Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pigeon King Bankruptcy Leaves Birds in Limbo

Latest developments

Pigeon King Bankruptcy Leaves Birds in Limbo

Submitted by Editor on Fri, 06/27/2008 - 10:51am.
Lancaster Farming
Chris Torres
Staff Writer

Information is still sketchy on what will happen to thousands of pigeons in limbo as a result of the bankruptcy of Pigeon King International last week.

The company, which sold expensive pigeon breeding contracts to prospective buyers, filed for bankruptcy in Canada, with its controversial owner, Arlan Galbraith, declaring the company "dead."

Thousands of producers throughout Canada and the U.S., including many in Pennsylvania, are now left with hundreds if not thousands of pigeons they will have to either sell or destroy as a result of the filing. Many others have likely lost thousands of dollars as a result of their investments in the company.

Live bird markets in Pennsylvania have been inundated with calls from producers who want to get rid of their pigeons.

"We’ve been overwhelmed," said Lisa Laucks of Gingrich Animal Supply, Fredericksburg, Pa. She said the company has gotten requests to sell more than 20,000 pigeons to the live bird market. "There are way too many out there," she said.

The company sold multi-year contracts to prospective investors, some in the range of $250,000 or more, for the right to raise pigeons on the farm with the promise they would be paid for their offspring. The company stated it was stocking pigeons for the lucrative squab market and even trademarked a company, Hinterland Squabs, with the hopes of entering into the market.

But critics, including one former salesman for Pigeon King, claimed the company was operating a "Ponzi" scheme, recruiting new investors to pay off old ones, because they didn’t have a clear market for the birds.

Laucks said many of the pigeons she has seen lack the quality and size to be sold into the squab market.

"They are poor quality pigeons," she said. "The information (Galbraith) gave to producers about selling them as squab was not right."

A handful of states, including Iowa, Maryland and Washington, banned the company from doing business in their states.

The Waterloo Regional Police Department in Canada has opened up an inquiry into the company’s dealings.

But even in the face of bankruptcy, Galbraith defended his business practices in a letter sent out to producers last week. He claims the company was in good financial shape, paying out more than $12 million to purchase pigeons from its contract producers in 2007. He also claimed the pigeon business gave him strength in his fight against Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.

He blamed many factors for the company’s downfall, including the weakening economy, high feed costs and increased building costs.

But he placed most of the blame in the hands of his critics, describing them as "fear mongers" and claiming they prevented the company from recruiting new investors.

"Had the fear mongers not targeted us, we would still be a thriving company establishing the first of several squab processing plants. Instead we have been reduced to ashes by fear. Fear is the strongest weapon in the world and it has been used since the beginning of time to manipulate and control people," Galbraith wrote in his letter.

He added that producers are free to do whatever they want with their pigeons and that a bankruptcy trustee has taken over the company’s dealings.

"This means my hands are now tied and that the trustee is responsible for everything," Galbraith wrote.

Apparently, not all of the company’s producers received his letter.

Robert Leister of Wellsboro, Pa., said Monday he was shocked to learn the company filed for bankruptcy. He had just ordered supplies from the company and was expecting a shipment any day. He even received the company’s latest newsletter, which contained a description of a slaughterhouse they were planning on building.

Leister spent $10,000 on 100 pairs of pigeons and thousands more on renovating a building to house the birds. He said the company honored the contract, but claims he has not made enough money to cover his initial investment. Now, he is left with hundreds of pigeons he doesn’t what to do with.

"I guess there will be a lot of pigeons flying around," Leister said.

Noah Peachey, a Plain Sect farmer from Belleville, Pa., said he knows many other producers in his community that made investments in the company. Five of his nephews bought birds from Pigeon King, all of whom, he said, have no idea what they will do now.

"There are people that are very devastated," Peachey said. "What can you do? We tried to warn them."

According to Dr. David Griswold, acting executive director of the state’s Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission, producers can legally incinerate, render or bury their animals, so long as they do it in a "humane fashion."

Griswold said pigeons carry few diseases and are extremely resistance to avian flu.

Chris Ryder, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said there are at least six markets in the state exclusively for live birds, all of which are located in the Philadelphia area, that could take the pigeons. But he added the markets can only handle between 200 and 600 birds at a time.

