Home > Hints 2 Win > Flying racing pigeons in the heat

Flying racing pigeons in the heat

With regard to the strange races of section 7 in Holland, where pigeons came home totally dehydrated and lost 30% of their bodyweight, I asked a number of our authors to comment the problem. How they look upon it you can read below.

 

Dear Steven,

Scientific answer about flying in the heat:

Total heat load = environmental temperature + body temperature + UV thermal Load

If you change any one of these variables you change the total metabolic rate of the bird which corresponds to high energy demand and there by higher consumption of minerals, fat, and other vitamins.

Best regards,

Bob Rowland.

 

Dear Steven,

Thank you for your email, good to hear from you. It sounds like there has been some frustrating things going on with the racing recently.

There is no single disease that comes to mind that would cause the symptoms, however, any disease can make the races particularly taxing for the birds and prolong recovery. I would imagine however, that you have already had all of the routine checks done to ensure that your birds are healthy. The two most common diseases that lead to excessive thirst during racing are; wet canker and respiratory infection causing inflamed air sacs. With wet canker the trichomonad organisms produce a toxin that makes the birds thirsty, while when the air sacs become inflamed they lose their moisture conserving ability and the birds lose excessive moisture in the exhaled air. When correcting the ensuing dehydration they often over-compensate and drink excessively. As you say however, there may be concern that the conveyers are not watering and feeding the birds adequately. Experiments have shown that pigeons deprived of water for 24 hours at 25C become 5% dehydrated. Given the high body temperature of pigeons(41.7C) and the number put in race baskets, the temperature within the basket can get much higher, even on cold days particularly if the race basket is poorly ventilated. Birds released that are only slightly dehydrated can be expected to orientate poorly and take longer to recover. In Australia water is continuously available even when the birds are being basketed except when the transporter is actually moving. I hope these short notes are a help.

Regards,

Dr. Colin Walker.

 

Steven,

This was in response to something that Bob Rowland wrote and sparked quite a few replies, also I believe was in Winning.

I have kept out of this debate up to now as I don't feel I am qualified to express my opinion, but I can perhaps relate a few things from personal experiences, what we really need are scientific answers from qualified people, not necessarily pigeon people. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in over 30 years about racing came from one of these type people, not a pigeon person, but a scientist.

Gary I agree with you, the answers to allot of the recent questions are there to see everyday in plain view, thin long distance runners, carbohydrate loading, etc. Another controversial thing is the use of corn for long distance races, a farmer (not a pigeon guy) once told me corn in hot weather should be like poison for pigeons. The salt in corn would create tremendous thirst in hot weather, is this a scientific based answer, I don't know ?? But I would rather load up with different carbs, how about Rice, or Rice soaked in water, also supposed to be good, but what would a scientist say ?? Peanuts are another questionable fad, I believe they are good in cool weather and bad in hot weather, at least close to race day, not sure why or scientifically, but that has been my experience.

What we need are more scientific answers, as long as they are in lay men terms. Most of us can only relate what we have experienced, very few us are qualified to be authorities on the subject.

Example:

Electrolytes. As said above, pigeons do not sweat - so where is the loss of the electrolytes, that have to be replaced, supposed to come from? It is stated that sodium and other salts are excreted when bound to lactic acid and that the lactic acid forms when the pigeons do anaerobic exercise (exercise in the absence of oxygen). It is my contention that racing pigeons do not do anaerobic exercise and therefore conserve their salts.

Now to the current dispute about electrolytes. Unless a pigeon is losing them in some form, maybe with enteritis or when the kidneys have been damaged by PMV, there is NO indication for using them. I think that the current great hullabaloo was created by drug companies and merchants who marketed the electrolytes for use by horses and humans (when they sweat) and for all other animals when they vomit, have diarrhea and so on. In these cases the marketing is fully justified and use of the medicines absolutely essential etc. But not for healthy pigeons.

Above words are from Dr. Wim Peters.

I find his words very interesting and as he is a man of science I would like to believe what he said is valid.

So why do we give electrolytes before a race "is it to make the birds thirsty" ?? Why do we give them after a race ?? I know people that give Pedialyte before long races that do very well and others who do it and don't do well. I have tried it and did not do well that day, but maybe it had nothing to do with Pedialyte ??

I think the birds kept closer to nature in the hot weather will do better assuming they have all the attributes of a good racing pigeon. When we have a long, hard, hot race why is it some of old timers that don't know an electrolyte from a vitamin, don't train, don't medicate very much, etc, but yet they always seem to get food birds. We are also told vitamins and some grains can cause thirst as well, so perhaps the street pigeons can handle the heat better than our thoroughbred ?? I never saw one panting at the Mall.

