Darcy Hoyer admits there is more than a bit of mystery to pigeon racing: “You train them up slowly – so they get used to whatever it is they get used to – but no-one really knows what goes on in their head.”
The Moruya Pigeon Racing Club stalwart was heading up to release his race birds from their loft on his south Tilba property for morning exercise. He has fewer birds this week than last.
“I haven’t checked the clock to see if any more have have come in,” Mr Hoyer said, “but I’m nine short from Saturday’s competition; that’s a pretty heavy loss.”
He suggested a couple of reasons why those nine didn’t make it home from their Shellharbour launching.
“Our birds may have run into birds from a Sydney club which were flying home from Mollymook,” Mr Hoyer said.
“Pigeons are natural flockers and birds get guided down into larger groups. Of course, you never really know what happens out there. Good birds can break away from the mob, but going like the clappers on its own makes a bird a prime target for attack.”
Raptors are an acknowledged problem in the sport, but attacks don’t always result in death. “They come home hawked fairly often, with feathers torn out or chest opened up – you just stitch ‘em up,” Mr Hoyer said.
Club members have previously “been hammered” flying birds over Sydney, where pigeon racing “is huge”. Mr Hoyer wasn’t sure why, “but think about how many racing pigeons are out exercising and there’s a lot of street peckers too.” “Street pecker” is the term pigeon racers use for the feral flocks in the nations cities, which can attract racing birds to land – that flocking instinct again.
“When race birds go down for a drink, they usually fly on again but if they do down for food that’s another thing. The street peckers are used to all sorts – chips and what-not – but our birds don’t have a clue for street food. They can learn over time but usually they have lost too much condition by then.”
Mr Hoyer’s birds are fed on a mix of five grains plus some vitamins and grit but said “people do feed them all sorts of things”. When asked about doping in the sport, he said: “I couldn’t imagine it – no idea how you would do it.”
Unlike most pigeon racers, Mr Hoyer is partial to white and coloured birds and said white birds hide better on cloudy days. Like racehorses and greyhounds, many racing pigeons are line-bred, but producing a top bird was still a bit of an unknown.“You can’t just put two together and strike gold,” he said.
They are easy breeders but if you want to line breed you shut the cock and hen together. They say they prefer to stay together but, a bit like humans, if one wants a shag on the side, well…”
The Moruya Pigeon Racing Club has members from Batemans Bay to Bermagui. To get involved contact Darcy Hoyer on 0428912631.