CNTU Tipplers

English Flying Tipplers

Can a Pigeon See in the Dark?

by D. Hammond [For PDF version Click Here]

This question seems to spark very different answers from different flyers. Some will say yes, once dark trained or obviously they would fly into things, others differing in percentages of the pigeon’s vision once flying into the dark. In racing pigeons, great attention is paid to the eye as a means of choosing racers and producers. A pigeon with little eye-sign or lack of depth in the coloration would be a poor producer and almost certainly a moderate racer. Could we draw any conclusions to help us with Flying Tipplers into the dark? I have done the following tests:

Firstly, I took a pigeon from the loft, which was already dark-trained. I took him in daylight, in good weather conditions and out of distance of his usual flying patterns (about 5 miles) and released him. Within a short time he was back to the loft. I waited for dark and took the same bird to the same position and released him. He returned the next day in daylight. I did this three times with three different dark-trained Tipplers and not one could get back to the loft in the dark. Could we conclude from this the urge to return was present, only the ability to do so in the dark was lacking.

As we know, when a pigeon is flying in the dark he sticks to certain flying patterns. I released the same three birds individually along route of the bird’s fly pattern (about l ½ miles) from the loft. This time, all three birds made it back to the loft in the dark within a couple of minutes. I am now asking myself how much does the pigeon actually see in the dark and how much is he using his intimate local knowledge of the area built up from his many hours of dark training?

I am now trying out some more detailed tests, but am of the opinion that a pigeon’s vision is reduced in the dark by about 80%, although I am still of an open mind. One thing is for sure. When we train in the dark we are asking out birds to do something that is totally unnatural to them and great care and patience is needed. More good birds are spoilt trying to get them to flying in the dark than for probably any other reason. Is it all worth it? Hope this is of some use to any novices thinking of dark training.