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12. Thunderstorms

The navigation system of the racing pigeon, if fully functioning allows the bird to quickly select its bearings and head for home. This system is dependant on natural elements which are provided in abundance during good weather conditions. Aircrafts use a man made navigation system to get from their point of departure to their destination. During the flight the pilot uses radar to avoid bad weather that might endanger the flight. The use of radar also allows the pilot to alter the course before take off. Racing pigeons do not have that luxury. They are dependant on the choice made by the liberator.

Once released they have no choice but to make the best of what is to come. While they may be expected to take the shortest route home this does not always happen. Sometimes they are forced to take a longer route. An example of this is what can occur when the birds run into thunderstorm activity. The bird, having previously selected the route home, flies into an area where there is thunderstorm activity. Suddenly there are no navigational elements. These have been blocked out by the dark clouds which were associated with the thunderstorm activity. If there is no wind the birds can stay on a reasonably straight line and when they exit the area of the thunderstorm activity they can re-access their course and make the necessary correction. If however there are winds blowing, the birds can be blown a long way off course. The result: lots of empty perches. If there is rain accompaning the thunderstorm activity the birds can be forced down and made to sit out the storm. At this time they can become vulnerable to predators. Hopefully these birds will not be over water when they are forced down. This would be a disaster. Light rain can help the birds. It can have a cooling effect on the birds during very warm weather and can replenish the air making it feel fresher.

Copyright 1998. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole, in part, in any form or medium, without the express written permission of Steven van Breemen and Hubert Land, is strictly forbidden.

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