In January, the fourth-grade class at Durham’s Central Park School for Children hatched and began raising homing pigeons. This week, the next year of fourth-graders met the birds. They will now take over their training in the hopes of competing in North Carolina Combine’s spring pigeon races. Teacher Aaron Sebens let the INDY ask the class a few questions over Zoom. 

What were your first impressions of the pigeons? 

Malcolm: When I got to hold one of them, it was really soft. It looked up at me like, “Uh, who’s holding me, let me go?” 

Ollie: When I was holding one of them, something that I didn’t know pigeons could do was it turned its head all the way to face me. It turned its head all the way around and was looking straight at me. 

Spooky. How many pigeons are there? 

Selwyn: There’s six pigeons—Aaron, can I tell her the story? OK, so two days ago, one of the pigeons got attacked by a hawk, and there’s a bunch of feathers around the loft. Rider was attacked by a hawk, but he’s OK. 

Aaron Sebens: We didn’t know until this year, but September and October is big hawk season—there’s more around because they’re migrating through. 

How do these birds know how to find their way home? 

Ollie: They have a little thing on their nose called a wattle. Some other birds have them—I think, chickens. And nobody knows exactly how they know where home is, but when they spend a bunch of time in one area (or maybe when they know where their food is), they know, like, “That’s where I want to go.” 

Aaron Sebens: They are very food-driven, yeah. Does anyone know what’s in their wattle so they can find their way home? 

Alexander: They can sense magnetic fields all over the earth. 

Does anyone have any favorite facts they want to share?  

Lucille: Pigeons can fly 60 miles an hour. 

Eloise: In the pigeon-racing book that we read, it said that people have been using pigeons for almost three thousand years. 

Aaron Sebens: We’re going to start racing them in February. If our flock is big enough, we’re going to do the North Carolina races, which is the big game. We’re going to try and get them trained up this fall so they’re ready for the spring races.

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