LHS student raises and races pigeons


Taylor holding his most famous pigeon

Felicia Robare, News Editor

While dogs and cats are typical pets for most students at Ludlow High School, sophomore Ben Taylor and his grandfather raise and race homing pigeons.

Taylor’s grandfather, Joe Valadas,  first started raising pigeons when he was about 18-years-old and in the Portuguese merchant marines. When Taylor was thirteen years old, his grandfather, who is now 75, passed the pigeons down to him to start a new tradition.

“The first time I saw these birds, it was love at first sight,” says Taylor. “They are my favorite animal, and I am pumped to go see them everyday after school.”

Taylor and his grandfather had a total of 65 pigeons, but unfortunately for him, his favorite one died.

The birds vary in age. He has some that are twelve years old and others that are less than a year. Life spans for pigeons vary greatly but some can live for 15 years.

The homing pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeon derived from the rock pigeon, selectively bred to find its way home over extremely long distances. They are often used for racing.

When Taylor races the pigeons, they are driven out to Sandusky, OH and dropped off there to fly back home. Pigeons under a year old can travel about 300 miles, but pigeons over a year can travel twice that amount, or 600 miles

Racing season is from early August to the late September and they usually receive a trophy and prize money if they win.

Ben and his grandfather split the prize money. Taylor puts his in the bank and his grandfather spends his money on food for the birds, such as corn and grains.

Taylor and his grandfather have a tag on each bird so they are able to tell the birds apart and to see how far they travel, but they do not name any of them.

Mating season for the birds is during the months of March and May.

“Typically I will sit down with my grandfather in April and discuss the plans to mate the birds,” says Taylor. “We pick and choose which birds should be mated for the best outcome.” In other words, they will mate to very fast birds or a fast bird with one that is strong.

All of the birds have to be trained from a young age so he and his grandfather take the birds out to an aviary, or a large enclosure used for confining birds, so the birds are able to get used to their surroundings.

The birds are released at a certain point, and Taylor and Valadas always hope that all the birds will find their way home; however, inevitably they will lose five to ten birds.

“When we first let them out, they usually scatter, and we usually lose three-quarters of the birds when we do this,” says Taylor. “But once they first find their way back home, they know that’s where their home is.”

Before letting the pigeons out for the first time, they have to get approval from their neighbors if it is okay that the birds are loose.

“One time, a pigeon flew down my neighbor’s chimney once. Mr. Banas — the nicest man you’ll ever meet — came over to get help from my grandfather and me to get it out of his living room. We had to corner the bird so we could safely pick it up and bring it back home,” explained Taylor.

So if you see a flock of pigeons circling around a house on Pine Knoll Drive in Ludlow, don’t be surprised. It’s probably just Taylor’s pigeons returning home.