I believe in medication and proper diet, but I also think we are too good to our pigeons sometimes and consequently do them more harm than good.

Some of my observations on temperature, humidity, dew point, etc. in relation to pigeons. Yesterday in different parts of the country I got the following information.

∑  84 degrees, 72% dew point, 66% humidity (rain)

∑  89 degrees, 55% dew point, 100% humidity (no rain)

How is it we can have 100% humidity but yet a low dew point ?? and vice versa ?? The only thing I know for sure is when the temperature and dew point are the same we have fog, yet temperature and humidity have no relation to fog.

Humid air is thicker, heavier, harder to breathe, ask anyone with lung problems. Not sure about high dew point air being thicker or heavier but I would think it would be similar. I'm not sure about any relationship with humid air and wing flapping, but I know with my lung condition, it's harder to breathe and move around.

Why is it even on a "cool day" with "high dew" point pigeons get overheated, or land panting which I'm told is a pigeons way of cooling down because they don't sweat, same with dogs.

Personally I think dew point is the killer, not temperature or humidity, another killer is "lack of cloud cover" on a day with bright sunshine.

What cause cramping of the legs when flying in hot weather or hard day, is it from holding the legs down in the air to cool off ?? Not sure if that's a fact or a wives tail, but I heard if a pigeon can cool his feet down it helps cool his whole body ??

One more question for the scientist.

Why is it a pigeon only flying for a few moments in hot, high dew point, etc. lands with wings held out and panting to beat the band, but with the same conditions present, if flying an hour or more land and show no signs of being overheated or dehydrated, no panting, etc. ????

Last question for the scientist out there.

I have had cocks come home (high up on the sheet) on very hot days from 400 to 500 miles and look pretty decent, no sign of panting or extreme thirst. These same birds, an hour or so after flying that race may go out for a fly with his hen, surely he will land and look like hell, wings held away from the body and panting to beat the band, I have seen this many times ??? Am I to believe he stopped for a drink on the way home and could still win or place high up on the sheet ?? And is this the reason he showed no effects of the temperature, etc. when arriving home.

I know some birds will stop for a drink and some come home with muddy feet sometimes, but I find it hard to believe they all stop for a drink on the way home on hot head wind days.

Another comment on water, our driver is instructed to have water before the birds 1 hour before release, I have talked with him many times about his and he said the minuet they see him the only thing on their mind is the doors opening, water is the last thing on their mind. Of course on a long race with 2 day shipping they will drink. I'm not sure if water is that important before a short race on hot weather, I agree it might be good for them, but how do you get them to take a drink ??? How does the saying go "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"

I take another approach, I will give a 20 to 30 cc syringe full of water and squirt it down the crop when basketing, works great on an overnight race, 2 day races it's up to the driver and the birds, if its there they will drink after they eat. There's another interesting subject, many clubs do not feed the birds on a 2 day race, they don't think it's good and makes the birds thirsty.

With that last comment I'm outta here.

John Sampson.

 

Hi Gordon,

As you may have seen in my book, I'm against the use of electrolytes in pigeons (p 216). Colin Walker, in his latest book (p 144) has a different opinion. His argument is that the lactic acid, which is produced at the time of anaerobic exercise, bonds with sodium and other salts to facilitate excretion and is thus lost. This causes loss of electrolytes and a prolonged recuperation period. To prevent this state he recommends electrolyte 'replacement'. Now; If electrolytes were lost I would agree with the rationale but does the bird do any anaerobic exercise when flying normally? Some people here, particularly those in the more humid areas, now wish to use them also before a race. (It's fairly widely believed that the birds will be properly hydrated!). I don't like it but maybe I'm missing something?. (I see that Colin W also advises half-strength electrolytes prior to basketing? Bottom of p 145)

I'd like to hear your opinion on the matter.

Kindest Regards,

Wim Peters.

 

Hi Wim,

I'm really betwixt and between on this subject, especially as I seldom use electrolytes on my own birds. In fact I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've used them. My general feeling has been not to use them at all (exception - possibly in cases of severe fluid loss as in diarrhea) I just don't see the point of using them before a race, since, if birds are managed correctly and have access to a wide-ranging mineral mix at all times, their electrolytes should be at normal levels. Adding electrolytes might just induce unnecessary thirst. I have thought that at times, birds could use electrolytes on their return from a race, but even then I'm reluctant to use them. I much prefer fresh water with no additives when they arrive, but later in the day, I'll add some glucose or fructose. I note that David Marx in the USA is not really an advocate of electrolytes either and I respect his views very much. I really don't like the idea of half-strength electrolytes as advocated by Colin - my view is that it's better to avoid them entirely ahead of shipping, and let the birds balance their own systems without electrolytes after they return. On balance I take your point of view and that of David Marx.. Your and David's rationale for not using them makes a lot of sense to me.

