There are over 250 pigeon teams in northern Kerala
A few sets of eyes follow a pigeon as it flies around the coastal village of Nainamvalappu in Kozhikode. It has flown 11 hours non-stop without a break. The owner gets to bask in pride as if his offspring has done well in a test.
“This sport is only about the competitive spirit among pigeon breeders. Nothing comes off it other than the pleasure of being on top,” says Shanoob N.V., an executive member of the Calicut Pigeon Association.
May-August period is when pigeon flyers across the State get themselves busy in competitions. This is the best time for pigeon flying as the atmospheric temperature is not too warm to tire the pigeons off. Though rain may slow down the birds, it does not harm them.
“Last year we did not have any tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year we found the courage to organise some,” Shanoob says.
There are over 250 pigeon teams in northern Kerala and they participate in eight to nine tournaments a year. “Some tournaments are local while some are State level,” says Shanoob.
Unlike other competitions, competitors need not be at one location to be part of a pigeon tourney. Umpires travel to places where the teams are located, as pigeons are allowed to fly in familiar environs.
The flying starts at 5.59 a.m. and ends by 7.30 p.m. Most birds will not be able to complete the 13 hours. The longer the bird stays in the air, higher the points. The owner has to identify the bird every 20 minutes and if he cannot spot the bird for more than 45 minutes, he will be out of the contest.
Shanoob has been breeding pigeons for the past 15 years and has been in the tournament circuit for the last 10 years. He owns around 100 pigeons only two of which are fit for competitions.
“So much has changed over the years. Pigeons that cost ₹50-60 then now cost ₹200-300. The ones used in competitions costs between ₹1500 and ₹2000”, he said.
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