Pigeon Fancying

Pigeon keeping has become an increasingly gentrified pursuit, and recently the most expensive pigeon ever was recently sold at auction for nearly $275,000 to a Chinese shipping magnate. The sale represents the rapidly-growing popularity of pigeon-racing in China; a fact that is underscored by accusations from Belgian pigeon breeders that the Chinese mafia is kidnapping pigeons, killing them, removing their identification bands, putting them on less-distinguished pigeons, and reselling them. Yes, even pigeon-fancying has a dark side!

Recent pigeon fanciers include celebrities from Queen Elizabeth II to Pablo Picasso to Mike Tyson, but one of the more curious men to befriend the creatures was enigmatic inventor Nikolai Tesla. Though not a fancier in the conventional sense, in his later years in New York, he spent a great deal of time feeding pigeons in central park with special birdseed, and occasionally brought an injured bird back to his room in the New Yorker hotel to nurse it back to health.

Tesla had one particular favorite, a white female pigeon with light-grey wingtips. Its death in 1922 greatly affected Tesla, and he said later that this was the moment he knew his life’s work was finished.