Racing Pigeon Club takes flight

Most of the Kaua‘i Racing Pigeon Club’s six members had birds when they were young, said club Secretary-Treasurer Stephen Ruiz.

That’s the way it was with Ruiz.

Originally from Kaua‘i, he spent much of his childhood years on the Mainland, where he became acquainted with the sport.

Ruiz said he often “pestered” his neighbor, a breeder, about his hobby, which focused on developing white and silver wing pigeons.

“Racing pigeons is based on breeders,” Ruiz said. “The object is to get a bird that has super homing instinct along with speed.”

Ruiz has a binder full of pedigree information as well as notebooks containing information on each bird in his loft, where pigeons are housed.

Each bird has a band that identifies it as Ruiz’s bird. No matter where the bird ends up, people will always be able to trace it back to Ruiz.

Ruiz trains his birds to identify a flag that he hoists. It means “do not land.”

To train, Ruiz has a tour boat operator release the pigeons off the coast of Ni‘ihau. Both the time of release and the time of the birds’ return to the loft are noted.

“Pigeons do not like water,” Ruiz said. However, the “toss” off the coast of Ni‘ihau gets them to accept water so they are calm flying over it.

Ruiz said the trip usually takes between one and a half to two hours, so he makes sure the birds can stay in the air for more than an hour before he involves them in a toss.

At the end of the year, when the birds are in full wing, there will be tosses from O‘ahu and Maui.

When there is an official race, electronic equipment is used. A band containing an electronic chip placed on a pigeon’s leg enters information into a clocking system, which is called “basketing.”

When the pigeon flies back to the loft, it triggers the clock, which transfers information to a computer and the computer spits out the time, speed and position of each bird. A global positioning system device is used to determine locations and times, and the speed is given in yards per minute.

Because the electronic equipment is expensive, the club hosts a kachi kachi dance fund-raiser to help members defray those costs. Sonny Figaroa, president of the club, and his band provide the music.

As with any human athlete, Ruiz has to be concerned with his birds’ health, diet and training.

Ruiz has three lofts for the young flyers, the male breeders and the females. He keeps the lofts clean, washing them out twice a day to avoid any diseases that may harm his birds.

“Feed is a premium,” Ruiz said of the special food he purchases.

Ruiz occasionally sends birds to the Mainland for races. As homing pigeons, the birds must be sent when they are about a month old to a racer or breeder in the competition area to be trained to fly to a loft there, not home to Hawai‘i.

The Kaua‘i club is a member of the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers, which has approximately 3,000 members. Ruiz also belongs to the 11,000-member American Racing Pigeon Union Inc.

With all these racing pigeon enthusiasts, it’s not hard to find someone willing to race Ruiz’s birds.

Ruiz said he enjoys racing pigeons for the people he meets and the competition.

“We don’t race for money,” Ruiz said. “We just race for status … for bragging rights.”

For more information about the club or racing pigeons, call Ruiz at 332-9255.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at

  1. Rachid September 11, 2020 10:18 am Reply

    Stray Bird 2018 MKI 362 enter to my own loft and tried To reach Her owner one year early but i cant find out the owner je u can contact him
    Thank u

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