Tag Archives | Pigeons

Belgian Racing Pigeons Are Doped Up On Cocaine and Painkillers

Dr. Rockso: He does cocaine.

Shocking news for all of you who follow the sport of competitive pigeon racing.

Nothing is sacred it appears in the high-flying world of pigeon racing in Belgium, where six birds were found to have been doped with drugs such as cocaine and painkillers, Belgian media reported Thursday.

Cycling-mad Belgium is used to hearing of sports stars pumped up on performance-enhancing drugs, but officials are now homing-in on the birds used in a sport which rakes in millions in breeding and prize monies.

The Belgian pigeon-racing federation sent samples from 20 birds to the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa after a recent exchange visit, two Flemish dailies reported.

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Pigeon’s WW2 Code Is ‘Unbreakable’

Carrier Pigeon (PSF)If only Alan Turing was still alive! The story of the dead pigeon via Reuters:
A World War Two code found strapped to the leg of a dead pigeon stuck in a chimney for the last 70 years may never be broken, a British intelligence agency said on Friday. The bird was found by a man in Surrey, southern England while he was cleaning out a disused fireplace at his home earlier this month. The message, a series of 27 groups of five letters each, was inside a red canister attached to the pigeon's leg bone and has stumped code-breakers from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's main electronic intelligence-gathering agency. "Without access to the relevant codebooks and details of any additional encryption...
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The French And Chinese Militaries Could Once Again Use Carrier Pigeons

Long distance strategic communication via bird may seem obsolete by a hundred years or so, but pigeon squadrons are quietly being maintained and could one day be essential in calamitous conditions, the Wall Street Journal writes:

Glorified for their roles in World War I, pigeon squadrons have long been removed from active duty because of the introduction of more reliable, all-weather communication systems. And yet the French Defense Ministry still operates a military dovecote—Europe’s last—with 150 birds drafted into the 8th regiment for communication and transmission.

The corporal [who] sees to their upkeep and training draws hawkish scenarios—a nuclear catastrophe, a hurricane, a war—where racing homers would be the last-resort messaging network. In the Syrian city of Homs, insurgents defying the regime of President Bashar al-Assad are relying on carrier pigeons to communicate because their walkie-talkies are out of reach, he says.

Last year, Mr. Decool became concerned that France could be outdone in carrier-pigeon expertise by China, which maintains a platoon of 50,000 birds with 1,100 trainers for communication in border and coastal areas, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense.

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How Pigeons Navigate by Magnetic Field

Homing pigeonAn answer to the eternal mystery of how migratory birds know where to go may be at hand, writes James Gorman in the New York Times:

Birds are famously good navigators. Some migrate thousands of miles, flying day and night, even when the stars are obscured. And for decades, scientists have known that one navigational skill they employ is an ability to detect variations in the earth’s magnetic field.

How this magnetic sense works, however, has been frustratingly difficult to figure out.

Now, two researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Le-Qing Wu and David Dickman, have solved a key part of that puzzle, identifying cells in a pigeon’s brain that record detailed information on the earth’s magnetic field, a kind of biological compass.

“It’s a stunning piece of work,” David Keays of the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna wrote in an e-mail. “Wu and Dickman have found cells in the pigeon brain that are tuned to specific directions of the magnetic field.” Their report appeared online in Science Express on Thursday.

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