with Windows Media Center and replies with the result. Finally, if any of the e-mails requested a status report, Carrier Pigeon replies with a list of programs scheduled to record and a list of programs that have already been recorded. More

Welcome to Carrier Pigeon IT Services We are an independent team of web design and IT support personnel based in Brittany, France.Whether you are an individual, an organisation, an already established business or just starting up, we will design a site that works for you and gets your message across clearly and concisely.Let the Pigeon carry your message to the world. More

vues opada88 — 2 mai 2008 — carrier pigeon for more videos: opada88 — 2 mai 2008 — carrier pigeon for more videos:Catégorie : Animaux Tags :bird Chargement… J'aime Enregistrer dans Partager E-mail Skyrock Facebook Twitter MySpace Live Spaces Blogger orkut Buzz reddit Digg Chargement… Connectez-vous ou inscrivez-vous dès maintenant ! Publier un commentaire Commentaires de l'utilisateur ayant mis en ligne une vidéo (opada88) * icecold459 il y a 1 mois wat that thing on pigeon nose. More

"The Carrier Pigeon is The Ribble Valley's free monthly magazine. Keep an eye out for it flying into your letter box!" = The carrier pigeon circulates 12,000, A5, Full Colour Glossy FREE magazines to people's doors in Longridge, Ribchester, Mellor, Mellor Brook, Pleckgate, Lammack, Wilpshire, Langho, Billington, Brockhall Village, The Rydings, Calderstones Park, Whalley, Barrow and Clitheroe. You’ll also find copies of the Carrier Pigeon in Pubs, Restaurants, Supermarkets, Garages etc. More

The history of the use of carrier pigeons in warfare is indeed a varied and interesting one, with a long and illustrious history. It is believed that the use of carrier pigeons as a messenger service had it origins in antiquity – in 1150 A.D., the Sultan of Baghdad strapped capsules filled with papyrus sheets to the leg or back feathers of pigeons, and used them as messengers. More

The carrier pigeon is a particular species of pigeon which with faculty instinctively to find the way of its pigeon. A pigeon released with more than 600 km is able to return in the course of the day. More

carrier pigeoncarrier pigeon - a homing pigeon used to carry messageshoming pigeon, homer - pigeon trained to return home Translationscarrier pigeon n → piccione m viaggiatore - carrier pigeon n → piccione m viaggiatore How to thank TFD for its existence? Tell a friend about us, add a link to this page, add the site to iGoogle, or visit webmaster's page for free fun content. More


On January 28, 1853, Carrier Pigeon left Boston. The clipper was bound to San Francisco on her maiden voyage. As a commercial ship, she was to deliver general merchandise. The ship and her cargo were insured for $195,000.

In the mid 19th century, the Panama Canal had not yet been created, and thus the only way to reach the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean was to sail around Cape Horn, an area infamous for its shipwrecks. The prevailing winds in the vicinity of Cape Horn and south, blow from west to east around the world almost uninterrupted by land, giving rise to the "roaring forties" and the even more wild "furious fifties" and "screaming sixties." Despite this, Carrier Pigeon encountered no difficulties rounding the Cape. [2] [3]

On June 6, 1853, the clipper was sighted at Santa Cruz, California. San Francisco is located only about seventy nautical miles north of Santa Cruz. The cool California Current offshore, enhanced by upwelling of cold sub-surface waters, often creates summer fog near the coast, and June 6, 1853, was no exception. As night approached, so did the fog. The captain of Carrier Pigeon, Azariah Doane, believed that the ship was far from shore, and so he gave the order to sail eastward toward the shore. In few minutes the clipper hit the rocky bottom.

