Saturday, May 23, 2015

#84 Homing Pigeons

I’ve always felt a fascination with the concept of a homing pigeon. There is something somehow very noble about “returning to your home.” One of the most famous movie lines is “ET, go home!”

We all somewhere deep in our hearts have a yearning to “go home.” Buried deep in our souls, the essence of our being, something is flickering. We want to “return home.” What is that? For me it means returning to the God who created me. I believe we have all been separated from our source, or original love.

So this proof, #84, is about Homing Pigeons. I’m sure you have heard of them. Maybe you don’t know that they are a huge worldwide sport. Millions of people train them and have big races with them for big prizes.

"Pigeons are incredibly complex and intelligent animals. They are one of only a small number of species to pass the ‘mirror test’ – a test of self-recognition. They can also recognize each letter of the human alphabet, differentiate between photographs, and even distinguish different humans within a photograph." [1]

"Researchers in England devised incredibly complex devices to test the intelligence of all types of birds. Pigeons came out on top." [2]

"Pigeons have strong muscles used for flying. They can fly at the altitude of 6,000 feet. Pigeons can move their wings ten times per second and maintain heartbeats at the rate of 600 times per minute, during a period of 16 hours. Pigeons can fly at the speed of 50 to 60 miles per hour. The fastest known pigeon managed to reach a speed on 92 miles per hour. Because of their incredible speed and endurance, pigeons are used for racing. The Winner of a 400 miles long race can earn a million dollars." [3] About 5 such races are held each year somewhere in the world.


“In modern times the pigeon has been used to great effect during wartime. In both the First and Second World Wars the pigeon saved hundreds of thousands of human lives by carrying messages across enemy lines.” [4] Pigeons have been carrying messages for humans as far back as 500BC. New evidence suggests they were domesticated by Egyptians some 12,000 years ago. [5]

Pigeons trained for racing often fly about 700 miles in a day. [6] The longest distance ever recorded was in the late 1800’s for a homing pigeon that flew over 7,000 miles back home, going from Africa to England, taking over 55 days.

How can the Theory of Evolution (or any other theory without God) explain the development of this ability of a simple bird to find its way home? Even more so, how could this have developed over a slow and gradual process taking generations and generations of mutations and natural selection?

Birds have to find food each day to survive regardless of where they happen to be. Why not just stay there? How does natural selection choose a place far, far away as more beneficial? What’s the benefit? Especially if they have never been to that other place before, it could not be selected. And if they started out in the other place, how did they get so lost?

Travel over a long distance is dangerous and risky. It’s not likely to be a choice of some unintelligent law of natural selection when compared to staying in one place if there is food. What other criteria could exist for unintelligent selection, perhaps shelter or reproduction? Neither is likely to cause the “homing” ability we are discussing to be able to develop.

Another issue is concerning the exact mechanism that allows them to be able to “go home.” Various theories exist but no one really knows for sure! Not yet anyway.

Researchers originally thought they had some “map” in their brains and they relied on the magnetic fields of the earth. But scientists have been able to design ways to shield them from the magnetic fields and also to disable the parts of their brains that are sensitive to it. Still they could “go home.” So that may be a dead end.

"Although magnetic effects on pigeon orientation, provide indirect evidence for a magnetic ‘map’, numerous conditioning experiments have failed to demonstrate reproducible responses to magnetic fields by pigeons." [7]

The latest approach is focused on their ability to smell their way home. No kidding. I have a hard time comprehending the ability of a bird to smell its way for hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. I believe God can create some amazing creatures, but they didn’t come into existence by accident.

