White Homing Pigeons and White Doves Compared
White homing pigeons are larger and stronger than the white ring neck doves, which you can purchase in most pet shops. A white homing pigeon weighs about a pound and measures about 13 inches from beak to tail feathers. You can easily hold a white ring neck dove in one hand; you need two hands to hold a white homing pigeon. See photo of white homing pigeon at right.
Homing pigeons come in different colors. White homing pigeons have been selectively bred over the centuries for their color and homing instinct.
Not all pigeons have a homing instinct, the capacity to find their way home. For example the common street pigeons or feral pigeons in our cities do not have a highly developed homing instinct.
You can train white homing pigeons to return home because they have a built-in "homing instinct". Some exceptional homing pigeons can find their way home as far as 1,000 miles from their loft. White homing pigeons generally can find their way home within 50 miles of their loft; exceptional white homing pigeons can return to their loft from 200 miles.
You cannot train white ring neck doves to return home because they do not have a "homing instinct". See white ring neck doves at right (photo). White ring neck doves cannot fly more than a few feet away or fend for themselves. If released outdoors, white ring neck doves try to run free but they can easily fall pray to cats and hawks and may fly into car windshields and buildings. This is not something you want to see at a dignified wedding or memorial service. Therefore, we urge the public not to use white ring neck doves for dove releases. You should only use trained white homing pigeons for dove releases. They are bigger, stronger, more visual, and they know how to fly home.
Homing pigeons are gifted with a superior eye site and memory that helps them find and remember landmarks such as rivers, lakes, mountains, and building structures. Unlike humans, they have the advantage of a "bird's eye view" that helps them recognize landmarks as far as their eyes can see!
Homing pigeons need sunlight to navigate. Unlike owls and bats, they cannot see or fly at night to find their way home.
Like most birds, homing pigeons cannot navigate in inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain storms. A bright sunny day provides the best conditions for a dove release.
Training Homing Pigeons to Home
When the young pigeon is between six and eight weeks old, it will venture out of the loft on its own. Their first lesson is to be able to get back into the loft through the trap door. If you wish, you may train the young pigeon to enter the trap door at about six weeks old. At this time it will allow you to help him through the trap door and won't be able to fly away from you.
Once they master entry into the loft through the trap door and get accustomed to flying and recognizing their neighborhood surroundings, you can start training them to return home. The first time, take the young homing pigeon by itself or its mates 2 to 3 miles from its loft and release it. The next time double the distance to 5 miles; then 10 miles, then 15 miles, etc. We suggest that you increase the distance by no more than 5 miles to avoid bird losses.
You should release the doves from different directions (north, south, east, west) so that they may get used to finding their home under different conditions. When you change directions, you should start releasing within 5 miles to avoid bird losses.
If you experience bird losses, slow down the training to avoid further losses. Most trained white homing pigeons will cover a distance of 50 miles; exceptional white homing pigeons can return from as far as 200 miles. Do not push the homing pigeons beyond their natural range.
Care of Doves and Health Tips
Do not overfeed your doves and keep the loft clean and dry. Give them enough seeds for one day and do not give them new seeds until they finish all the seeds they have, including those on the dirt. This ensures that no old seeds remain and spoil. Old spoiled seeds harbor mold and bacteria that are harmful to the birds.
Give the doves clean water at least twice a day. Throw away the old water and replace it with fresh water. In the case of homing pigeons, give them water outside their loft to keep their loft free of moisture, which harbors bacteria and mold.
And don't forget to provide grit for your doves or pigeons to help with their digestion. You can buy grit at the feed stores and pet shops where you buy dove feed. The American White Dove Release Association recommends a good pigeon mix that includes millet, wheat, safflower, and pop corn.
If the birds get diarrhea (green stools) or lice and mites, you can get over the counter medication at your nearest pet shop or bird shop.
Follow these tips, and your doves will live long, healthy lives! Some doves can live more than 20 years with good care.
Information About White Doves and White Homing Pigeons
Learn more about white homing pigeons and doves please visit the American White Dove Release Association. To schedule a White Dove Release in the United States, please visit the White Dove Release Directory of America.