Heavy waves rocked the helpless clipper from side to side. The hull was opened to the incoming tide. After seven feet of cold Pacific water rushed into the ship, the captain and the crew had just a few moments to escape with their lives. Because the ship was wrecked only 500 feet (152 meters) from shore, all the members of the crew were able to reach the shore safely. [2] [3]

The news about the wreck reached San Francisco by the evening of June 7. The U.S. Coast Survey steamer Active was sent to the wreck. Later on sidewheel steamer Sea Bird joined the efforts in trying to save some cargo and whatever was left of Carrier Pigeon.

Steamer Sea Bird's salvage operations were under the command of the well-known "Bully" Waterman, formerly of Sea Witch. The crew of Pigeon was initially occupied with landing their own baggage through the surf, and wanted to remain ashore. However, Captain Waterman, with his characteristically forceful personality, set the listless crew members to work in the salvage operation, and kept order on the pitching decks as boxes of liquor came to light. The cargo included cases of shoes and footwear, and although it was to the locals' advantage to drop boxes over the side whenever possible, so that they might be scavenged later for personal use, Capt. Waterman put a stop to this.

The following morning, near daybreak, Sea Bird found herself in troubles of her own. As the wind picked up from the northwest with heavy swells, Sea Bird's two anchors began to drag. The ship broke free and started drifting towards the very same rocks that just a day before had wrecked Carrier Pigeon. The owner of Sea Bird, Captain John T. Wright, [4] had detailed knowledge of the area, and was able to maneuver his ship so that it beached a few miles south, on the sandy shore of Point Año Nuevo. This saved Sea Bird from being wrecked, and she was refloated a few months later, in October. [5]

One more ship, Goliah, was sent to help out to salvage as much merchandise as possible from the wreck. Goliah first checked on the safety of Sea Bird before coming to Carrier Pigeon. Goliah was able to transport both the crew of Carrier Pigeon and 1,200 packages of her merchandise north to San Francisco. On June 10, 1853 The Daily Alta California reported about Carrier Pigeon:

Her bows lay about 500 feet from the beach, and she rests amidships on a ledge of rocks, which have broken the ship's back. The tide ebbs and flows in her, and is up to her between-decks. [6]

The salvage operations continued for few more weeks, but by July, Carrier Pigeon was breaking apart.

Both wrecks appear to have left an impression on this sparsely populated stretch of the San Mateo County coastline. Despite Capt. Waterman's efforts, several local stories remain regarding the disposal of the cargoes of Carrier Pigeon and Sea Bird.

According to a guidebook published by the California Coastal Commission, the residents of Pescadero recovered a large quantity of white paint from Pigeon which they "used liberally on all the town's buildings," and then maintained the tradition of painting their houses white. [7] [However, other sources credit the 1896 wreck of the steamer Columbia as the source of the white paint.] [8]

An article in the "Wells Fargo Messenger" states that a stagecoach salvaged from Carrier Pigeon was laboriously hoisted up the cliffs onto the road, and put into service within a week. The coach, built in Concord, NH, carried passengers and freight on the Pescadero road for the Wells Fargo Company for forty years, and, in 1914, was listed among the company's prized possessions. [9]

Another tale relates that an Irishman named John Daly, who was employed driving pigs from Santa Cruz to a Pescadero ranch, discovered some lumps of coal from Sea Bird's cargo on the beach at Ano Nuevo. Mr. Daly endeavored to parley his discovery into money which he might spend on whiskey. Since coal deposits had been rumored to exist in the area, Mr. Daly proceeded with his lumps of coal to Santa Cruz, announcing to Captain Brannan and three others that he'd discovered a coal mine at Gazos Creek. After collecting his monetary reward, he led the four men up Gazos Creek in search of the alleged coal outcropping, with the intention of escaping and leaving his benefactors behind empty-handed. However, Captain Brannan, who was armed, managed to capture Daly and extracted a confession. Daly was administered a whipping on the spot and later fled the area. [10]

A few years later, in 1871, a lighthouse was built on a point near where the wreck occurred. To commemorate Carrier Pigeon, the structure was named Pigeon Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse is still an active Coast Guard aid to navigation in the area.


