“A Racing Homer Pigeon (Columbia livia) was found in our school on the afternoon on 3rd March 2017. Miss Amelia Huang noticed the bird standing by the stairwell leading to the auditorium.
“The legs of the pigeon were tagged. The sighting was reported to me and I took over the case and started conversation with ACRES over WhatsApp. ACRES suggested water and some cooked rice to be given to the stranded pigeon, which is capable of long distance flight and might have made a stopover at our school due to the periodic rain these days. It wasn’t twitching, so the chance of being poisoned wasn’t high. Thanks to the Uncle from Fantasy (Chinese Mixed Rice Stall) in our school canteen, I got some cooked rice for the pigeon. For the next 2 hours, the pigeon continued to loiter along the 4th level corridor, strolling past the music room and drama room, interacting with students from Choir and Drama Club, before continuing its flight.
“Racing Homer Pigeons are also known as Rock Pigeons. Rock Pigeons feed off scraps of food left behind by humans and thus reproduce extensively.
“In the past, Rock Pigeons were domesticated and used to carry messages from one place to another, because of their innate ability to find their way home. In World Wars I and II, the United States Army Pigeon Service was a unit of the US Army that trained and used homing pigeons for communication and reconnaissance purposes. With a size of 54,000 war pigeons, over 90% of the messages sent during WWII were received.
“People continue to train Rock Pigeons today to carry messages and race. The bird’s rate of travel is calculated by the time taken for the bird to return home. Competing pigeons are specially trained and conditioned for races that vary in distance for approximately 100 kilometres to 1,000 kilometres. Newer development uses RFID tags to record arrival time.
“We are not sure if this Racing Homer Pigeon came to our school for reconnaissance purposes or was there a message meant for us.
“Sadly, this pigeon was found dead outside the Physics Lab (Level 4) this morning by Mdm Devi and some students.
“I contacted NUS researcher David Tan who works at the Evolutionary Biology Laboratory and studies bird carcasses here in Singapore. He suggested that I should put a mesh around the dead bird before burying it, so that after a few months of decomposing, I will be able to skeletonise the bird to show our students about bird osteology.
“The burial was carried out this afternoon at around 1345 hours with some students on site to listen to the encounter of this bird since last Friday. Before the burial, we took off the metal tag from the leg of the bird, which reveals a 5-digit number. I also noticed that there seems to be some patterns printed on both the upperside and underside of the wings. However, I couldn’t figure out what those patterns mean.
“Over the next few months, I will be observing the burial area for decomposers such as scarab beetles, dermestids and black soldier flies.
“If anyone is able to decipher the patterns shown in the photos above, please inform me as we are still figuring out where this pigeon belong, which could be released during a temple ritual, or belonging to a local/overseas scientific research institute, or a pigeon racing owner.
“Should you have other sightings of wildlife in our school, please report to the General Office immediately. Avoid handling with your bare hands.”
Jacob Tan Guanrui
Senior Teacher (Biology)
Commonwealth Secondary School
6th March 2017