Pigeon veers off course

An Ashland woman was surprised to find a homing pigeon perched outside her window last week, and even more amazed to see the itinerate racing bird return after making short trips.

"I just happened to come home one night and there it was sitting up on the railing. I thought it would fly away, and after a couple hours it was still there and then the next morning it was back again," said Esther Travis, 25.

Travis, who lives at the Windsor Inn, said after the bird returned for the first time, she noticed it had an ankle identifier that indicated it's was from Mt. Hood, Ore. She called Rod Frazier of the Mt. Hood INV pigeon racing club.

The young pigeon was released probably in Phoenix, Ore. to race back to the Portland area, he said.

" chance, he just sort of showed up here," Travis said. "It's pretty crazy."

Homing pigeons, known for flying long distances and then returning home, are said to rely on Earth's electromagnetic field and the sun to guide them. Disruptions, for instance, in the planet's magnetic field can throw off a pigeon's internal compass.

"Anytime we register a bird, a band goes on its leg as a baby, so as long as that bird is alive it has a phone call home," Frazier said. "There were a few calls from the Ashland area this week from people finding lost birds.

The question remains: How did the young birds find their way to Ashland? Frazier said it is likely that the flock of racing pigeons were attacked by falcons or hawks, which can sometimes disorient them.

"Why the birds flew south, we don't know," Frazier said. "We suspect that some of the birds got attacked in the middle or at the end of the flock, and the ones in the beginning came through fine."

He said birds can sometimes take weeks to arrive back home, but often all it takes is a day or two of rest and a few grains to eat and they are off an flying home.

The lost bird, which Travis said is too docile to leave outdoors, has spent time with her while she worked at the Bard's Inn.

She is waiting for a man who raises racing pigeons in Portland to pass through Ashland in the coming days so the bird can be returned to its real home.

"It would be better to have someone come get him rather than try to send him flying home," Travis said.

can be reached at csrizo@hotmail.com.

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