During a race, any significant alteration to the regular rate of the wing beat at cruising speed (on average, a normal rate of 5.4 beats per second) such as explosive or dodging bursts of speed, pulling hard against the wind, braking to land, etc. can induce anaerobic glycolysis that results in the production of some level of lactic acid, it seems. I wonder if Colin has a bank of clinico-chemical data to support his views on the loss of sodium, etc.? It would be interesting to know for sure - in fact he may already have returned from Europe so I may just Email him to ask. I realize that I didn't really answer your question, but on balance I'd favor not using them except as just noted.

Good wishes,

Gordon Chalmers.

 

Hi Steven,

This is a complicated subject.

1. Racing your pigeons when the temps exceed 30 degrees C becomes problematical. (I cannot agree with Bob R who states that 20 to 35 degrees is 'the ideal range'. I'm sure he didnít mean it like this.)

2. Racing the pigeons in humid conditions reduces their ability to handle high temperatures.

3. I do not believe that the administration of electrolytes is of any benefit.

Let us take the above three statements one by one and examine them. I have described the scenario's in my book 'Born to Win' and refer list members who wish to delve further, thereto.

1. Pigeons flying in hot conditions cannot sweat to cool down and can only lower their body temperature by increasing the evaporation rate from the mouth, throat and lungs. Doing so in the absence of drinking water, increases the possibility (danger) of dehydration. The other alternative the racing bird has is to reduce or stop its physical exertion - flying. This accounts for the slow velocities and high losses whenever such high temps occur on long distance races particularly. Whenever the temperature exceeds 30 degrees problems begin. Of course there are some birds that can handle high temps better than others. It has a genetic background but roughly speaking the heavier birds are less heat-tolerant than the lighter and smaller-framed.

2. Because birds cool off via evaporation (from the mouth) any hindrance to the evaporation rate creates difficulties. Under humid conditions evaporation is drastically reduced and hot conditions can become unbearable. (In SA one can compare the Durban area [sub-tropical] with the Upington area [semi-desert] - we all know the relative ease with which high temps can be endured in Upington compared to Durban -

40 degrees in Upington can be preferable to 30 degrees in Durban!)

1 and 2 above are seriously aggravated when the birds have to battle a headwind. They keep low above the ground (where it is hotter) and have to work harder against the wind pushing up their body temperatures. Results of races on hot headwind days are usually dismal.

3. Electrolytes. As said above, pigeons do not sweat - so where is the loss of the electrolytes, that have to be replaced, supposed to come from? It is stated that sodium and other salts are excreted when bound to lactic acid and that the lactic acid forms when the pigeons do anaerobic exercise (exercise in the absence of oxygen). It is my contention that racing pigeons do not do anaerobic exercise and therefore conserve their salts.

Now to the current dispute about electrolytes. Unless a pigeon is losing them in some form, maybe with enteritis or when the kidneys have been damaged by PMV, there is NO indication for using them. I think that the current great hullabulloo was created by drug companies and merchants who marketed the electrolytes for use by horses and humans (when they sweat) and for all other animals when they vomit, have diarrhea and so on. In these cases the marketing is fully justified and use of the medicines absolutely essential etc. But not for healthy pigeons.

Regarding Lance's friend's birds that were given electrolytes.

1. Pigeons on a normal temperate days will drink about 50 ml water. On the day that the electrolytes were given it was hotter than usual and the birds accordingly drank more. The fact that there were electrolytes in the water had little to do with their total intake.

2. They had loose bowels because they were given what amounts to a clean-out - as if given Epsom salts. The loose bowels acted as if a purgative had been administered and this action alone would ensure that these birds would drink more water. In fact it could be so dehydrating that they could die if water were totally absent !

3. In spite of the above the friend could have a good race on Sa if you have a tailwind. I foresee problems if you encounter a hard race.

As far as I am aware and unless further work has been done of which I am unaware, these facts are accurate. In addition I trust that this may help to clear up a somewhat nebulous area of our sport.

Dr. Wim Peters.

 

Hello Bob,

I too raised an eyebrow when I saw your 35C maximum. We in Western Australia fly over what is classified as hot desert (especially our inland

route) from say 250 miles and beyond and need to draw the line at 24C and slightly higher in a tail wind, where birds can achieve relative altitude commensurate with cooling. Wayside water, or moreso the lack of it, dictates whether the birds can carry on above 24C, after a certain number of hours on the wing. In looking at the maximum 24C here in WA, one needs to judge the velocity of the race and calculate where the birds will be on the course in relation to maximum temperature for the area and whether 24C or higher is being forecast and whether wayside water is readily available for all the good reasons outlined by Dr Wim Peters below. I think it pertinent to quote what I wrote to Steven Van Breemen, when I first saw your article in his publication Winning.