Domestic pigeons reproduce in a similar way to the wild rock pigeon. Generally humans will select breeding partners. Crop milk or pigeon milk produced by both male and female parent birds may occasionally be replaced with artificial substitutes. Pigeons are extremely protective of their eggs, and in some cases will go to severe lengths to protect their productive eggs and have been known to seek revenge on those who interfere with their productive process. Baby pigeons are called squeakers or squabs. [4]

Trained domestic pigeons are able to return to the home loft if released at a location that they have never visited before and that may be up to 1,000 km (620 mi) away. This ability a pigeon has to return home from a strange location necessitates two sorts of information. The first, called "map sense" is their geographic location. The second, "compass sense" is the bearing they need to fly from their new location in order to reach their home. Both of these senses, however, respond to a number of different cues in different situations. The most popular conception of how pigeons are able to do this is that they are able to sense the Earth's magnetic field [5] [6] [7] with tiny magnetic tissues in their head (magnetoception) [ citation needed ] . Another theory is that pigeons have compass sense, which uses the position of the sun, along with an internal clock, to work out direction. However, studies have shown that if magnetic disruption or clock changes disrupt these senses, the pigeon can still manage to get home. The variability in the effects of manipulations to these sense of the pigeons indicates that there is more than one cue on which navigation is based and that map sense appears to rely on a comparison of available cues [8]

A special breed, called homing pigeons, has been developed through selective breeding to carry messages, and members of this variety of pigeon are still being used in the sport of pigeon racing and the white release dove ceremony at weddings and funerals.

Other potential cues used include:

  • The use of a sun compass [9]
  • Nocturnal navigation by stars [10]
  • Visual landmark map [11][12]
  • Navigation by infrasound map [13]
  • Polarised light compass [14] stimuli [15]

For food Edit

Pigeons are also bred for meat, generally called squab and harvested from young birds. Pigeons grow to a very large size in the nest before they are fledged and able to fly, and in this stage of their development (when they are called squabs) they are prized as food. For commercial meat production a breed of large white pigeon, named "King pigeon," has been developed by selective breeding. Breeds of pigeons developed for their meat are collectively known as utility pigeons.

Exhibition breeds Edit

Pigeon fanciers developed many exotic forms of pigeon. These are generally classed as fancy pigeons. Fanciers compete against each other at exhibitions or shows and the different forms or breeds are judged to a standard to decide who has the best bird. Among those breeds are the English carrier pigeons, a variety of pigeon with wattles and a unique, almost vertical, stance (pictures). There are many ornamental breeds of pigeons, including the "Duchess" breed, which has as a prominent characteristic feet that are completely covered by a sort of fan of feathers. The fantail pigeons are also very ornamental with their fan-shaped tail feathers.

Flying/Sporting Edit

Pigeons are also kept by enthusiasts for the enjoyment of Flying/Sporting competitions. Breeds such as tipplers are flown in endurance contests by their owners.

Domestic pigeons are also commonly used in laboratory experiments in biology, medicine and cognitive science.

Cognitive science Edit

Pigeons have been trained to distinguish between cubist and impressionist paintings, for instance. In Project Sea Hunt, a US coast guard search and rescue project in the 1970s/1980s, pigeons were shown to be more effective than humans in spotting shipwreck victims at sea. [16] Research in pigeons is widespread, encompassing shape and texture perception, exemplar and prototype memory, category-based and associative concepts, and many more unlisted here (see pigeon intelligence).

Pigeons are able to acquire orthographic processing skills, [17] which form part of the ability to read, and basic numerical skills equivalent to those shown in primates. [18]

In the United States, some pigeon keepers illegally trap and kill hawks and falcons to protect their pigeons. [19] In American pigeon-related organizations, some enthusiasts have openly shared their experiences of killing hawks and falcons, although this is frowned upon by the majority of fanciers. None of the major clubs condone this practice. It is estimated that almost 1,000 birds of prey have been killed in Oregon and Washington, and that 1,000–2,000 are killed in southern California annually. In June 2007, three Oregon men were indicted with misdemeanour violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for killing birds of prey. Seven Californians and a Texan were also charged in the case.

