Keeping Pigeons


Racing Pigeons
Photo by Michael Porter via Flickr

Robin Basselin and Adam Navis tell about the interesting sport of Pigeon racing. They tell about the many things these birds can do and the way people use them.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.

Voice 2 

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

“Competitions begin when the sun rises. Birds are released from rooftops. They fly high into the sky. Handlers from opposing teams watch carefully. The pigeons can circle the sky for up to 15 hours. The rules of the competition say that people must be able to see the pigeon the whole time it is flying. If it lands even a few centimeters past the edge of the roof, it is out of the competition. This pigeon racing competition usually lasts 14 days. Judges count the flight times up at the end to discover the best flier.”

Voice 1 

Annie Ali Khan is a writer. She wrote about a competition in Liliani, Pakistan. The competitors are a special kind of bird. These small grey pigeons are very common in many places around the world. In some places, people think they are dirty and not good for anything. But people in many countries love to keep pigeons. People use pigeons for many things, like racing in Liliani. Today’s Spotlight is on keeping pigeons for fun and sport.

Voice 2 

People have been raising pigeons for about 10,000 years. Some people call pigeons by their other name - the dove. In many ancient cultures, such as in Egypt, pigeons were an important religious symbol. Ancient Romans and Persians used pigeons to carry messages. And in many parts of the world, people raised pigeons for their meat. Today, fewer people raise pigeons for these reasons. But in some countries keeping pigeons is still very popular.

Voice 1 

There are many different kinds or breeds of pigeons. Pigeon keepers use different breeds for different purposes. Some people use pigeons for food. For example, in parts of China people cook a special meal with pigeon to celebrate the New Year. Pigeons reproduce and grow quickly. People can also keep them throughout all seasons of the year. This makes them a good source of meat in any place or season.

Voice 2 

Some people also keep pigeons because they look especially beautiful. There are many interesting breeds of these “fancy” pigeons. Some are all white, while others are many different colors. Different breeds of pigeons have interesting features such as long, soft tail feathers or designs on their heads. The owners of these kinds of pigeons enter them in competitions. Judges choose the best looking pigeons to win prizes.

Voice 1 

But pigeons have many other skills too. Pigeons can fly long distances without growing tired. They also have another special sense. No matter how far from home they are, pigeons can usually fly back to where they live. This is often called a “homing sense”. This sense makes them good for carrying messages to a particular place. People have been using pigeons to carry messages since the 5th century. Carrier pigeons have communicated news about many things from sports game results to financial news to important messages in times of war.

Voice 2 

The homing sense of pigeons also makes them good for something less urgent. Pigeons are good at racing! One way to race pigeons is to take them far from their home. When they are released, they fly back. Their keepers compete to see whose pigeon will reach home first.

Voice 1 

In many cities around the world, pigeons live in special houses, or lofts, on the rooftops. Lofts are where pigeons sleep and eat. Pigeons mostly eat different grains. But some keepers give them many kinds of food. Pigeon owners in Pakistan even feed round white pearls and gold to the pigeons! They grind these valuable objects up along with nuts. Then they feed them to their birds before a big race. People think this makes the pigeons strong and fast.

Voice 2 

The loft is also where new pigeons are born. Mian Azir Ahmad is one of Pakistan’s most famous pigeon breeders. Annie Ali Khan explains how he trains baby pigeons:

Voice 3 

“When the wings of a baby pigeon appear, the keeper ties them with thin rope. This keeps the bird from flying away too soon. And it also helps the bird to get used to being around its human keeper. After a week, the rope is loosened. The keeper does this a little more every day. On the 20th day the rope is completely untied. Then, the bird is free to fly. It has an ink mark under its tail identifying its owner.”

Voice 1 

Ahmad also taught his son how to keep pigeons. People often learn how to keep pigeons from an older relation or friend. And pigeon keepers spend a lot of money and time caring for their birds. When someone has a very good pigeon, he is very proud. He may also have a way to make money. In Pakistan and some countries in the Middle East, men can win prizes of money from pigeon races. They can even win new cars. But this is not usually the main reason people keep pigeons. Nisar Ahmed lives in Lahore, Pakistan. He is one of thousands of young men there who keep pigeons as a hobby. Ahmed told the news organization NPR:

Voice 4 

“It is very exciting for a pigeon keeper when his birds come up to him asking for food - when they chirp and shake their bodies. When we fly them, there are so many fears in our hearts as to what might happen to them. But when the pigeons return, I feel happy.”

Voice 2 

People love pigeons so much that they even take them along when they move to a new country. Mohammad Asif moved from Pakistan to New York City in the United States. Asif’s brother gave him a special breed of pigeon from their home town in Pakistan. Now, Asif continues his favorite hobby in New York. He keeps almost 200 pigeons in a rooftop loft. Asif even hosts a yearly pigeon racing competition at his home in New York. He told the New York Daily News:

Voice 5 

"Here in New York pigeons are just birds, but in Pakistan they are a way of life. We treat these birds like our children. When you are looking at a pigeon in the sky you feel free. It is the best feeling there is."

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Keeping Pigeons’.

Voice 2 

Tell us what you think about today’s program. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. And find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever seen a pigeon race? Do you enjoy watching sports like this?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
tvnguyen
said on March 22, 2015

No, I haven’t seen a pigeon race

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on March 27, 2015

In my country, a pigeon’ keeper wear a small silver ring around a leg of the pigeon. That ring had a number or a name of owner.

Sometimes, an owner has trained a pigeon some skills that made their pigeon can drag another pigeon to come to his rooftop.

They also cook a pigeon in a party with a lot of different taste. It’s very expensive.

They rarely arrange a flying contest but they are usually to organize a live show to asset which pigeon had a good looking body as color, strongly or agility.

Thanks Spotlightradio.net. GOD bless everybody.

Avatar Spotlight
uthman
said on April 02, 2016

i’ve seen pigeons in middle east (EGYPT). there just let pigeons out from rooftops. the pigeons just flying around. i don’t know why they make like that.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 09, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) ( Severino Ramos )
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Saturday 09, April 2016.

Dear Robin Basselin, Rena Dam, Adams Navis, and Marck Drenth.
Thank you so much to develop more one important theme for us readers and leaners of English. I love this matter because I like so much of the pigeons.
No, I have not. I have never seen a pigeon race. I do or I do not.  Maybe, because I have never seen a pigeon race. Next to my house there are many pigeons flying in the sky but in the downtown there a lot of pigeons. When they take off from the ground they look like a plane when is taking off at the airport. However, when these pigeons land on the street people enjoy the situation to feed them with bread, popcorn, grain of corn, and biscuits. Thanks.
All the best,
Severino Ramos
São Paulo SP Brazil

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 09, 2016

From: Severino Ramos (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))
To: spotlight
Subject: Learner
Date: Saturday 09, April 2016
Brazil

Dears from spotlight:
I am a learner of English. However, I have a lot of things to learn in English so in this answer I made a mistake. I wrote learn. Not LEARNER in which is the correct way to write. I am sorry about it. Severino Ramos. From Brazil.