“The researchers saddled a group of homing pigeons with GPS tracking devices, placed a rubber plug in either their right or left nostrils, and released them 25 miles outside of their home in Pisa, Italy. Pigeons with their left nostrils blocked had a little more trouble navigating than clear-nosed pigeons, but eventually made it home. Birds with their right nostrils blocked made it back, too, but they stopped more often and took an even more circular route than the others. The researchers believe that the birds needed time to gather more smells and construct a map based on odors in the wind. And the finding that the right nostril is the better sniffer suggests that the right and left hemispheres of bird brains have different functions.” [8]

Other scientists believe pigeons have ears that can hear the sound of wind over mountains hundreds of miles away. This may be of help in guiding them. Research shows they do actually hear sounds 11 octaves below middle C which is in the range to detect earthquakes and electrical storms.[9]

To believe that pigeons accidentally evolved such a homing mechanism which is so complicated that research scientists cannot understand it takes astounding faith. Think about what is going on in that pigeon’s brain for a few minutes. (Recommended reading for more understanding: “For Everything a Reason: Why Ants Walk Crooked and Pigeons Circle Around” [10]). If a pigeon brain is using smells or hearing or the earth’s magnetic fields, it must be able to #1 differentiate very tiny, tiny variations. And it must be able to #2 assign meaning to the differences. Then it must be able to #3 make a decision how to prioritize the data. Then finally the pigeon brain must be able to #4 initiate its own actions based on its analysis. Wow.

All the above arguments should be convincing enough that God created pigeons, but I have one last, and I think, best argument. Think about this: Pigeons in the wild never use a long distance “homing” ability. They never get lost.

They don’t need this ability in the wild. Why not? They live, eat, grow old, and die in the areas where they are born. Natural selection cannot explain the development of an ability that is never used and has no survival value.

Homing pigeons don’t get lost hundreds of miles from home and then have to search for home. This only happens because of interference by men and women. Amazingly, homing pigeons somehow have incredible capability that they would never normally use in the wild. They only use it when they receive training from people who have learned how to train them.

Homing pigeons must be trained step by step. [11] You first have to train them by acclimating them to the desired “home” or roost. You must keep them locked up for at least 4 weeks. Then gradually take them farther and farther away and see if they can make it back home. Some do, some don’t. If you attach a GPS tracker and let them go at the same distant location many times, you will see that they take many different routes home, but gradually get better and better at it.

Pigeons in the wild never needed to develop the ability to “go home” by natural selection or mutation or any other reason because they were always already home. So how could they ever develop an ability that was never put to use in any way. There is no survival value in it. Pigeons in the wild don’t ever wander hundreds of miles from their home AND GET LOST. The ability is useless to them in the wild, but nonetheless they have this ability. That it would or could develop by evolution does not make any sense.

Natural selection requires that an ability get passed from generation to generation because of being selected by survival of the fittest. If the “go home” ability is never used, how could it get passed from generation to generation by natural selection? There is no survival value.

The homing ability of the pigeon is a creation of God that is a teaching tool for us. It shows us what we have in our own souls. We have an innate, undeniable, un-erasable desire to “go home.” Where is home? It is back to God.

There must be God. God is our home and we are all going there.

[1] Facts about pigeons, OneKind.Org, * Only 6 species can pass the mirror test, all mammals except for the pigeon.

[2] Answers to the Urban Wildlife Society's Gee Whiz Animal Quiz,

[4] 21 Amazing Facts About Pigeons, Pigeon Control Resource Centre,

[5] Answers to the Urban Wildlife Society's Gee Whiz Animal Quiz,

[6] Pigeon Facts: Did You Know???,

[7] Mora, Davison, Wild, & Walker, "Magnetoreception and its trigeminal mediation in the homing pigeon", Nature: International weekly journal of science, October, 2004,

[8] Reardon, Sara, Staff Writer: ScienceShot: Homing Pigeons Follow Their Noses, January 2011,

[9] Pigeon Facts: Did You Know???,

[10] For Everything a Reason: Why Ants Walk Crooked and Pigeons Circle Around,

[11] How To Train a Homing Pigeon, Wikihow,

1 comment:

  1. Excellent topic Jim. We bought some pigeons as kids. We let them out the next day and they went home. They were smarter than us! The owner could just keep selling them over and over again. But we only bought them once. At least we learned.

    There must be a God for creatures like the pigeon to exist. Or you could have talked about their flight ability, gorgeous shimmering colours, metabolism. A feather is enough to prove God. To the believer no proof is necessary; to the unbeliever no proof is possible. A job well done my friend. Steve Frandsen