Pigeons and other animals are known to use Earth's magnetic field as part of their navigation system.

Despite this provocative, logical association, none of the most mysterious homing pigeon disappearances are related to major geomagnetic disruptions during known solar storms.

The 23rd Cycle - "We're not in Kansas Anymore!".


Homing pigeons vanish during race
...July 22, 2004 - Organisers of a race for homing pigeons were still scratching their heads in wonder today after about 1500 of the birds, famous for their ability to find their way home, went missing during the contest. Of the 2000 pigeons let loose last week, only about 500 have returned to their lofts after the 150km flight between the cities of Ljungby and Malmoe in southern Sweden, said Lars-Aake Nilsson of the Malmoe Homing Pigeon Club.
"The weather was perfect - no rain, no thunder and no strong winds," he said.

In past races, the birds, all of which sport electronic identification tags around their feet, made the journey in about two hours. But at Sunday's race, something went wrong. "I have worked with pigeons since 1960 and have never experienced anything like this," Nilsson said, adding that the birds might have been thrown off course by subtle changes in the earth's magnetic field.

The pigeons have a natural homing instinct and are believed to navigate by the sun and the magnetic waves of the earth, Nilsson said. "And even though some are lost to hawks or hazards like power lines along the way, many more should have made it back home. It's a mystery," he added. He said there have been no reported sightings of the missing birds anywhere in southern Sweden. He declined to say how much the birds were worth.

"It's not so much the economic value as it is a loss to the sport," Nilsson said. "It takes about two years to breed a racing pigeon." [Lloyd Jones, Herald Sun News]

 

2,000 HOMING PIGEONS LOSE THEIR BEARINGS, DISAPPEAR. October 8, 1998 - Homing pigeons, as the name suggests, are supposed to find their way home. But more than 2,000 of the creatures have disappeared this week and no one can explain it. The birds lost their way during two separate homing pigeon races held Monday. Out of 1,800 birds competing in a 200-mile race from New Market, VA to Allentown, PA, about 1,500 have vanished. And in a 159-mile race from western Pennsylvania to suburban Philadelphia, 700 out of 900 pigeons are missing. Most of the pigeons would have been back in their lofts within a few hours. Although it's not unusual to lose a few birds during a race -- a hungry hawk, for example, might snag a few racers -- this week's loss is extraordinary, organizers of the two events say. "There is something in the air," said Gary Moore, who was the "liberator" for the 150-mile race, deciding when and where the birds were released. "To lose this many is just unbelievable." (Austin American Statesman, Austin Texas paper of October 8, 1998:)