Ryder said there are also other markets in the state that could possibly take some of the pigeons.

Source: Lancaster Farming

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wimbledon Uses Marksmen to Shoot Pigeons

Wimbledon under fire for pigeon cull
Jun 24, 1:03 pm EDT

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) -

Wimbledon came under fire from animal activists on Tuesday for using marksmen to shoot down dive-bombing pigeons.

The tournament employs two hawks to scare away pigeons who had become a pest swooping down on Centre Court and distracting players in the middle of tense matches.

But the hawks failed to keep the pigeons away from the players’ lawn and the open-air media restaurant so marksmen were called in.

“The hawks are our first line of deterrent, and by and large they do the job,” Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said.

“But unfortunately there were one or two areas where the hawks didn’t deter the pigeons, so it was deemed necessary to take a harder approach,” he explained.

The marksmen were summoned by Wimbledon as pigeon droppings on the restaurant tables were thought to be a health hazard.

The decision to call in the marksmen was condemned as “cruel and illegal behaviour” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which complained to the tournament organisers and the police.

“Since the use of marksmen to kill pigeons appears to have been carried out as a first, rather than a last resort, and not out of a concern for public health, but rather because the animals were deemed inconvenient by players, you appear to be in clear violation of the law,” PETA vice-president Bruce Friedrich said.

(Reporting by Paul Majendie, Editing by Clare Lovell)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pigeons Show Superior Self-recognition Abilities

Pigeons Show Superior Self-recognition Abilities To Three Year Old Humans

Source: Science Daily

Keio University scientists have shown that pigeons are able to discriminate video images of themselves even with a 5-7 second delay, thus having self-cognitive abilities higher than 3-year-old children who have difficulty recognizing their self-image with only a 2 second delay.

Keio University scientists have shown that pigeons are able to discriminate video images of themselves even with a 5-7 second delay, thus having self-cognitive abilities higher than 3-year-old children who have difficulty recognizing their self-image with only a 2 second delay.

Prof. Shigeru Watanabe of the Graduate School of Human Relations of Keio University and Tsukuba University graduate student Kohji Toda trained pigeons to discriminate real-time self-image using mirrors as well as videotaped self-image, and proved that pigeons can recognize video images that reflect their movements as self-image.

Self-recognition is found in large primates such as chimpanzees, and recent findings show that dolphins and elephants also have such intelligence. Proving that pigeons also have this ability show that such high intelligence as self-recognition can be seen in various animals, and are not limited to primates and dolphins that have large brains.

Experimental method and results

The pigeon was trained to discriminate two types of video images in the following method. First, live video images of the present self (A) and recorded video images of the pigeon that moves differently from the present self (B) are shown. When the pigeon learns to discriminate these two images, the video image of (A) is shown with a temporal delay, so that the monitor shows the image of the pigeon a few seconds before. If the pigeon remembers its own movements, it can recognize it as self-image even with the delay.

The pigeon could discriminate (A) with a few seconds delay as something different from (B). This shows that the pigeon can differentiate the present self-image and the recorded self-image of the past, which means that the pigeon has self-cognitive abilities. Video image (A) matches with the movement of itself, whereas (B) does not. Being able to discriminate the two means that the pigeon understands the difference between movements of itself and movements of the taped image. In this experiment, movements of the pigeon itself are in question instead of the mark of Gallup’s mark test (see 2-(1) below for explanation). When there is a temporal delay in the image of the present self, the longer the delay, the more pigeon’s discrimination was disrupted, and this also shows that the pigeon discriminates the video images using its own movements. The important thing is whether it understands the difference between movements in the video image that match with itself and movements in the video image that don’t.

Method of testing self recognition on animals

(1) Gallup’s mirror test (self-recognition test)

The self-recognition test on animals using mirrors was developed by psychology Prof. Gordon Gallup Jr. at the State University of New York, Albany. His papers released in 1970 in the “Science” magazine explaining that chimpanzees have abilities for self-recognition attracted attention. This test is known as the first to test self-recognition on animals. He anesthetized chimpanzees and then marked their faces. When the chimpanzees were awakened, they were confronted with a mirror and they touched the corresponding marked region of their own faces. Most tests of self-recognition are a variation of the Gallup test, and are used to assess self-recognition in a wide variety of species. It is also called the mark test, or the rouge test.

