19 August 2017 - FACTS ABOUT PIGEONS


G'day folks,

Welcome to some facts about a very smart bird.

There are many theories about how pigeons manage to return ‘home’ when released 100s of miles from their loft. A champion racing pigeon can be released 400-600 miles away from its home and still return within the day. This amazing feat does not just apply to ‘racing’ or ‘homing’ pigeons; all pigeons have the ability to return to their roost. A 10-year study carried out by Oxford University concluded that pigeons use roads and motorways to navigate, in some cases even changing direction at motorway junctions. Other theories include navigation by use of the earth’s magnetic field, visual clues such as landmarks, the sun and even infrasounds (low frequency seismic waves). 

Whatever the truth, this unique ability makes the pigeon a very special bird.
We normally think of the pigeon as being an unwelcome guest in our towns and cities, but most of us are unaware that racing pigeons can be worth huge sums of money. One racing pigeon recently sold for a staggering $132,517.00! 

The 3-year old bird was a champion racer, beating 21,000 other pigeons in one long distance race. For this reason he was bought by a British company that breeds racing pigeons for ‘stud’. One very happy pigeon! The previous record price for a racing pigeon was $73, 800.00.

The pigeon has side-mounted eyes, unlike humans and owls which have forward facing eyes. As pigeons have monocular vision rather than binocular vision they bob their heads for depth of perception. The pigeon’s eyes function much better with stationary images and therefore as the pigeon takes a step forward the head is temporarily left behind. The next step jerks the head forward again and so on. This allows the bird to correctly orient itself.

During the First World War a pigeon named Cher Ami (dear friend) saved the lives of many French soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle. Cher Ami was shot in the chest and the leg, losing most of the leg to which the message was attached, but continued the 25-minute flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home. Cher Ami was awarded the French ‘Croix de Guerre’ medal for heroic service.

The earliest large-scale communication network using pigeons as messengers was established in Syria and Persia around the 5th century BC. Much later, in the 12th century AD, the city of Baghdad and all the main towns and cities in Syria and Egypt were linked by messages carried by pigeons. This was the sole source of communication. 

In Roman times the pigeon was used to carry results of sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, and this is why white doves are released at the start of the Olympic Games today. In England, prior to the days of telegraphs, pigeons were often taken to football matches and released to carry home the result of the game. Their use as a messenger in wartime resulted in many pigeons being awarded honours by both the British and French Governments. 

Incredibly, the last ‘pigeon post’ service was abandoned in India in 2004 with the birds being retired to live out the rest of their days in peace.


Clancy's comment: My brother and I had pigeons as kids, and we enjoyed taking them miles away, letting them go and then riding our bikes home to try and beat them. We never did.

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G'day folks,

Ever been to Singapore? If you have, you will recall seeing one of their many shophouses.

Shophouses are known as such because of their ground floor shops for mercantile activity and separate private residences above. Historically the ground floor was occupied by a traditional shop, but the space can just as easily be a coffeeshop or bar, a clinic, a barber, an auto workshop or even a school or a bank. And if we’re talking about film-worthy architecture, there’s no shortage of drama when it comes to these colonial buildings, commonly seen in urban Southeast Asia, most notably in Singapore.

A riot of Wes Anderson pastels and quirky decoration, they evolved from the late 18th century but after the colonial era, became neglected, dilapidated, many abandoned, demolished or destroyed. 

And get this– many shophouses have been known to be illegally sealed and used to cultivate and harvest edible birds nests, doing long-term internal damage to the buildings. Seriously. The edible birds nests, created with the solidified saliva of small birds from the swift family, are among the most expensive and rare animal products consumed by humans, particularly prised in Chinese culture due to their supposedly high nutritional value. Used in their cooking for over 400 years, most commonly bird’s nest soup, the Chinese believe it promotes good health, especially for the skin.

Now, here are some examples of these incredible establishments.

Clancy's comment: I've lived in a shophouse in Thailand, and I must say that they are great. They are spacious, and many like the one I lived in, had a rooftop area that was a fabulous place to take photographs.
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G'day folks,

Elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea. Three species are recognised, the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant.

