Birds of a feather don’t just flock together, they race together – well at least that’s the case for John Ivich and his more than 100 racing pigeons.
The 56-year-old has only been pigeon racing for four years but has already secured the title of Bundaberg Racing Pigeon Club champion.
“It’s awesome,” John said.
“I’ve been wanting to do it all my life.”
While he is competitive by nature and quietly chuffed with his championship title, John said pigeon racing was only a hobby.
“It’s just a friendly thing,” he said.
“We enjoy our birds, we love our birds.
“Some of them are so cute, like the white ones and they’ve got different colours.”
The Bundaberg Racing Pigeon Club has about 16 members who regularly race.
The intelligent birds are taken to a starting location and tasked with finding their way home.
John said they were fitted with a “little chip” when they were younger which records their flight time and official arrival time when they return to their home base.
“They just want to get home to you.
“That’s the beauty and that’s why I love them so much.
“You sit and wait for it and see them coming over the horizon and it’s awesome, hey.
“That’s what you train them to do, it’s their safety zone.”
The passionate pigeon fancier said the intelligence of the birds made them easy to train for the sport.
“What you do, before you train them, you let them out every afternoon and they fly around your house.
“Eventually they get higher and higher.
“They spot features like roads and rivers and that’s what they follow.
“As they get fitter, they fly 5km away and get to know their surroundings, then 10 km and next time 20-30km away.
“Our races start off short and teaches the birds the line.
“They’re smart birds, they know where the sun comes up.”
In 2020 the longest pigeon race local members participated in launched from Townsville.
“You’d be looking at about 900km,” John said.
“If they fly into the wind it’s harder for them obviously but if they’ve got the wind behind them, they’ll come back the same day.”
John expects to race about 120 pigeons this year in addition to his roughly 60 breeding birds.