(2) Assessment of self-recognition on pigeons

Self-recognition can be assessed with cross-modality matching. A typical example of cross-modality matching is waving your hand when you see yourself in a video image. With a mirror image or video image of oneself, when information of the propriocepter (how the arms and legs of oneself are moving) and visual information of oneself correlate, this can be considered self-recognition. The Gallup’s mark test is based on the precondition that the subject can touch itself. Unless the subject touches itself, it cannot be proved that it has abilities for self-recognition. However, the test conducted on pigeons is more advanced, as it is based on how the pigeons move, and by memorizing the shown images, pigeons proved that they have self-cognitive abilities.

Self-cognitive abilities tested in pigeons are higher than that of 3-year olds

Through various experiments, it is known that pigeons have great visual cognitive abilities. For example, a research at Harvard University proved that pigeons could discriminate people photographs from others. At Prof. Shigeru Watanabe’s laboratory, pigeons could discriminate paintings of a certain painter (such as Van Gogh) from another painter (such as Chagall).

Furthermore, pigeons could discriminate other pigeons individually, and also discriminate stimulated pigeons that were given stimulant drugs from none. In this experiment, pigeons could discriminate video images that reflect their movements even with a 5-7 second delay from video images that don’t reflect their movements. This ability is higher than an average 3-year-olds of humans. According to a research by Prof. Hiraki of the University of Tokyo, 3-year-olds have difficulty recognizing their self-image with only a 2 second delay.


Journal reference:

Toda et al. Discrimination of moving video images of self by pigeons (Columba livia). Animal Cognition, 2008 DOI: 10.1007/s10071-008-0161-4
Adapted from materials provided by Keio University.
Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:

Keio University (2008, June 14). Pigeons Show Superior Self-recognition Abilities To Three Year Old Humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 17, 2008, from­ /releases/2008/06/080613145535.htm

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pigeons Are Smarter Than a Three-Year Old

Pigeons: Smarter than a three-year-old

USA Today

News from Japan that may make parents scramble for their Baby Mozart CDs.

Scientists there have shown pigeons are better at self-recognition than three-year-old children. The birds can also tell a Van Gogh from a Chagall.

Prof. Shigeru Watanabe of Keio University and a grad student found the pigeons were good at identifying their own mug in a video image. The birds could distinguish between video self-images that showed their movements vs. video images that didn't show their movements. That was even with a 5-7 second delay in the video.

The average three-year-old child has trouble recognizing their self-image with just a two-second delay.

We know self-recognition isn't uniquely human. Chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants also have the ability. The pigeon finding suggests an animal doesn't need a large brain to know its own image.

And sorry, kids -- this self-recognition thing? It's for the birds.

By Jess Zielinski

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New York Magazine - Pro-Pigeonism Article

New York Magazine - Pro-Pigeonism Article

Pigeons are nature’s ambassadors to many young New Yorkers. Kids may grow up singing about Old McDonald, imitating farm animals, and reciting their “this little piggy”s, but those animals aren’t city dwellers. What parent hasn’t gotten a whine-free afternoon thanks to some birds and a few crackers? Nonetheless, pigeons have enemies: landlords, the bird-poop-phobic, and Woody Allen, who dubbed them rats with wings. But on June 13, bird lovers will spring to the underdog’s defense by hosting National Pigeon Day in Central Park. “We’re trying to promote a positive image,” says New York Bird Club founder Anna Dove via telephone, rescued canaries tweeting in the background. “There’s such negativity for no reason. They’re harmless, defenseless. They can’t attack; their beak is very soft.” Other members of the crusade against “anti-pigeonism” include Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns and Valerie Sicignano of In Defense of Animals. The day is equal parts class and party: Kids will learn cool pigeon facts (e.g., how the birds acted as wartime carriers and how they’re smart enough to recognize alphabet letters) as they nibble on pigeon-shape cookies, view pigeon-inspired children’s art, and take part in a candlelight prayer service. (Dove worries there might not even be urban pigeons in five years.) Meanwhile, she urges all New York families to “carry a bit of bread crumbs in your bag, a few seeds to show kindness and respect. The pigeon isn’t a threat or an enemy. It goes along with quality of life to show kindness and compassion to all living things.” That’s a lovely lesson for the children.

