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10/02/2016 - Antics in the air

Just the coo of a pigeon is enough to get you twitching with annoyance - they are noisy, flock in numbers and never fail to create a mess. But the members of 'Tumbler Pigeon Club’ are less judgemental about them. In fact, they spend a large part of their day with these pigeons and make sure they are well looked after. As Pavan, the founder, explains that Tumbler pigeons are domesticated and bred at home because of their ability to tumble or flip mid-air. Training these pigeons is a hobby that goes back decades in India and is considered a sport. Before you jump to conclusions, know that none of the pigeons are harmed in any way. "If they aren’t trained, they lose their ability to tumble, a trait that is there in their DNA,” he adds. A species that is slowly losing its place in this increasingly commercial world, Tumbler pigeons need a lot of care as they are mainly urban dwellers and their space is being encroached upon. And as there aren’t many research studies on pigeons, the members of the club have to make do with food and medicines that are used by humans. Pavan says that for a squab (young pigeon), they use diluted medicines meant for humans as supplements. The food the pigeons are fed must also be regimented, the members explain. "You can give them ragi, toor, bajra, wheat and any kind of pulse. But during winters, grams like green gram shouldn’t be used as it makes them more susceptible to diseases,” says Pavan. Ramesh Babu, a mechanic who has about 50 to 60 pigeons, adds that they must be fed and watered twice a day, and, "They need to be let out, they can’t be caged.” Kiran, who has a separate room for his 50 Tumblers, explains how the breeding and training process works. "The room has been divided and each section has one male and one female pigeon in it.” This allows space for breeding a good variety. Pavan adds that the parents have to be well-trained to rear healthy offsprings. "When a squab is a month- and-a-half old, it is allowed to venture out and explore its immediate surroundings. After 15 days, it is placed on a landing board. It needs to understand that this is home and this is where it lands or must come back to. After a week, we prod them with a stick to make them fly close by. And the last step is to let them fly long distances.” While Tumbler pigeons can fly for six to 12 hours at a time, Tippler pigeons can cover distances for up to 24 hours. Some of the other pigeons that the members have are Rock pigeons and Fancy pigeons. When the Tumblers are taught to tumble, they are entered into competitions. The club, which was founded in 2014, hosts annual Tumbler pigeon flying competitions in June/July. They also teach other pigeon enthusiasts how to keep the bird healthy, as Hariprashanth and his brother Kiran Kumar explain. They both got interested in this hobby because their grandfather also had the interest. Most of the club members have been close to Tumbler pigeons since they were kids, says Muneer, a carpenter. Ramesh adds, "If you treat them like your friends, they respond positively and both parties are at peace.”