Pigeon enthusiast seeks next generation

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Ian Heberle would like to see more youngsters involved in his sport and while initially some show interest, their parents aren’t usually so keen.
Camera IconIan Heberle would like to see more youngsters involved in his sport and while initially some show interest, their parents aren’t usually so keen. Credit: Peter Sweeney / The Geraldton Guardian

Bird man Ian Heberle tries to get youngsters involved in his sport but he can never seem to get past their parents.

He used to go to Geraldton schools with a trailer of about 50 pigeons and set them loose.

Excited kids would rush home and ask for their own birds so they could get involved.

“And the dad says, ‘no, you’re not having them’,” Mr Heberle chuckled.

“Plus, backyards are too small now, and young kids just don’t have an interest in birds.

“They’re too busy doing this,” Mr Heberle added, miming typing on a phone.

Pigeon man Ian Heberle in his loft.
Camera IconPigeon man Ian Heberle in his loft. Credit: Geraldton Guardian, Peter Sweeney

Mr Heberle, 72, is a member of the eight-strong Geraldton Racing Pigeon Club.

The winter sport is due to begin in June.

Each competitor has their own cohort of pigeons, fixed with electronic rings that record flight-time.

A member drives the pigeons to Galena, just past Northampton, and sets them free.

Each bird flies to the homes of their respective owners and the pigeon that arrives the quickest wins the competition.

While most pigeons learn to recognise landmarks and make their way home, sometimes in the training stages, the birds will get blown away by Geraldton’s strong gusts and be unable to find their way back.

Mr Heberle, who has lost nine birds so far this year, said other times they would get spooked by something, leave, and are unable to locate their houses again.

The sport boomed to between 30 and 40 members per club across WA in former years but interest has since heavily waned.

A second group in local pigeon racing, the Champion Bay Invitational Pigeon Club, no longer operates competitively.

Mr Heberle said he would like to see numbers in the sport pick up.

“We’re always chasing new members,” he said.

Ian Heberle is a member of the eight-strong Geraldton Racing Pigeon Club. The winter sport is due to begin in June.
Camera IconIan Heberle is a member of the eight-strong Geraldton Racing Pigeon Club. The winter sport is due to begin in June. Credit: Peter Sweeney / The Geraldton Guardian

“Pigeon racing is in the blood.”

Mr Heberle owns about 90 pigeons and keeps them at his central Geraldton property.

He said the best thing about pigeon racing is breeding the birds, watching them grow up and take flight.

Contact Geraldton Racing Pigeon Club on (08) 9923 1433 to learn more about taking up the sport.

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