Competitive Pigeon Seduction
July 24, 2021 6:03 PM   Subscribe

AMA on Reddit by a thief pouter breeder. National Geographic article on thief pouters. (archive copy)

So a long time ago, there were homing pigeon competitions and races. Cunning competitors found they could release female pigeons along their flight path to distract the male carrier pigeons away from the race to mate with them, and if particularly successful, to return and nest with them in her loft instead of completing the race.

Thus while homing pigeons were bred to maximize their speed and determination to return home, thief pigeons were bred to maximize their seductiveness and their ability to "turn on" other pigeons. There is also another theory that their ability to lure in feral pigeons was useful as a food source during lean times.

Thief pigeons are bred for a balanced combination of sexual attractiveness (plumage), sex drive, predator intelligence and flying agility (it's no good if your sexy pigeon gets eaten by a hawk), and temperament (pigeons that are too aggressive scare other pigeons off). Some of them are so confident and sexy they can even seduce other females and bring them home to nest with them. It's not about mating - it's about convincing the other pigeon that they're so awesome they should move in permanently with them. It's not a tinder date... it's marriage!

So basically a thief pigeon breeder owns an open loft, and lets their thieves roam freely, and then they check every now and then to see how many pigeons they managed to lure home. There's a friendly competition among other thief pigeon breeders - because thief pigeons also steal other breeders pigeons. It's understood that if you "steal" another person's thief pigeon, it's now yours. But you probably won't breed it because it's a loser. By "stealing" more and more pigeons you're able to breed the genetic traits that make them even more successful. If you steal someone's homing or roller pigeon you have to return it, though.
posted by xdvesper (4 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This post and the one about the multi-state pigeon rescue relay back in May sent me down a deeeeep rabbit hole. The pigeon rescue site, The Ramsey Loft, keeps a pretty active Tumblr, and it was fascinating reading the notes of someone who really gets each of their birds at a very individual level. Clearly pigeon breeding and racing and other forms of pigeon-related hobbies were once very common, but now we (or at least I personally?) know so little about these birds that live in such close contact with humans.
posted by the wine-dark sea at 9:52 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]

It's astonishing, these little worlds of people I never knew existed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:11 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]

Some of them are so confident and sexy they can even seduce other females and bring them home to nest with them.

Q. what does a female pigeon bring on a second date with a thief pigeon?

A. a tiny U-Haul containing a handful of sticks and twigs
posted by taquito sunrise at 11:11 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]

“Doo” is a colloquial term in Scotland for pigeon—the Horseman Thief Pouter to be exact
The Scottish National Dictionary disagrees: “any species of pigeon, but more esp. to the rock pigeon”. Plus, your daily reminder that it's a language, not a colloquialism. To me, a doo man is a male pigeon fancier, not one that specializes in stealing pigeons through seduction. Then again, I'm a Weegie and this article's about Edinburgh, so I wouldn't be in the least surprised.

Favourite Scots pigeon-related word: doo-lander or doo-lichter — a large flat hat, imagined as suitable for pigeons to land upon.
posted by scruss at 2:28 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]

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