"Steven... I read Bob's article and I can't agree with his acceptable temperature range of 20 - 35C... without adequate water along the race course and believe that without wind assistance anything over 24C is fatal (as found here in Western Australia). Here in Western Australia where we race in the heat and in true hot desert country and very little wayside water available and this is the key... temperature is of no consequence, if there is plenty of wayside water, and it goes one step further than that... in transit, I believe it now necessary (here in WA) to have water before the birds before release for at least the same time as it has taken time to travel without water.. so they can rehydrate (their hematocrit) and do the fly in the one go. I wrote a local article here, I think I already sent it to you called "Water Water Everywhere" and where I also analyzed Dr Gorssen's thesis as it relates to the Western Australian scene. The ideal temperature for pigeons here is 10C - 18C and as I said above 24C and without helping winds and without immediate wayside water is fatal... we see this outcome each year, so it disturbs me to see Bob saying that up to 35C is OK when in fact it is far from OK... unless there is plenty of wayside water and he must well have it in Florida and north thereof.

Anyway, regards,

Leo Turley.

 

Hallo All,

This is a complicated subject.

1. Racing your pigeons when the temps exceed 30 degrees C becomes problematical. (I cannot agree with Bob R who states that 20 to 35 degrees is 'the ideal range'. I'm sure he didnít mean it like this.)

 

In reply to this by Bob Rowland,

I would like to say that the temperature range I gave was dealing only with temperatures and other considerations must be made. For example, 35'C with high humidity is much different than racing at 35'C when the humidity is low. This is not because the humidity creates thirst as what is humidity but water in the air . The more humidity, the more water in the air. The adverse effect of the high humidity is heavy air which makes for extra effort needed to flap their wings. At lower humidity, the air is lighter and therefore less tiring for the pigeons to complete the course.

Taking this a step further in explanation is that regardless of the temperature, the pigeons can not stay in the air very long in the rain and again for the same reason, the effort to move their wings becomes greater and the point of inability to flap any longer comes sooner. Rain is 100% humidity or perhaps even greater depending on how we would calculate it.

Therefore, if one reads back, I DID SAY that I prefer the lower end of the temperature scale as this makes for an easier task even in greater humidity but again, not too low or the pigeon must exert extra energy to create heat for warming the air or this can also create severe problems..

By giving a range, I was merely pointing on what the best range could be and then the addition factors need to be factored in. One can not give a one statement fits all scenario as certainly common sense tells us that racing in the desert must certainly be different than racing in the tropics even at precisely the same temperature.

2. Racing the pigeons in humid conditions reduces their ability to handle high temperatures.

 

In reply to this by Bob Rowland,

See my statements after Wim's number 1 statement and I believe most can see what has been stated and the reasons for this.

I always find it interesting when we have generic statements that say something is different but the follow up does not clearly tell why something may be a problem. I realize I am as guilty of this as any one as when I begin writing, I shoot from the hip and move ahead feeling that I have given enough information but upon rereading several days later, realize that I could have said more. The problem with this is that if one takes the time to make sure that every possible angle or situation has been covered, we would never get a complete article to consider.

3. I do not believe that the administration of electrolytes is of any benefit.

 

In reply to this by Bob Rowland,

This could be a true statement if we were only trying to race a pigeon that is in perfect electrolyte balance and in the absolute best optimal condition and the distances were just ideal and so forth but this is not the real world. If we could talk to our pigeons and tell them that they need to take several good drinks before they leave for the journey as they may not find adequate water for them to perform at their best.

The reason for having pigeons take the electrolytes is 2 fold with the first being to make sure they have enough for the proper balance and then the second which is to get them to consume more water than they normally would so that they will pack their cells with the water so they are not beginning the journey without enough water to complete the trip. Try taking your car on a long trip with a radiator that does not have ample water and you will soon be setting by the side of the road.

When we try to believe that all pigeons will be given equal treatment by the convoyer, I prefer to think that if I can give them a head start going in that this certainly can't hurt much. Again I say, If I did not help them, did I hurt them by giving them a possible edge???????????????

I hope this clears up what some may have thought I said or didn't say and should one wish to have me answer in greater depth, feel free to give me a particular item and I will try to respond to it.

Hope this helps everyone and for a future article, perhaps talking about how the eye is used much like a radiator to assist in cooling the pigeon would be a good point for exploring further.

Best of luck,

Bob Rowland


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