Panting in Racing Pigeons – When Is It Normal and When Is It Not, Part 1

Racing Pigeon Air SacsPanting in racing pigeons can be a completely normal pattern of respiration depending on the conditions. But it can also be a sign of disease or danger. In this article series, we will look at the bird respiratory system and how it adapts for survival in times of stress and disease.

Anatomy of the Bird Respiratory System

The respiratory system of a bird functions, to a point, similar to ours. The basic function is that inhaled air goes down the windpipe into a pair of lungs. But, beyond the basic function, there are major differences, which a successful fancier needs to learn in order to diagnose abnormal panting in his racing pigeons.

The bird’s respiratory system is still somewhat primitive from an evolutionary standpoint. However, there are some great advantages to the respiratory system of a bird that allows it to travel long distances at amazing speeds. Let’s look at this in more detail.

First of all, unlike humans, birds do not have a diaphragm, which is a muscle sheath that separates the chest from the abdomen. In a human, the diaphragm contracts, creating negative pressure in the chest cavity, which then causes air to rush into the lungs through the windpipe.

Air Sacs—An Integral Part of the Avian Respiratory System

Air Sacs for Speed and Endurance

Air sacs are an amazing anatomical feature that allows the bird to be buoyant enough to fly. Transparent tissue balloons that open off the lungs, air sacs occupy a lot of the bird’s internal body space. Filled with air, the bird is light and flight is possible.

Another feature that helps the bird is the fact that air flows through the air sacs and fresh air flows through the lungs on both inhalation and exhalation. This mean more oxygen is delivered more efficiently to the bird’s tissues. This abundance of oxygen gives the bird the ability for both stamina and speed.

Humans, if they are fast, can sprint 100 meters in 10 seconds. A greyhound dog might run about 300 meters in 16 seconds. But, compared to a racing pigeon, this is ‘third gear’! Racing pigeons will not only be as fast as or faster than the fastest greyhound, the racer can maintain the speed for hours.

Air Sacs—the Bird’s Radiator

Air sacs also function to maintain the bird’s normal body temperature and hydration. Because birds do not have sweat glands, they can’t cool themselves through evaporation of moisture from their skin. The way a bird cools itself is through the evaporation of moisture from the air sac lining.

As the bird heats up, it begins to breathe more rapidly, or pants, to increase the cooling process. The panting moves more air over the air sacs, cooling the bird. This panting is normal

The bird also loses moisture in the cooling process so it is essential that the pigeons have access to water. Drinking water replaces the lost fluid and prevents dehydration.

Now that you have learned about panting in racing pigeons as a normal function, let’s look at panting as part of the disease process in the second part of this article series.

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18 thoughts on “Panting in Racing Pigeons – When Is It Normal and When Is It Not, Part 1

  1. Definitivamente es muy importante conservar el buen estado de nuestros deportistas alados, y una pieza importante viene a ser el Aparato Respiratorio de las mismas. Para esto debemos establecer acertados calendarios de vacunación y excelentes tratamientos medicos si es que se presentara algún problema que afecte a este sistema organico. Considero muy conveniente de parte de ustedes, que despues de publicar la 2a parte de este artículo, publicaran algún tema de lo que he suscrito.

    Chris, saludos y muchas gracias por tú interes.

  2. Everybody knows panting is related to breath, but what kind of panting that is different from the others that a fancier show should observe and that’s between normal and abnormal.

  3. I don’t know about panting and I don’t want to know about it at all. All I know is If I look beyond well after my pigeons in feeding, drinking, vet, lab tests, cross breed best to best, talk to them as if they are human, in fact they cooing back as an answer plus let them now by example I love them. Then they stay healthy, thirsty to race and perch immediately and trap at the same time ( that’s what my pigeons do)all remedies and believes is none existence to me, my brother and my pigeons. I am also fortunate that my oldest son is a wildlife Vet with animal management degree with it. But saying all that I still need to get the bad ones out such as those that gives me constant second and below places. I don’t want them in my loft. If you can’t win a race for me its like paying no rent at all. They get humanly put to sleep

  4. I don’t know about panting and I don’t want to know about it at all. All I know is If I look beyond well after my pigeons in feeding, drinking, vet, lab tests, cross breed best to best, talk to them as if they are human, in fact they cooing back as an answer plus let them now by example I love them. Then they stay healthy, thirsty to race and perch immediately and trap at the same time ( that’s what my pigeons do)all remedies and believes is none existence to me, my brother and my pigeons. I am also fortunate that my oldest son is a wildlife Vet with animal management degree with it.

  5. “Air sacs are an amazing anatomical feature that allows the bird to be buoyant enough to fly. Transparent tissue balloons that open off the lungs, air sacs occupy a lot of the bird’s internal body space. Filled with air, the bird is light and flight is possible.”

    This is sheer nonsense!! Could the author fly if he holds a few balloons??
    Step on the scales and weigh without airfilled balloons and with. The only difference will be the added weight of the balloons. Added buoyancy? More like added BS!

  6. To call a pigeon”s respiratory “Primative” shows all of your readers you have no idea what you are talking about.
    Pigeons do have a diaphram like muscle. These muscles are across the back.

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