Aylesbury racing pigeon owners don’t fancy their chances against town’s new residents

Posted on April 27th, 2012

AYLESBURY’S racing pigeon owners fear their birds will soon be on the menu of the town’s feathered resident – a peregrine falcon.

Local pigeon fanciers say the arrival of eggs in the peregrine’s nest above the county hall causes great reason for alarm.

Pedigree pigeons and song birds form the the staple diet of the peregrine falcon and members of an Aylesbury pigeon club are voicing serious concerns for their birds’ safety.

David and Gloria Turnham have been keeping racing pigeons in a loft in their garden for over 40 years and are members of Aylesbury United Flying Club.

David said: “Peregrine falcons no longer face extinction and are the UK’s top avian predator, which explains why our racing club has already lost many pigeons to them this year.

“We want Aylesbury Vale District Council to recognise the impact of these birds on our racing pigeons, as well as the wider native bird populations.

“This predation problem is devastating our sport and has been on the increase for years. We feel it’s time to bring this to the public’s attention.

“Like most animal lovers we are extremely attached to our birds and do not relish the prospect of them being picked off mid-flight by a predator.”

David explained that the diet of a peregrine falcon is not restricted to pigeons: wild birds such as songbirds are also under threat from the raptor’s soaring population.

In the 1960s, the peregrine falcon was almost extinct in Britain. Killed during the Second World War to stop them preying on messenger pigeons, peregrines then suffered the impact of pesticides. But new levels of protection and restrictions on pesticide have helped the bird of prey to recover.

Peregrine falcons hunt over an area of up to 15 miles from their nests and quickly learn and adapt to preying on animals at specific points in the day. There are over 100 pigeon fanciers within this 15 mile radius.

Local keepers of racing pigeons argue that they need to let out their birds for exercise and training regularly and the County Hall’s bird of prey nest poses a direct threat.

Peregrines are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act – however racing pigeons have no legal protection from the increasing threat of raptor predation (from birds of prey).

David added:

“We feel it’s about time that the racing pigeon gained the recognition and reputation it deserves.

“They are far from being vermin. Feral and racing pigeons are a whole world apart.”

Many British lives were saved during World War II, thanks to the efforts of pigeons carrying information across enemy lines and concerned pigeon fanciers in the area think these birds deserve to be protected.

Aylesbury United Flying Club which was formed in 1970 with some of its original members still racing birds today.

Pigeon racing is a long standing British tradition. There are about 60,000 fanciers in the UK who race their pigeons from April to September, using the winter months for breeding and husbandry.