Some 10,000 valuable racing pigeons have mysteriously vanished, possibly as a result of a solar storm which has left them unable to find their way back to their coops.
The pigeons were released in Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire, and were expected to fly home against the clock.
Pigeon racing officials still don’t know precisely how many birds are missing, but it is feared as many as 10,000 could still be lost.
Ian Evans, of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, reportedly said: “We became aware quite quickly that something very unusual was happening, adding that he had never heard of anything like this happening before.
Richard Sayers, from Skinningrove, North Yorkshire, told the Irish Independent that 300 birds were missing from his village alone.
“We’ve seen one of the very worst ever racing days in our history,” he said.
He added: “Most of the breeders I’m talking to are blaming the atmospheric conditions — possibly a solar storm above the clouds that created static in the atmosphere — but no one really knows.”
Pigeons were long believed to use a unique organ in their beaks to sense the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field, although researchers at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna believe that’s unlikely.
The actual method that homing pigeons and migratory birds use to navigate long distance journey remains a mystery.
Scientists think that perhaps certain molecules in birds’ eyes may be sensitive to magnetism.
A rival theory suggests that the birds can use subtle differences in the way that each area smells to create a mental map of the world.
Each of the missing pigeons has an identification ring with a unique code and number. Owners have appealed to anyone who finds a disorientated pigeon to look after it by feeding it, giving it some water and allowing it to rest.
It’s believed that sooner or later the birds will recover their homing instincts and they will find their way back to their lofts.
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