Pigeon fanciers are studying how thousands of prized birds disappeared in a single race in what has been described as one of the worst days for the sport of all time.
In a race from Peterborough in the east of England to the north-east, 9,000 pigeons took part in a competition that usually lasts three hours, but more than half have not yet reached their destination.
Atmospheric conditions are one of the possible explanations put forward so far reports Teesside Live.
The pigeons appear to have disappeared while on their way home to East Cleveland.
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An estimated 300 pigeons from lofts in Skinningrove alone disappeared during the race, which according to the fanciers may be due to unusual weather conditions.
Pigeon fancier Richard Sayers made an appeal on his social media channels to keep an eye out for them and offer advice on what to do if a lost racing bird ends up in gardens.
Carrier pigeons can be recognized by the signs on their legs. If they are fed and watered, he says, the tired pet birds will eventually return to their loft.
“It’s been a really bad race weekend, not just here in the North East but across the UK. Right now people are very unsure of what happened, there are still many, many pigeons missing in action,” said Richard.
“A lot of people think that this is due to something in the atmosphere – like a solar storm above the clouds.
“I just wanted to point out that everyone who comes across a racing pigeon feeds it, waters it and lets it rest and there is a chance that the birds will break open again after a few days with 80 percent a code and number.”
“We needed the help of our little birds in the big conflicts and they have saved thousands of lives. Now we can do our little bit to help them,” he said on his social media post.
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He flies his pet birds as Sayers Bros & Son from Skinningrove in the East Cleveland Federation. The partnership has held birds for around 50 years.
The East Cleveland Federation has estimated that approximately 1,000 birds are missing. In the further northeast the estimate is between 3,500 and 5,500.
There are also websites where people can report stray birds – which can be found Here.
This weekend there were also reports of British pigeons spotted on the holiday island of Mallorca after leaving France in a race.