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I found a pigeon or dove that seems tame and has colored bands on its legs. What should I do?

A gray bird stands with a green band on its foot.
Sometimes racing pigeons will stop for a few days to refuel before continuing their journey home. Photo by Kevin Austin via Birdshare.

This sounds like a domestic racing or homing pigeon. Sometimes these birds become exhausted and need just a few hours or days to rest or feed before they head home again. Sometimes they are injured or lost. In some cases, owners who want to maintain a competitive racing flock don’t want their birds back again, but more often tracking down the owners can be a genuine kindness.

When scientists put bands on wild birds, they use metal bands issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Racing and other domestic pigeons never wear these bands; their owners use different bands usually registered with either the American Racing Pigeon Union or the International Federation of American Pigeon Fanciers. If you can read the leg band numbers, you can contact these organizations to try to track down the pigeon owners.

Did you know that some of Charles Darwin’s revelations about evolution came from the many years he spent raising pigeons? Read about it in Living Bird magazine.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library