In the West Midlands region of the United Kingdom pigeon fanciers have been blamed for a trap campaign to kill peregrine falcons. Eight illegal spring-loaded traps were found close to peregrine nests and at least one of the protected birds died. The steel traps are thought to have been set as part of a "concerted campaign" to kill as many of the birds as possible in the West Midlands. [20]

Pigeon breeders sometimes suffer from an ailment known as bird fancier's lung or pigeon lung. A form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, pigeon lung is caused by the inhalation of the avian proteins found in feathers and dung. It can sometimes be combated by wearing a filtered mask. [21] Other pigeon related pathogens causing lung disease are Chlamydophila psittaci (which causes psittacosis), Histoplasma capsulatum (which causes histoplasmosis) and Cryptococcus neoformans), which causes cryptococcosis.

Many domestic birds have escaped or been released over the years, and have given rise to the feral pigeon. These show a variety of plumages, although some look very much like pure rock pigeons. The scarcity of the pure wild species is partly due to interbreeding with feral birds. Domestic pigeons can often be distinguished from feral pigeons because they usually have a metal or plastic band around one (sometimes both) legs which shows, by a number on it, that they are registered to an owner. [22]

Pigeons as Messengers

The story of Noah in the Bible describes one of the earliest uses of the pigeon as a messenger. Noah sent the pigeon from the ark to see if the deluge was over. It was sent a few times before it came back with a branch of an olive tree in its beak, which proved to Noah that the waters had begun to subside. There are even earlier writings, such as the Sumerian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’, that also include a story about a great flood and how a pigeon played the role of a messenger.

Tablets, found in Mesopotamia (areas around Iraq and Iran of today), as well as Egyptian hieroglyphics, suggest that pigeons were being domesticated by both civilizations already around 3000 BCE. Eventually, in time, they learned how to use their homing instincts for communication purposes. For example the Egyptians would release pigeons in order to announce, to the people, the rise of a new pharaoh.

First century BCE Mosaic of Scene with Egyptian Columbarium for Breeding Pigeons found in Palestrina beside Rome 1

There are records that indicate that Phoenician merchants used to take pigeons on their ships during their business trips in the Mediterranean and would let them go whenever they needed to release information about their business tours.

The Greeks used carrier pigeons to release the results of the Olympic games and to send messages about victories in their battle fields.

Frontinus, the Roman writer, tells about the use of carrier pigeons by Julius Caesar. There are documents about the existence of columbarium in Rome that contained over 5000 pigeons.

Conquerors throughout history, such as Hannibal and Genghis Khan, also used pigeon-post as a communication network.

The added value for using pigeons as message carriers in the ancient world was quite significant.

When compared to other means of long distance communication in ancient times, such as smoke, drums and human messengers, pigeon carriers provided a more private and discrete way of transferring messages.

Between the end of the 12th century to the mid 13th century CE, the use of carrier pigeons reached its peak. Marco Polo in his writings mentions, in admiration, the extensive use of carrier pigeons in the east.

The use of carrier pigeons was so well known in the 1800s that many people believed it was the carrier pigeon, in 1815, that brought the message of Napoleon’s defeat in the battle of Waterloo to Nathan Rothschild, 3 days before Wellington’s human messenger. This has been disputed by a Rothschild family biographer. A few years later, however, pigeons were used by the young Reuters Agency to communicate stock exchange information between Germany and Belgium.

During 1870-71 during the war between Prussia and France, messages were sent from and to seized Paris. This was the only way of communication between the city to the neighboring towns.

In the 1st World War a portable pigeon home was created in order to accompany the soldiers to the front. This enabled them to send messages almost instantly. It is known that the French espionage service used carrier pigeons to send messages to and from their agents behind the lines.

