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Famous Pigeons
Cher Ami :: G.I. Joe :: Martha, the Last Known Passenger Pigeon :: Pigeon Facts :: Interesting Facts :: Photos

Cher Ami

In October of 1918, the 77th Infantry Division of WWI was stranded behind enemy lines without ammunition or provisions. The commander of the 'Lost Battalion' made a number of efforts to communicate with division headquarters.  All attempts were unsuccessful.  Numerous pigeons carrying messages were released and each was detrimentally wounded or killed during flight. Cher Ami, the last remaining bird, was released with a crucial message contained in a capsule that was attached to his leg.  Like the other pigeons released that day, he too was hit by shrapnel, but continued the 25-minute flight to his loft and saved the troops of the 'Lost Battalion' from certain death or surrender. The amazing part of his flight was that he was shot in the breast and leg and when he arrived he was missing most of the leg to which the message capsule was attached. Cher Ami was awarded the French palm for heroic service but died the following year from wounds he received in battle.

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G. I. Joe

G.I Joe is one of the most famous pigeons in history, most noted for saving a thousand soldiers during WWII.
During the month of October 1943, British troops were trying to advance on the German held Italian town of Colvi Veccia. In an effort to weaken the German position, the infantry ordered an aerial bombardment of the town by the allies. On October 18, 1943 the German resistance fell and British soldiers took up positions inside the town.  Because the bombing was scheduled to take place within the half-hour, a panicked message was tied to the leg of G.I Joe and sent to the headquarters. A thousand British soldiers held their position, prepared to take whatever came their way.  As the bombers were taxiing the runways at headquarters, G.I Joe arrived with the message to cancel the operation.  He had flown 20 miles in 20 minutes and his speedy delivery saved 150 British troops from disaster by less than five minutes.

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Martha, the Last Known Passenger Pigeon

For those of you unaware, Rocky Mountain Adventures’ pigeons are homing pigeons.  They are often mistaken for carrier pigeons or passenger pigeons.  However, the passenger pigeon became extinct in 1929.  Here is a short history of how that came to be.

Prior to its extinction, there were estimates that 3 to 5 billion passenger pigeons flew the skies of America at the time European settlements were beginning.  There were so many, that there were reports that the skies would blacken with their passing overhead.  Cotton Mather noted that there were so many birds that it would take hours for the flocks to pass and that they would stretch out for the width of a mile or more. 

Their extinction is primarily due to over hunting.  They provided a source of food and barrels upon barrels of the hunted bird were sent to New York markets.  Large numbers of the birds were shot for sport.  With the advent of railroad lines, commercial hunting became more prosperous.  During this time, the telegraph was even used to inform hunters of the locations of flocks.  It was stated that about a quarter-million passenger pigeons were shot in a single day in 1986.  The hunters were reportedly aware that they were shooting the last wild flock.  Over a decade later in March of 1900, a 14 year-old boy in Ohio shot what was believed to be the last wild passenger pigeon.

After about the mid 1860’s it was apparent that the great flocks were no more.  Efforts were made to capture the wild bird but few survived or reproduced in captivity.  The clearing of forest land for farming and cities without doubt contributed to the pigeons’ demise.  From 1909 to 1912, rewards were offered by the American Ornithologist’s Union to anyone who could find a nest or nesting colony.  No one claimed the award.
The last known passenger pigeon, "Martha" died at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden at 1 p.m. on September 1, 1914 at the age of 29.  Her corpse was sent packed in ice to the Smithsonian Institution where her mounted body can be viewed today.

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Pigeon Facts
  • Young chicks are called squabs.
  • Both hens and cocks create crop “milk” which they fed to their squabs.  Crop milk is a cheesy like substance.  Pigeons are unique in that both the hen and the cock create the milk.
  • Squabs grow very fast.  Within 2 days they will double their weight.
  • Pigeons mate for life.
  • The hen lays 2 eggs.  The eggs hatch about 17 days later.
  • The parents take turns caring for the eggs and hatched young.  The female sits on the eggs from late afternoon through the night until mid morning.  The male’s takes his turn from mid-morning until late afternoon.  Once the eggs hatch, both parents attend to feeding the young squabs.
  • Pigeons can fly speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (a mile a minute) and can go great distances (600 miles) in a day.

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Interesting Facts

Reuter’s news service got it start just after Paul Julius Reuter began delivering news between Aachen, Germany and Brussels using a covey of 45 pigeons.  In 1850, the birds traveled the 76 mile distance in two hours to deliver the latest news, stock prices and other information.  Although the telegraph was in operation within each of the countries, there were gaps in the transmission lines within and between the two.  At the time, the railroad carried most of the news over a route that took 6 hours.  In less than half the time, Reuter was able to transmit his information to clients willing to pay a premium for early financial information.  After about a year, the telegraph reached most points so the pigeon delivery service offered no advantage and Reuter had to develop other ways to deliver timely information.

In the early 1800’s, the Rothschild family set up a network of pigeon lofts throughout Europe and used the birds to send information to their financial houses quicker than that available by other means.  The speed of the information assisted the family in accumulating a fortune that helped make them the name they are today.  In 1815, Count Rothschild, so the story is told, was aware of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo much earlier than the rest of England.  Rothschild used the knowledge to make financial decisions based on fact long before others were aware of the battle’s outcome.

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Pigeon Photos

Historal Pigeons
Historal Pigeons
Historal Pigeons
Historal Pigeons Pigeon Express homing pigeon Pigeon Express homing pigeon
homing pigeon flying back to coop Pigeon Express pigeon in special backpack used to carry film Pigeon Express pigeons in coop

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