Pebbles: An Almost-Survivor of Pigeon Racing

Pebbles, a victim of pigeon racing

Pebbles, a victim of pigeon racing

Pigeon racing hobbyists breed thousands of domestic pigeons, transport them hundreds of miles from home and then release them in a competition to see which birds return first. Unfortunately, many (sometimes most) of the pigeons will never make it home. They get exhausted, lost, blown off course, injured, starved. The luckiest among them are found by nice people.

On June 9th, I received this email:

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I found your website while trying to do some research.

This morning, we found a pigeon in our yard.  We normally don’t see pigeons in our neighborhood, so that alone was unusual.  But, upon closer look, this one has a band on each leg.  I don’t know if he couldn’t fly or was just choosing not to, but he let me pick him up this morning.  I’ve contacted the International Federation of Pigeons for help locating the owner, but so far no one is interested in helping us rehome him.  I guess they feel that if he can’t find his way home, then they don’t want him.

He or she is very sweet.  He is currently inside with us in a cat carrier with some fresh water and some wild bird seed that I have.  He lets me hold him and my daughters have been able to pet him.  I’m not opposed to keeping him as a pet, but I don’t know where to start.  I don’t have the space to get a very large cage.  Can you please point to some websites that may have information for the minimum requirements to keep a happy and healthy pigeon?

Thank you so much for any help you can offer.



Erin and I exchanged emails (you can see them below) and the following morning I received this heartbreaking message. I was very moved by how quickly and deeply affected Erin and her family were by Pebbles the pigeon and by the love and respect they gave her.

Hi Elizabeth,

I am sorry to tell you that our pigeon passed away last night.

My daughters decided that it was a female and they named her “Pebbles” because she’s a rock pigeon. 

After I received your last email, I called the pet store to see if they sold any pigeon or dove food.  It didn’t seem like Pebbles was eating any of the wild bird seed that I gave her. The pet store told me that they usually feed the doves in the pet store a combination of parakeet and cockatiel food.  Our neighbor has a few parakeets and she gave a tablespoon of the food that she uses that also has some grit in it.

I offered some of that food to Pebbles along with some shredded broccoli stems, but she didn’t eat.  I wasn’t too terribly concerned because I thought maybe she needed a day to get used to her new surroundings.

I changed her newspaper and her bedding around 10:00pm last night.  At that point she still looked like she did in the photos I sent you.  But, I did notice that when I placed her back in the carrier, she seemed to have a difficult time getting her feet under her.  I picked her up and tried to right her and then she seemed okay.  She laid in the spot that I had put her in.  I told her that we were going to give her a new home and that she would be safe and cared for here.  And I decided then that once I got her to a vet, I wanted to have her bands removed so she would be free of that abuse.

I checked on her around midnight and she was still in the same spot and her eyes were slightly closed.  So I figured she was sleeping and I felt comfortable leaving her for the night.  

Then around 3am I heard her moving around.  And when I went to check on her, she looked almost like she was having a seizure.  She was laying down, but her head was dropped to one side, her beak was opening and closing, and her body was shaking.  A few seconds later she stopped shaking and passed away.  

It’s amazing how attached we got to her in only a few hours.  But, I’m grateful that she’s not hurting anymore.  And hopefully we contributed more to her life than we did to her death.

We’ve decided to bury her in our garden without her bands.  She’s a free pigeon now!

So sorry we couldn’t do more.


Here’s our entire exchange.

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You can learn more about pigeon racing here.




One Comment

  1. That is heartbreaking. Poor Pebbles.


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