One of the most famous carrier pigeons of the 1st World War was “Cher Ami” that saved around 200 American soldiers. Despite injuries inflicted by the German army, this little pigeon managed to get its message to the Allies in time to save the soldiers and the pigeon quickly became a symbol of heroism. Today its stuffed body can be seen in the Smithsonian Institute in United States.

There was also an extensive use of pigeons in World War 2, and decorations for valor were awarded to 32 of them, including two famous pigeons – GI Joe and the Irish Paddy.

During the British Mandate over Palestine, carrier pigeons were used by the Jewish organizations. In 1948 during the war of independence, carrier pigeons were used by the Israeli army to send and receive messages from the seized city of Jerusalem when other means of communications failed.

The development of technology and new means of communications have resulted in a reduction in use of carrier pigeons, but their place in history is recognized, well appreciated and remembered.

Using Carrier Pigeons for Communication in Antiquity

Egyptian Columbarium for pigeon breeding, a mosaic from Palestrina, first century BCE.

"By the eighth century B.C., Greeks were using pigeons to send the results of Olympic Games from town to town. Genghis Khan used pigeons to create a communication network across his empire in 12th century A.D." (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/science/pigeons-a-darwin-favorite-carry-new-clues-to-evolution.html?hpw, accessed 02-04-2012).

"The story of Noah in the Bible describes one of the earliest uses of the pigeon as a messenger. Noah sent the pigeon from the ark to see if the deluge was over. It was sent a few times before it came back with a branch of an olive tree in its beak, which proved to Noah that the waters had begun to subside. There are even earlier writings, such as the Sumerian &lsquoEpic of Gilgamesh&rsquo, that also include a story about a great flood and how a pigeon played the role of a messenger.

"Tablets, found in Mesopotamia (areas around Iraq and Iran of today), as well as Egyptian hieroglyphics, suggest that pigeons were being domesticated by both civilizations already around 3000 BCE. Eventually, in time, they learned how to use their homing instincts for communication purposes. For example the Egyptians would release pigeons in order to announce, to the people, the rise of a new pharaoh.

"There are records that indicate that Phoenician merchants used to take pigeons on their ships during their business trips in the Mediterranean and would let them go whenever they needed to release information about their business tours.

"The Greeks used carrier pigeons to release the results of the Olympic games and to send messages about victories in their battle fields.

"Frontinus, the Roman writer, tells about the use of carrier pigeons by Julius Caesar. There are documents about the existence of columbarium in Rome that contained over 5000 pigeons.

"Conquerors throughout history, such as Hannibal and Genghis Khan, also used pigeon-post as a communication network.

"The added value for using pigeons as message carriers in the ancient world was quite significant.

By Jon Hoppe

Letting the carrier pigeon loose from a a seaplane while in the air. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Admiral Alfred Melville Pride‘s early interest in aviation was followed by his enlistment in Naval Reserve for World War I in 1917, aviation training, and brief overseas duty in France. In 1922, Pride joined the commissioning crew of the United State’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1), as one of her aviators.

Pride recalled many years later one of the little-known facts about the earlier carrier—that when the Langley was built equipped with a carrier pigeon loft. Admiral Pride explains why in an edited excerpt below.

Up to the time the Langley was commissioned, every naval air station had carrier pigeons we used to take with us on flights. Before we took off, we went over to the pigeon loft and got a little box with four pigeons in it. Then, if we had a forced landing, of which we had quite a number, we wrote out a message and stuck it in the capsule that was fastened to the pigeon’s leg and let it go. The pigeon flew back to the air station, and they knew where we were, presumably. This had been going on for a long while in the early days of aviation.

