UK Bird Handlers Mourn ‘Worst Day’ in Pigeon Racing History as 5,000 Birds Vanish

Michael Steele_Getty Images
Michael Steele/Getty Images

And they’re off! And they’re gone…

Bird handlers in the UK are distraught and dumbfounded by the sudden and unprecedented disappearance of 5,000 homing pigeons that were racing across the country.

9,000 pigeons took off from Peterborough, Cambs, for a race towards the Northeast part of the country. However, as of Thursday night, more than half the birds remained unaccounted for.

“We’ve seen one of the very worst ever racing days in our history,” pigeon enthusiast Richard Sayers wrote on Facebook.

The birds released from Peterborough were only a portion of a much larger release of 250,000 birds taking part in 50 different races.

According to the New York Post:

It’s unclear what prompted the squab squadrons to seemingly vanish into thin air. However Sayers, whose local pigeon coop reportedly lost as many as 300 birds in the flight-marish phenomenon, said most breeders are ‘blaming the atmospheric conditions, possibly a solar storm above the clouds that created static in the atmosphere.’

Ian Evans, CEO of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, finds the Bermuda Triangle-esque disappearance especially baffling as ‘weather conditions across the country were good.’ He added that ‘there was nothing to suggest that any birds would struggle to get home.’

‘I have never heard of anything like this,’ lamented the bereaved bird boss, 45, who’s reportedly owned pigeons since he was 9 years old.

It is believed that meteorological disturbances may have played a part in distorting the Earth’s magnetic field, which pigeons use for navigation.

Pigeons who lost their way during the race can be identified by the “code and number” attached to their leg, Sayers explains. In addition, the bird enthusiast is imploring Britons who find these birds to feed them and give them rest. Once rested, the homing pigeons will likely be on their way, Sayers told the Daily Mail.

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