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Graveyard Races: Photos

Barcelona International Race From Barcelona, Spain, on July 6, 2012

Pigeons await the start of the Barcelona International race.

 

Barcelona International Race From Barcelona, Spain, on July 6, 2012

Homing pigeons released from trucks for the Barcelona International race must travel up to 900 miles to get home. More than 25,000 birds were entered in this race from England, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France.

 

Dead and Injured Pigeons After Barcelona International Race Release on July 6, 2012

Many birds hit the ground or hit wires or other obstacles after being released. Such collisions often result in broken necks, broken legs, and other critical injuries.

 

Dead Pigeon After Barcelona International Race Release on July 6, 2012

A race official examines the leg band identification number of a pigeon after the start of the Barcelona International race.

 

Soiled Crates After the Barcelona International Race From Barcelona, Spain, on July 6, 2012

U.K. pigeons are trucked for up to seven days in cramped, filthy crates before being released.

 

British International Championship Club Race From Perpignan, France, on August 3, 2012

Pigeons used for racing are crowded inside a transport crate before their grueling marathon flight from Southern France to the U.K.

 

Lost Pigeon in Bath, England, on September 8, 2012

Most lost “racing pigeons” cannot survive in the wild since they have never learned how to find food, water, or shelter or to protect themselves from predators.

 

National Flying Club Race From Fougères, France, on September 1, 2012

More than 5,500 pigeons were transported to France from England and released for this race. Only 622 of these birds made it home—the rest (89 percent) are presumed to have died.

 

Unwanted Pigeon Killed

Unsuccessful “racing pigeons” are often killed by their owners at the end of the racing season. This pigeon racer broke this bird’s neck.

 

Pigeon Killed by Owner

This pigeon’s neck was broken, but some owners “cull” their unwanted “racing pigeons” by gassing or drowning them or pulling their heads off.

 

British International Championship Club Race From St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands, on August 26, 2012

In order to reach England, these pigeons had to cross the treacherous English Channel, known in pigeon racing as the “graveyard.”

 

One of Three Releases of West Midlands Birds From Guernsey, on August 27, 2012

These birds were released in bleak weather (which makes navigation difficult), and groups of pigeons could be seen flying left and right, back and forth, on the horizon for several minutes as they hesitated to cross the English Channel.

 

Racing Pigeon Eaten Alive by Sparrowhawk, North Devon, U.K.

Pigeons used for racing face many dangers, including attacks by raptors, collisions with electrical wires and antennas, storms, and exhaustion.