‘Racehorses of the sky’: racing pigeons trained to navigate home, be good neighbours, Calgary pigeon-keepers say.

Keeping pigeons has been a hobby or passion for some Calgary residents for more than 100 years, and now keepers of racing pigeons say they aren’t ruffled by new license requirements.

Under the new pigeon license as part of the responsible pet ownership bylaw, a licence must be obtained from the City of Calgary at an annual cost of $10, among other rules.

The president of the Calgary Racing Pigeon Club said its origins date back to 1904, and he also said the birds kept by fanciers are not the same as those flying around downtown Calgary.

“What do they call them, the rats of the sky? We call them the racehorses of the sky,” said Dave Mckop.

He said the pigeons kept in a custom-built loft made of adjoining garden sheds with additional aviary pens and enclosures, are trained to be good neighbours and stay close to home.

“(Racing pigeons) are controlled birds.”

He then added, “The birds are homed to this particular loft. If any of these birds ever get away they always come back here.”

PIGEON POOP REGULATIONS

City officials say the updated rules are in response to nuisance complaints made by some neighbours — mostly for concerns about pigeon droppings.

“One of the things that we put into the bylaw to help clarify expectations around that is that people are not supposed to be flying their pigeons until two hours after they’ve been fed.”

City officials say the updated rules are in response to nuisance complaints made by some neighbours — mostly for concerns about pigeon droppings.

She added “they need to have empty stomachs so they are not defecating on those neighbouring properties,” said Jennifer Lawlor, a leader with strategic services.

Joeven Avendano built a pigeon loft in his southwest backyard after a site inspection and approval from the City of Calgary.

He said being a good neighbour is high priority for him and his prize-winning racing pigeons.

“This is a hobby that makes people happy,” said Avendano. “You put them in the race. Winning is a treasure for a guy who loves pigeons.”

He’s also a member of the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union, which is another requirement of the pigeon license.

Applicants could also be a member with Canadian Pigeon Fanciers Association, which come with their own annual fees.

The city has not placed a limit on the number of birds allowed per licence-holder.

License applicants must be over age 18, and must be the homeowner where a loft is built, or have written permission from the owner to keep the birds.

PIGEONS GROUNDED

No more than 30 pigeons can fly in the air at one time.

However, since early May, Calgary racing pigeon have not been allowed to fly since the detection of am avian influenza spreading through Canada.

The province will lift the ban on June 21, and pigeons will begin training for races again.

McKop said he’s unaware of any racing pigeons contracting the virus and is very excited to see his birds take wing once again.

“The joy that you get seeing these birds come home from a race is unbelievable, it’s unexplainable.”

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