Carrier pigeons in pigeon box being handed up to pilot in plane before leaving, U.S. Naval Air Station, Anacostia, Washington, D.C. February 12, 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

The pigeons were kept on the fantail of the Langley in a large room, the pigeon loft. During shakedowns, the pigeon quartermaster—there was such a fellow—would let his pigeons out, one or two at a time, for exercise. They’d leave the ship and fly around, and usually stayed in sight. Pretty soon, they’d come back and land on a little platform connected to a little alarm bell outside the coop. The bell would ring, and the pigeon quartermaster opened the door, and in they’d go.

Inside view of a Navy Pigeon Loft (Naval History and Heritage Command)

One beautiful morning, while in the Chesapeake Bay, anchored off Tangier Island, Commander “Squash” Griffin said to the pigeon quartermaster, “Let them all go.” The pigeon quartermaster demurred a little, but Squash said, “Go ahead, let them all go.” The pigeon quartermaster opened the coop and let all the pigeons out at once. They took off, heading for Norfolk, since they had been trained while the ship was in the Norfolk Navy Yard. All at once, we had no pigeons on the Langley. Pretty soon we got a dispatch from the Navy Yard. I don’t know how Norfolk knew they were ours, but they said, “Your pigeons are all back here. We haven’t got any appropriation for pigeon feed.”

A group of carrier pigeons in training ca. 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

We put the pigeon quartermaster in a plane and flew him down to Norfolk. He found them all roosting in the crane where we’d been fitting out. After dark, the quartermaster climbed up in the crane and picked them up—it can be done after dark—and took them over to the Naval Air Station. That’s the last we ever saw of pigeons on the Langley. They made the pigeon coop into the executive officer’s cabin, a very nice one, incidentally.

The USS Langley (CV-1) was the United States’ first aircraft carrier. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

The Lexington and Saratoga, meanwhile, had been laid down as battle cruisers, each with a nice, big compartment up on the main deck (which was the deck below the flight deck) set aside as the pigeon loft. The Navy deleted the pigeon loft from the plans of the Lexington and Saratoga and made them into berthing compartments. The pigeons were expendable since, by then, our aircraft were carrying wireless. The flying boats had wireless all through World War I, and the ones we used for flying off the battleships had radio in them the first year to transmit our locations. We didn’t get voice on the planes until after World War I. получить займ на карту

The Pigeon in History

No other bird has had such close links with man, nor been useful to him in so many ways. Over the centuries the pigeon has served him as symbol, sacrifice, source of food and, not least, as a messenger, both sacred and secular. It has also played a minor role as bait and decoy in the ancient sport of falconry and was massacred by the hundred in the English pigeon-shooting matches of the 19th century. Today, the gentler pursuits of pigeon fancying and racing both have a large following in many parts of the world.

It cannot be said that the pigeon is a very popular bird nowadays. In the cities of the world, where most of them now live, they are much in the public eye but are generally regarded as a civic nuisance. Today, people are divided into those who love the creatures and those who detest them. Sadly, this current prejudice overlooks many aspects of the bird’s long history and fails to acknowledge the great debt owed to it in the past it is not just any other bird.

Urban Flock of
Feral Pigeons

Rock Doves in
Natural Habitat

The earliest history of the pigeon dates back to a remote time in antiquity when primitive man worshipped the all-powerful Mother Goddess with whom the bird was inextricably linked. The symbolic bond between them stemmed primarily from the pigeon’s exceptional fecundity, but may have been allied with the curious tenderness of its courtship behaviour. The archaeological discovery of lifelike pigeon images beside the figurines of the goddess, dating from the Bronze Age (2400-1500 BC) in Sumerian Mesopotamia, confirms these ancient roots. Worship of the goddess and her bird spread to Crete, where she was depicted with doves on her head, and also to Cyprus where the birds can be seen on Roman coins perching on the temple roof-tops. In the Greco-Roman classical world Aphrodite (Venus) was regarded primarily as the goddess of love to whom pigeon offerings were made in exchange for blessings and favours in such matters, while Demeter (Ceres), another version of the Mother Goddess, sometimes borrowed the dove symbol.

