Carrier pigeon

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A carrier pigeon is a homing pigeon (specifically a domesticated rock pigeon, Columba livia) that was used to carry messages. Using pigeons to carry messages was generally called "pigeon post". Most homing or racing type varieties were used to carry messages. There is no specific breed actually called "carrier pigeon". Carrier pigeons that were the basic Racing Homer were used to carry messages in World War I and World War II. Thirty-two pigeons were presented with the Dickin Medal.[1]

Carrier pigeons should not be confused with English Carriers, which were once used many years ago to carry messages but are now bred primarily for their "carriage" and other show qualities.[2]

Carrier pigeons historically carried messages only one way, to their home. They had to be transported manually before another flight. However by placing their food at one location and their home at another location, pigeons have been trained to fly back and forth up to twice a day reliably. This setup allows Pigeons to cover 160 km (99 mi) round trip.[3]

With training, pigeons can carry up to 75 g (2.5 oz) on their backs. The German apothecary Julius Neubronner used carrier pigeons to deliver urgent medication.[4] In 1977 a similar carrier pigeon service was set up for the transport of laboratory specimen between two English hospitals. Every morning a basket with pigeons was taken from Plymouth General Hospital to Devonport Hospital. The birds then delivered unbreakable vials back to Plymouth as needed.[5] The 30 carrier pigeons became unnecessary in 1983 because of the closure of one of the hospitals.[6] In the 1980s a similar system existed between two French hospitals located in Granville and Avranche.[7]

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