Panting in Healthy and Fit Birds
Any healthy and fit racing pigeon that has to fly hard in a short time period will pant. Similar to a marathon runner panting after a sprint, birds pant to recover from the oxygen deficit caused by the burst of activity.
You will often see this in birds that suffer repeated falcon attacks. These birds will be reluctant to leave the loft and when forced to do so, will fly in tight hard circles around the loft, fearful of flying further because of falcons. Each country has its season of high falcon and hawk activity, and you may see this fearful behavior in your birds during this time.
If you notice a high level of fear in your racing team despite the decrease in hawk and falcon activity, the fear has become a habit. You will need to break the habit by building the bird’s confidence in flying without fear. This is best done by doing short tosses for seven to ten days. This will also give the birds the exercise they need.
Panting after Exercise
You may find you have some birds that have a hard time keeping up with the others. These birds may pant after any exercise period. You should examine these for signs of illness or injury.
Overall, panting noted in a few birds following a training toss can be a good sign. The team is fit as a whole and pushing as hard as possible. The tossing exercise is improving their fitness. Healthy yet unfit birds soon recover and their droppings will remain normal, which is a good indication of their overall health.
But the birds that return home panting and are slow to recover need to be check to make sure there is no underlying cause for the panting and lack of endurance. Continuing to toss sick birds will worsen their illness. Recovery time will be slow and their droppings may change from normal to green or watery green.
Finally, keep an eye on the muscles of the exercised birds. The birds that are basically fit but that have been exercised beyond their fitness capacity will exhibit muscles that become bluish and increase in tone due to cramping. You will also see this in the muscles of birds that are ill and forced to work.
In the final part of our series on panting in the racing pigeon, we will discuss panting during racing.