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PIPA pays a visit to Madeira (Portugal)

Madeira is a beautiful island in the Atlantic Ocean, about 700km away from the West Coast of Africa, and approximately 1000km away from Portugal. We were greeted with great hospitality, for which we would like to thank all of Madeira's pigeon fanciers, from both in and out of the local club!

Madeira is often called the Flower Island, because of the many flowers found on the island. It has a mild cimate, with temperatures usually ranging between 16 and 22°C. The island is a popular destination for hikers and lovers of the outdoors, thanks to its beautiful nature, the forests and the mountains. But the island also has about 100 pigeon fanciers divided over two different clubs. The two clubs more or less share the same racing program, which makes them quite special. Since the island is fairly small, races can only be organised from the ocean. Depending on the season, they have races of up to 700km, which take place almost entirely across the ocean! The pigeon clubs in Madeira are also member of the Portuguese pigeon federation.

As a passionate pigeon fancier, I was intrigued with the idea. The long flight across the water, combined with the high mountains in Madeira seemed to me like an almost impossible challenge for the pigeons. I wanted to see the situation up close, and I soon got in touch with Ferdinando Jardim and several other fanciers. We then paid a visit to the headquarters of one of the two clubs in Madeira, the Grupo Columbofilo Pero Do Atlantico. We got a warm welcome in the club, and we met with some of its members as well as the club's chairman.


Visiting the Grupo Columbofilo Pero Do Atlantico Club

A mid-ocean release

Since Madeira is quite a small island, the clubs have no other choice but to release at sea. Madeira has three fixed routes to three places on the Portuguese mainland, which are used frequently by container ships as well. There is an arrangement between the pigeon fanciers and the ship crews to take the pigeons on board, and to release them at sea. They do this for free, out of sympathy for the Madeira fanciers. The fanciers are usually unaware of the exact distance of the race beforehand, simply because the time of release depends on the ship crew's working hours. Pigeons raced on the ocean need to have exceptional orientation skills and stamina.


The flight routes over the ocean

Fernando Jardim

My visit to Fernando Jardim left quite an impression on me; I was intrigued by the remarkably homogeneous pigeon breed that Ferdinando has been working on thoughout his life. Each and every pigeon that he showed to me was a masterpiece, which is not all too surprising really. Ferdinando won 17 (!) championship titles in his club over the past 20 years. He has a truly unique pigeon in his collection that once covered 700km across the ocean, and his breed is now largely based on this bird. These pigeons had closed tailbones that felt like a single, solid bone. In addition, all breeding bird featured very soft plumes, and they often had beautiful eyes as well.


Ferdinando Jardim's impressive pigeons

Ferdinando told us his pigeons mean everything to him. He dreams of them, he wakes up and he goes to sleep with his birds. Entering his house, we spotted olive oil, yoghurt, etc., which are all part of his pigeons' diet. And he is the kind of fancier who leaves nothing to chance. Ferdinando's big dream lies in the mainland of Portugal, where he purchased a farm a few years ago. He hopes to move there one day, and to race pigeons with this farm as their home base.

Together with Ferdinando we also visited Aurinho Camacho. He was last year's general champion in the club, mainly with the help of Ferdinando's pigeons. We first had to climb about 100 steps to reach the house and the lofts of Aurinho. It does take some effort to race pigeons indeed!


Our visit to Aurinho Camacho

A visit to Elio Silva Gomes

One of the best players on the island of Madeira is Elio Silva, who has some extraordinary pigeons as well. It is remarkable how pigeon racing is first of all a hobby to him, although he is quite a fanatic player nonetheless. To give you an idea: his pigeon lofts do not come from loft builders but are almost always home made.


Elio Silva in front of one of his lofts

Meeting with local pigeon fanciers

We sat down for dinner with Beto Leixo and his wife Carolina Martins. Beto is racing pigeons together with a colleague. He lost his father a few years ago. He was one of Madeira's most successful pigeon fanciers, and it has been Beto's dream to continue his father's life work since. His wife Carolina is very supportive of his hobby, and being a veterinary surgeon herself, she tries to learn more about medical guidance in pigeon racing.


Having dinner with Beto Leixo and Carolina Martins

Helder De Sousa invited us to enjoy dinner together with Pedro Filipe Marques, Elio Silva Gomes and José Antonio Viera Nobrega. We went to a typical Madeira style restaurant, where a group of performers showed us some typical Madeira dances later in the evening.


Enjoying the great company and a lovely meal

Surprising

I have to admit I went on this trip without high expectations. However, the level of quality in the pigeon lofts and the hospitality of everyone on the island made me board the plane back to Belgium feeling particularly satisfied. We would once again like to thank everyone that we met on our trip for being so kind to us.