Intended for healthcare professionals


Pigeon fancier's lung

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 12 July 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:70

Antigen avoidance and respiratory protection are the mainstays of management

  1. Stephen Bourke, Consultant physiciana,
  2. Gavin Boyd, Consultant physicianb
  1. a Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP
  2. b Department of Respiratory Medicine, Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow G21 3UW

    Pigeon racing is based on the remarkable homing instinct of pigeons, which enables them to return to their loft over distances of many hundreds of miles. British pigeon fanciers are particularly proud of their role in the second world war, when highly trained pigeons were used for communication.1 Pigeons were parachuted in small containers into occupied Europe with instructions for the finder to attach espionage messages to the birds, which were then released to fly silently and undetected back to lofts in Britain.

    There are now about 83 000 registered pigeon fanciers in Britain. When racing, the birds are transported to a liberation point; a ring is placed on one leg; and, when released, the bird returns to its loft, where the ring is removed and placed in a special clock which registers the exact “timing in” of the bird. The location of each loft has been registered so that the distance travelled by each pigeon can be calculated. Racing pigeons have been bred and trained for speed and endurance. The official British duration record is 1173 miles in 15 days, and the highest race speed is 110.07 miles per hour.2 Although a typical pigeon fancier keeps pigeons as a hobby, pigeon fancying is a multimillion pound business, and top class birds have been sold for as much as £110 800.2

    Pigeon fancier's lung …

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