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‘Worst day in pigeon racing history’: Thousands of birds vanish during race

The Independent logo The Independent 25/06/2021 Samuel Osborne
a flock of seagulls flying in the sky: Thousands of racing pigeons are released from the Kilton Forest Show Ground in Worksop, Nottinghamshire (file image) - OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images © OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of racing pigeons are released from the Kilton Forest Show Ground in Worksop, Nottinghamshire (file image)

- OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Around 5,000 pigeons have vanished in what has been labelled “one of the very worst ever racing days”.

Around 9,000 birds set off from Peterborough on their way to the northeast on Saturday, in what normally would have been a three hour race - but more than half are yet to arrive.

“We’ve seen one of the very worst ever racing days in our history,” pigeon fancier Richard Sayers told The Sun.

“Most of the breeders I’m talking to are blaming the atmospheric conditions — possibly a solar storm above the clouds that created static in the atmosphere — but no one really knows.”

Homing pigeons use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, but their sense of direction can be distorted by a geomagnetic storm.

Breeders have seen hundreds of pigeons fail to return to their clubs. They have asked anyone who sees the pigeons, which have identification rings, to give them food, water and rest, before allowing it to continue on its way.

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Ian Evans, of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, told the paper: “We became aware quite quickly that something very unusual was happening.

“I have never heard of anything like this.

“On the face of it, the weather conditions were good. But in the event, thousands of birds simply didn’t return.

"Something happened that disrupted their navigational abilities. We believe it may have had something to do with solar wind activity.”

He said there have been similar reports of heavy losses in Portugal and Belgium.

The racing association is in talks with the Met Office to find out whether unusual solar activity could have caused a geomagnetic storm.

“We are obviously hoping that the majority of these birds find their way home given time,” Mr Evans said.

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