6/13, 4 to 8 p.m. Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, enter on Fifth Ave. at 72nd St. (212-369-1293 or; free.

Monday, June 9, 2008

National Pigeon Day - June 13th

Friday, June 13

4 - 8 pm

Pilgrim Hill in Central Park
New York, NY
(enter on northwest corner of 5th Avenue @ E. 72nd Street)

Entertainment, political activism, materials distribution, candlelight prayer service with guitar accompaniment and pigeon shaped cookies. Learn how carrier pigeons Cher Ami, GI Joe and Winkie saved the lives of more than 1,000 men in wartime. Become part of Project Pigeon Watch and have fun learning about our fascinating NYC residents.

Amanda Tree will host and play her music for National Pigeon Day.

Special Guest Joe Franklin

Speakers include:

Council Member Tony Avella, Nellie McKay, In Defense of Animals, Deacon Joseph Dwyer, Janice Fredericks, United Poultry Concerns, Raghav K. Goyal and Ana A. Garcia, Amanda Tree.

The New York Bird Club wishes to thank In Defense of Animals who will provide a banner, Hanna Fushihara Aron who will bake pigeon shaped cookies, God's Creatures Ministry who will provide candles, the United Federation of Teachers Humane Education Committee who will bring Pigeon Watch materials for distribution, all speakers and contributors and all our pigeon friends who advocate on behalf of our beautiful birds.

Guest Speakers and Schedule:
(see blog)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Homing Pigeons' Wartime Accomplishments Celebrated on Anniversary of WW1 Battle

Chicago Tribune

Homing pigeons' wartime accomplishments celebrated on anniversary of WWI battle
In Wheaton, enthusiasts tell of birds' role in WWI

By Gerry Smith
Tribune reporter

8:35 PM CDT, May 31, 2008

They're seen mostly as an urban nuisance, filthy birds who frequently defecate on the statues of war heroes, but pigeons still hold a special place in the hearts of veterans.

On Saturday, during the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Cantigny, the first U.S. victory of World War I, homing pigeons were celebrated at Cantigny Park in Wheaton for their pivotal role in protecting soldiers during the war.

As a breeder released homing pigeons into the sky, visitors observed exhibits highlighting the birds' valor in the line of duty.

During wartime, some pigeons were fitted with cameras to take photographs of enemy positions. Their most important role was as messengers, carrying notes that were neatly folded into small canisters attached to their legs.

During World War I, before the two-way radio, field commanders carried carrier pigeons to communicate. The pigeons would instinctively fly back to their home and deliver messages to military planners.

"Some of those birds had to fly across the English Channel," said Bill Mitiu, 56, a member of the Greater Chicago Combine, a group of homing pigeon-keepers.

Perhaps the most famous of the World War I carrier pigeons was named Cher Ami. The bird was credited with saving the lives of about 200 American soldiers in the 77th Infantry Division by delivering messages across enemy lines.

Recent scientific research has found that pigeons are able to navigate hundreds of miles based on smell, disproving prior theories that they used Earth's magnetic field to find their way home.

On Saturday, Mitiu released several pigeons. Some flew from the park in Wheaton to Mitiu's coop in Brookfield, a 20-mile journey that takes them about 20 minutes.

Today, homing pigeons are typically used for racing and sometimes referred to as "race horses of the sky." They are bred in backyard coops and wear a band on each leg—one with an ID number, the other with a computer chip that registers when they cross the finish line.

"They're amazing little athletes," Mitiu said.

But they have an image problem. In response to complaints about feathers and droppings around local coops, the Chicago City Council in 2004 banned raising pigeons in residential areas, making Chicago the largest city in the nation to enact such an ordinance.

The birds receive more respect in Europe, Mitiu said, where residents of some countries still remember the role of pigeons on the battlefield. For example, there are an estimated 60,000 pigeon enthusiasts in Belgium, a nation of 10 million people.

"These birds helped save their lives during wars, and they respect that and recognize that," Mitiu said.