With all of the buzz over bird flu, imagine the concern as Des Moines hosts hundreds of pigeon owners and thousands of birds today (Friday) and through the weekend. Pam McCullough, of New Virginia (Iowa), is helping organize the 80th annual Pigeons on the Prairie Show. McCullough says the fears are unfounded.
She says avian flu is not generally a concern for pigeons. She says if the bird should catch the flu, its immune system creates antibodies that stop it and it can be in a loft with hundreds of other birds, pigeons, chickens, whatever, and no other bird will contract the disease. While plenty of us know the term carrier pigeon, McCullough says pigeons are not carriers of the disease. She says the pigeon’s immune system “works fantastic,” as many other diseases can be passed from people to birds, cats and dogs — and they might not recover, but she says pigeons don’t carry or transfer the disease on.
While some may look at pigeons as dirty birds or “rats with wings,” McCullough says her birds are specially bred for homing, racing and show. She says there are wild pigeons you’ll see in some areas, especially along the waterfront. She says such “rogue” birds are pests that can cause disease for itself and is not immunized, cared for and kept clean like her animals.
Members of 35 pigeon breeding clubs from as far away as New York and California will be bringing some five-thousand birds to the event. The show is underway today (Friday) and Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Admission is free.