Ancient Greek legend tells of the sacred oak grove at the Dodona where the god Zeus (Jupiter) and his dove-priestesses made oracular interpretations based on the flight and behaviour of birds. Among the birds customarily used were ravens, crows, cranes and owls, but only the pigeon with its innate homing instinct could be relied upon to return without fail, particularly when used covertly as a messenger. An early Greek coin shows Zeus standing between trees on which the birds are perched. In Greek mythology the relationship between Venus and Mars (Ares), the god of war, became a popular allegory of strife overcome by love. During the Renaissance this was graphically illustrated in paintings and manuscripts.

The Old Testament story of Noah and his release of the dove from the Ark shows that he was also familiar with the bird’s homing ability. The symbol of the dove carrying an olive branch and bringing its message of hope and peace has endured until the present day. One variation of the legend relates that the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat in the mountainous region between the Black and Caspian Seas, an event commemorated on a 17th-century coin showing the dove returning with the message of good hope.

Many facets of pagan worship were woven into early Christian dogma and the dove, like other deeply-rooted elements of the past, was adapted and perpetuated. In the New Testament the allegorical exhortation by Jesus Christ to his disciples, ‘Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves be ye therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves’, recalls the snake and dove, both symbols of the ancient goddess. The dove as the Holy Ghost, the messenger of the Divine, had evolved into the third person of the Trinity. It played a central role in Christianity, particularly at the Annunciation when it brought the message from God to Mary and on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism. In more concrete form dove images were used in churches as adornments for pews and as font covers and also as receptacles for the Holy Sacraments.

Mobile Pigeon Loft World War I

The white dove is still a popular emblem of peace and goodwill and in this age of consumerism it features widely in many kinds of promotion, including greeting cards. When depicted carrying an olive branch in its beak it symbolises the traditional message which originates in the biblical story of Noah. The maxim ‘Hawks and Doves’, in which the hawks favour action and intervention while the doves support compromise and negotiation, was already familiar in early fables and is often used nowadays, particularly in times of conflict. Media reports of peace marches often carried the description of The Day of the Dove. More recently, the political scandal in the UK concerning the supply of aircraft to Saudi Arabia has revealed that a strange distortion of the Arabic word for the affair, ‘Yammah’, means ‘dove of peace’.

In fact, the birds have had so many roles, as symbols of gods and goddesses, sacrificial victims, messengers, pets and food and sometimes more than one of these at the same time, that one cannot help thinking that we have put too much on them. To love them for their homing instinct and then to use that instinct for sport or war might seem like exploitation. But the present prejudice that exists against the city pigeon is possibly the greatest irony of all. Our past debt to the bird should not be forgotten.

The feral city pigeons in towns all over the world today are largely refugee birds from abandoned dovecotes of yesterday. City buildings resemble the rocky cliffs of the natural habitat and afford alternative nesting sites. The birds themselves have become superbly adapted to the risks and vigours of urban existence, but it cannot be said that they are very popular. Being much in the public eye they are generally regarded as a civic nuisance. Hence, in many parts of the world a solution is being sought by civic authorities. Lethal controls are not only inhumane but have proved to be ineffective. By contrast, a combination of measures to ‘pigeon-proof’ buildings and to restrict pigeon feeding by the public to designated areas together with the erection of pigeon-lofts for the birds, from which eggs are removed, has proved to be successful in reducing numbers.

PCRC, Unit 4, Sabre Buildings, Sabre Close, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 6TW

The Carrier Pigeon Corps of WWII – Operation Columba

When discussing World War II, the campaigns most often mentioned include Operation Barbarossa, Operation Drumbeat, Operation Overlord, etc.

Rarely does Operation Columba enter the conversation.

Operation Columba (the scientific word for a genus of pigeon) was set up in Great Britain in the early 1940s to send messages with homing pigeons. Over one thousand messages were transported by the birds that were donated by both British and American bird keepers until a breeding program started to produce a ready supply.

