Flights of fancy

Updated: 2014-01-12 01:35

By Erik Nilsson (China Daily)

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Flights of fancy

The Pioneer (Beijing) International Pigeon Racing Club’s fall auction is hosted by Xue Xiaojian. Xing Yi / China Daily


"So I hid them in our courtyard's coal pile."

While pigeon raising and racing were legalized after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), they were residually viewed as capitalist pursuits.

"I couldn't find my birds when I returned from school one day," Wang recalls. "My parents had found the nest and ate my precious pets. I was heartbroken."

But his childhood experience enticed his interest in the 1990s, when his pigeons won many prizes.

Wang Jinhai took to the trade full time in 2004, and now raises up to 4,000 birds a year as Blue Feather's chief trainer.

The loft typically receives squabs not yet 45 days old from February to March.

"Pigeons only recognize one home their entire lives," Wang Jinhai explains.

"So if the birds are too old when they come here, they might not recognize our loft as home and fly back to their owners' homes during training."

The birds' drills start with hovering above the loft after Wang Jinhai puts them to the sky at 6 am and teaches them to return to Kenny G's crooning at noon.

Wang spends the time they're gone inspecting their droppings.

"The droppings indicate their health," Wang says. "One sick bird could infect the flock. So I must check their feces carefully."

Wang feeds them multigrain mixes, beans and corn. He adds gravel and nutrition powders to enhance digestion and vitality.

Pigeon-care products' retail is another dimension of the racing market.

Hong Kong Maker Racing Pigeon Appliances sales representative Zhuang Yaling's company sells cages, bands, whistles, gravel and powders.

"Gravel and powders are our biggest sellers," she says.

Trainings' second stage usually begins in July.

Wang and his colleagues take the birds further from the loft each time, starting from less than 1 km and moving up to 300.

Come the next competition season, they'll become the next salvo of pigeons launched into in the country's rocketing racing sector.

And there's no sign the industry's trajectory in China will descend anytime soon, as sky-high profits continue to propel it to new heights.

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Xing Yi contributed to this story.

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