Elephants are some of the most loved and admired creatures on earth. While coveted for their valuable ivory tusks, used to transport heavy cargo, or for primary symbolism in religious ceremonies, Elephants have become key figures not only in the animal kingdom, but also among many rural and traditional civilizations. Among the most commonly known facts about Elephants are: they can weigh anywhere between 6,000 and 15,000 lbs; are herbivores that enjoy the occasional sweet banana and sugar cane; and love to travel and hunt in large pacts. But, there are so many unique and dazzling traits about the Elephant that are largely unknown. Below is a list of 10 facts about Elephants which may surprise the most observant Elephant lover.

1)   Ever wondered how groups of Elephants communicate with each other over long distances? Their infrequent whine would be a good guess, but not nearly as awesome as the answer. Studies show that pacts of Elephants can stomp the ground with their feet, sending sub-sonic ripples through the ground, which the receiving pact can collect through the sensitive nerves in their feet! This ground-shaking rumble is so powerful and fast, it is transported faster than sound waves through the air.

2) Yes, Elephants are herbivores, but that doesn’t mean that they will simply eat anything that wasn’t in the form of a dead specie. Elephants actually have food preferences and peanuts is most certainly not one of them. Elephants detest the woody taste of peanuts so much, they avoid them in the wildlife and when in zoos, keepers are careful to remember not include them in their diet.

3) Elephants don’t just have an infatuation with sand, it’s a necessity for them. Despite their seemingly tough, weather-worn wrinkled skin, Elephants have the tendency to get sunburned. To avoid suffering under harsh rays of sunlight, Elephants douse their bodies in sand by using their trunks to toss it over their backs and legs. This procedure serves as a skin protector against rays and irritating insects. Elephants also take care to rub their young in sand, as their skin is more sensitive.

4) How much food and water must an Elephant consume everyday to stay strong and healthy? Elephants require up to forty gallons of water per day, and need as much as 400 pounds of food daily in order to survive.

5) While humans have only two sets of teeth in their lifetime (milk teeth and permanent), Elephants gain six sets of twenty-six teeth over the span of their seventy years. Each new set of teeth push the old ones out and take root. If this process is for some reason prohibited, an Elephant can face death by starvation.

6) Tusks are, along with the trunk, the most recognizable traits of an Elephant. However, unlike the African Elephants, not all Asian Elephants have tusks. The female Asian Elephants do not have the privilege of tusks and only some of the male Asian Elephants are born with these highly sought after traits.

7) The Elephant can dazzle observers with their ground communication techniques, walk at the crawling pace of four miles per hour, and can actually swim for long distances at a time. What the Elephant cannot do is jump because of its enormous weight, or gallop away when under threat.

8) Massive Elephant herds are led by the most experienced or aged Elephant who is a matriarch. Both female and males will follow her lead, but for males, they tend to leave the herd after twelve years to join their male peers.

9) The legs of an Elephant are perhaps the strongest parts of its entire body. Carrying more than 6,000 lbs of weight, the Elephant’s legs don’t get easily fatigued, because the Elephant does not sleep lying down. So sturdy are it’s pillar-like legs that the Elephant simply falls asleep standing up for two to three hours at a time before returning to eat or migrate from one destination to the next.

10) There are thousands of nerves in an Elephant’s trunk, and many observations over years have proven that Elephants are extremely emotional creatures capable of mimicking sounds, feeling sadness, glee, and anger. Even more interesting is how many emotional or traditional traits Elephants have in common with humans. Young Elephants suck their trunks for comfort just as young human infants suck their thumbs. In terms of tradition, Elephants become very attached to each other in pacts, so when an Elephant grows old or sick, its fellow Elephants band together to help the Elephant eat, drink, and stand. When such nurturing methods fail and the Elephant dies, funeral processions are held where Elephants pause their travels, have silence, grieve, and finally, bury the Elephant by digging a ditch and covering the body with sand.

Clancy's comment: I've seen hundreds of them over the years, and I still enjoy watching them. An amazing creature.

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