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LIVING WITH WILDLIFE

Bands Can Help 'Host' Find Owners

September 10, 2000|ANDREA KITAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: Can you help us find a rescue organization or alternative for a pair of banded pigeons? These nearly tame birds came to our wild-bird feeders and took up residence. They are handsome birds, one pure white, the other white with a mottled gray head.

Someone obviously cared enough about them to band them. How can we find out who? Failing that, how can we let them know they have worn out their welcome? We have removed the food sources, but these are tenacious birds that like it here. Any resources you may suggest will be appreciated.

N.O.

Glendale

Answer: The pair of pigeons that found you might indeed be a wayward pair belonging to a member of a pigeon club, probably a racing club. There are a surprisingly large number of pigeon lovers, both those who breed and raise pigeons for show and sale (fancy pigeons) and those who race their pigeons (racing homers). They're really offshoots of what most of us think of as the old-fashioned homing-pigeon clubs, only the fancy pigeons are strictly for show and aren't raced.

At this time of year, the young birds are starting to race. Occasionally, bad weather, confrontations with a hawk or even hitting a wire can wreak havoc with their ability to get back home. The question that remains is whether the birds' strong homing instinct will cause them to remain ensconced in your backyard or whether they will gather their resources--and latent memories--to fly on to their original home.

Certainly, withdrawing food for some length of time may encourage them to move on, although that's no guarantee, because your neighbors may be feeding them, and other conditions may be ideal. It's a tough call, but reading their bands will tell you much about them. The trick, of course, is getting close enough to them so you can see the bands.

Both fanciers and homers band their birds, although the fanciers put fewer markings on their bands to identify their owners because, naturally, they don't expect them to get out of their cages. Here's how it works: The first mark will say NPA (National Pigeon Assn.) or AU (American Racing Pigeon Union).

In the case of the racing homers (AU), the second mark will tell the bird's birth year. The third mark is the serial number, and the last is a local club number. When you contact the association, all this information will help trace the birds to their owner.

Fancy pigeon bands will generally only have the NPA mark and the serial number, which makes it harder to identify their owner. If this is the case, they may need to be adopted out.

But all is not lost if these birds are show birds. The president of the Los Angeles Pigeon Club, William Griebel, has offered to enlist his club's members to help find a new home for your birds should their owner be impossible to locate.

Readers interested in learning more about raising pigeons should check out the NPA by visiting its Web site at http://www.npausa.com or the AU at http://www.pigeon.org. To contact Griebel at the L.A. Pigeon Club, just follow the links from the NPA's home page.

Keeping Hummingbird Feeder Ant-Free

Q: We bought a hummingbird feeder that worked out fine until some black ants discovered it. The box that the feeder came in says to buy Ant Guard to protect the feeder. But I can't find Ant Guard anywhere. Is there some natural way that I can protect the feeder?

C.W.

Mission Viejo

A: Ant Guard is the brand name of a small cup-shaped product that gets strung onto the top of the feeder where it meets the attachment cord or chain, the ants' route to the nectar. Around it is permethrin, a nontoxic synthetic version of the natural pyrethrum insecticide that protects flowers from insect attack. The permethrin acts as a barrier, keeping the ants from going farther.

There are other products on the market that perform the same function. The Ant Moat, for example, is physically the reverse of the Ant Guard. You place it on the feeder's chain in the same spot as the Ant Guard, but the cup gets turned right side up so that it can be loaded with petroleum jelly or water, relegating the ants to the chain.

Next time you're shopping for a hummingbird feeder, consider going for the all-in-one concept. You can purchase hummingbird feeders with built-in guards to keep ants out--small grooves embedded in the feeder that are loaded with the permethrin--or feeders with an Ant Guard already strung at the top.

Bees like nectar too, and some products have built-in bee guards as well (the little yellow plastic shield with holes the birds stick their beaks through).

To purchase an Ant Guard (two for $12.99), visit http://www.whateverworks.com or call the company at (800) 499-6757. To purchase an Ant Moat ($5.97), visit http://www.wildbirdsforever.com or order by calling (800) 459-2473. The latter company also carries a few hummingbird feeders with built-in ant and bee guards, the Hummerfest and the Hummzinger, each around $20.

Fencing, Not Rocks, Best Way to Deter Deer

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