Canadian PO (A) S Jess, wireless operator of an Avro Lancaster bomber operating from Waddington, Lincolnshire carrying two pigeon boxes. Homing pigeons served as a means of communications in the event of a crash, ditching or radio failure.

The birds were dropped in small containers attached to a parachute into occupied Europe. Locals who found the birds sent messages back advising of the status of the Germans in their locality. Many of the pigeons flew over four hundred miles to deliver their secrets.

According to a 1943 report, the majority of the pigeons were dropped in northern France. In 1941, six hundred and ninety birds were dropped, with one hundred and fifty returned, and of those, eighty-two brought back messages.

In 1942, two thousand and forty-four were dropped and two hundred and seventy-six came back with one hundred and forty-six messages. In 1943, five thousand eight hundred and fourteen were dropped, six hundred and thirty-four returned and three hundred and sixty-six messages were delivered.

Some challenges faced by the program were weather, large predators such as hawks, and capture by Nazi sympathizers.

An aircrew sergeant of No. 209 Squadron RAF about to launch a carrier pigeon from the side hatch of a Saro Lerwick flying boat.

The Germans were fully aware of the Allied use of pigeons and were outraged that the Allies were so easily penetrating their territory and giving civilians the chance to resist. Proclamations were sent out stating that keeping unknown pigeons amounted to espionage and the penalty, if caught, was death – which only served to encourage more pigeon keepers.

In 1944, a pigeon by the name of Lucia di Lammermoor was released and captured by the Germans. When she returned to the Allied troops, she was carrying a message that read, To the American Troops: Herewith we return a pigeon to you. We have enough to eat. —The German Troops.

German unmanned camera pigeon. Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R01996

In February of 1942, a Royal Air Force Beaufort bomber returning from a mission over Norway was hit by German fire and ditched in the North Sea. The sea was freezing, and the men were unable to radio their position to receive help.

One of the passengers on the doomed aircraft was a pigeon named Winkie, who was let loose. Winkie flew one hundred and twenty miles to Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee, Scotland, where she was found, covered in oil and completely exhausted, by her owner, George Ross.

Ross alerted the RAF, and they were able to determine the location of the crashed airplane by calculating Winkie’s arrival time with the approximate time of ditching and the wind direction. A rescue ship was launched, and the men were saved.

Winkie was awarded the Dickin Medal, a medal given to animals for “outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defense units in any theatre of war throughout the world.” Over thirty pigeons were awarded the medal for service during World War II.

The seven man crew of an Avro Lancaster bomber wait near the crew room at Waddington, Lincolnshire for transport out to their aircraft. The pigeons seen in boxes in the foreground are homing pigeons carried for communication purposes in case of ditching or radio failure.

Another recipient of the Dickin Medal was a carrier pigeon called G.I. Joe who delivered a message stating that a town which the Allies had planned on bombing had been liberated by the British Army. Because of the message, over one thousand civilians and their property, as well as hundreds of soldiers, were spared.

In 1982, David Martin of Surrey was restoring a chimney in his 17 th century home when pigeon bones fell out. One of the leg bones had a small capsule attached with a message inside. Two birds carrying the same message were dispatched in 1944 because of the urgency of the message but neither made it.

Martin’s home is located between Normandy and Bletchley Park, the home of a secret center for code breakers where Alan Turing broke the Nazi Enigma code. It is believed that the bird was released in Normandy with a secret D-Day related message for the codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Martin turned the message over to Bletchley Park, now a museum, so they could interpret it. The publicity of the incident attracted the attention of journalist Gordon Corera, who has since written a book, Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Columba, Resistance, and the Struggle to Liberate Europe.

Watch the video: Να Ένας Σοφός. 08. Αθηναίος-Τσολιάδες-Περιστέρια. Λάμπρος Φισφής @ SNFCC (January 2022).