Poultry farmers are shocked by what happened after 5,000 pigeons disappeared during a competition (carrier pigeon race) in the UK.
“We have witnessed one of the worst racing days in our history,” passionate pigeon breeder Richard Sayers wrote on Facebook, describing the incident.
It all happened on Saturday after 9,000 pigeons took off from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire to travel northeast. And although the 170-mile round trip was supposed to take only three hours, as of yesterday evening, more than half of the feathered participants had never been found.
They were reportedly part of 250,000 pigeons released at approximately 50 racing events across the country, of which only 10% returned on time and tens of thousands more are missing, reports the Sun newspaper.
It is unclear what caused the flocks of pigeons to dissolve into thin air. Sayers, however, whose local dovecote has lost up to 300 birds, says most breeders "blame the atmospheric conditions for everything, possibly a solar storm that has disturbed the atmosphere."
This meteorological phenomenon could have distorted the Earth's magnetic field, which pigeons use for navigation, like a meteorological GPS.
Ian Evans, CEO of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, finds the disappearance of the Bermuda Triangle-style pigeons particularly baffling as "weather conditions across the country have been good." He added that "there was no indication that it would be difficult for the birds to get home."
“I've never heard of anything like it,” lamented the 45-year-old bird owner, who reportedly owned pigeons since he was 9 years old.
Ian Evans, CEO of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, called the disappearance "unusual."
To help make up for the loss, Sayers is urging “everyone who encounters the pigeons to feed, water and rest,” after which “there is an 80% chance the birds will be on their way in a few days,” he told the Daily Mail. The North Yorkshire native added that the carrier pigeons can be identified by the ring on their leg, indicating their "code and number".
To prevent similar disasters in the future, Royal Pigeon Racing Association boss Evans is in talks with the UK's National Weather Service to receive reports of any unusual solar activity.