The golden oldies

Some 145 pacing pigeons went under the hammer at Gauteng champion Harry Willson’s pigeon auction at the Alberton Racing Pigeon Club recently. He’s been involved with racing pigeons on and off since 1985.

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His birds have achieved numerous first places and Harry was the 2009 and 2010 Club Champion in the Southern Suburbs Racing Pigeon Club (Transvaal Racing Pigeon Federation) and the Southern Suburbs Specialists Club (Golden Reef Pigeon Association).

His auction had a total turnover of R497 000, which amounts to about R3 500 per bird. The pigeons were on display tables in single pens and ready for viewing and physical examination from 9am. The auction started just after 11am with a packed venue.

The online approach
Alongside the normal printed version, the auction catalogue was also available online.Harry used online bidding, where the highest bids at the cut-off time online became the opening bids at the “live” auction. The combined pre-bidding online generated R81 000, proving the concept is a winner and should become part of any auction. Also, for the first time in the history of racing pigeons in South Africa, a 90-day fertility guarantee or “your money back” was introduced.

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Harry Willson addressed the buyers prior to the auction and explained that because of the vast amount of pigeons, he couldn’t breed from them all and simply didn’t know if the elderly pigeons were still fertile – hence the guarantee.A few elderly pigeons were also grouped in lots of four to five and sold as beginner’s parcels.

Many of the “pensioner” pigeons were former foundation pigeons from Champion Lofts. And it’s no secret in the racing pigeon fraternity that a fancier will simply not allow a pigeon to age in their breeding programme unless it’s of exceptional quality.

A rare opportunity
Harry’s auction was very much the exception in another way. Owners of ageing foundation pigeons rarely sell them. Instead, they prefer to keep and nurse them “until death” as a token of gratitude for their contribution to the loft. And it often happens that a “golden oldie” gets its “second wind” and is ready for at least one more round of breeding.

The fact that the mother of Birdy, (the Ace pigeon with the highest accolades in the 14-year history of the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race) was 10 years old when she laid the egg which would become Birdy, refuted forever the myth that elderly pigeons are inferior as breeders.

At the auction there was locally-bred and internationally-obtained super breeders and top racers. Including prime stock from Dave Clausings (US), Houbens, Flor Engels, Eric Limbourg and Marc De Cock (Belgium), and Aelbrecht and the Koopmans (Netherlands).