Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Flight: Pigeon Story

We have all, at some point or the other, been enthralled by the sight of a flock of pigeons taking to the air, wings spread against the sun. For those who breed and fly these wonderful birds, there is an art and science to the process that makes it unlike any other hobby in the world. And although pigeon-keeping and flying might be something quite a few Nepalis have indulged in over time, the activity only took the form of an official sport in the year 2000 under the initiative of a group of pigeon-keepers from Kathmandu.
A special breed of pigeons called “high-flyers” are bred by these keepers, and trained specifically to compete in the annual event organised by the Himalayan Pigeon Flying Club and Nepal Pigeon Keepers’ Association. Birds are oftentimes imported from Pakistan, India, and even Bahrain, to ensure a purer breed of high-flyers for the competition, each of which is distinguished by a colourful band that is fastened around the legs. Like any other sport, there are sets of rules and regulations to be followed.The tournament begins early in the morning with the release of five to seven pigeons from each contestant’s residence, the time of which is clocked by two referees, and monitored until the birds descend back to the owner’s rooftop; scores are accorded depending on how long each contestant’s birds are able to remain in the air. Prizes are then given out to the highest scoring contestants, as well as to a standout bird who will be declared the Best Pigeon of the Tournament.
In the months leading up to the tournament, hectic preparations are undertaken where keepers are found spending many hours a day grooming and training their high-flyers. The birds are fed a specified amount of mixed grains each day, assuring them a balanced diet. Feeding must be concluded within a rigid time frame, clean water provided regularly and daily records of the performance of the high-flyers are kept. As peculiar as the concept might seem to most people, pigeon-flying is a popular sport within particular circles, and one that has been practiced in various parts of the world for centuries.

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