The birds don’t have names. Only tracking number bands. But that’s OK for Keith Ruiz of Kekaha because his bird, 6233, was easy to spot.
“It was the only one to come back,” Ruiz said. “It’s never been done before.”
Bird 6233 was the only bird, last week, to finish the 311-mile race from Honokaa on the Big Island to Ruiz’s loft in Kekaha.
This was the first race the Kauai Invitational Racing Pigeon Club hosted. Because it was the only bird to finish, it was also the only bird on record to fly the course. Most of the birds who fly in the races, Ruiz said, get lost, but not this old bird.
Ruiz started training birds just last year. He has approximately 50 pigeons, but only about six of them are “old birds.”
“My father used to do it, so I figured I’d get into it,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz, who works for Oceanic Cable, said he releases the birds when he goes to work and they fly back to Kekaha.
Racing pigeons on the Mainland routinely fly 300 mile races, according to Steve Ruiz, also of the racing club. Usually, the farthest races are set at 500 to 600 miles for birds that are older than a year, commonly referred to as “Old Birds.”
The pigeons on the Mainland, however, don’t normally fly over water, let alone the Pacific Ocean.
“Some of the birds get lost and they find them on O‘ahu,” Keith Ruiz said.
The racing club’s birds are trained to land only on their respective lofts after flying.
The birds are usually let out in early morning and afternoons for exercise and are called down, usually by a whistle for feeding.
This is important on race day when the birds are homing back after a race.
A fancier would want to clock his bird as soon as possible to achieve the best possible time. Clocking is done by an electronic clock and a computer to figure out the respective speed in yards per minute on each returning bird.
Ruiz plans on racing 6233 again next year.