National Geographic : 1926 Jan
MAN'S FEATHERED FRIENDS OF LONGEST STANDING Photograph by Clifton Adams BEAUTY AND TlHE BIRD If one is quiet and approachable, few of the birds in Lafayette Square, Washington, will hesitate to inspect a visitor closely and to accept from hand or mouth a dainty morsel of food. They are vegetarians and eat fruit, grain, and seeds. larne offensive, when mobile lofts were used. Due to the rapid advance of the American troops, the front line was con stantly changing, yet the Army reports show that of 72 birds used during this action not a single one failed to return with its message bearing on the military situation during the advance! A total of 78 vitally important messages was car ried by these birds. When one stops to consider that pi geons were used only under the most extraordinary conditions, when it was im possible to employ any other form of communication, this record of accom plishment needs no further comment. In the Saint-Mihiel drive, notwith standing fog and rain, constant use of gas, artillery, shrapnel, and machine guns, 90 important messages were delivered by pigeons from the front line of the Amer ican Army to the General Headquarters. In this offensive, 24 out of 202 birds used in the tanks were either lost or killed in action, but not a single message failed of delivery, as the precaution was taken to send messages in duplicate by two birds. The speed of these birds averaged a kilometer a minute, despite flying condi tions that were the worst imaginable. When the Meuse-Argonne offensive was determined upon, only five days were allowed for the training and settling of Homing Pigeons in their mobile lofts; yet the 442 American birds used delivered 403 messages safely, and the distance flown constantly changed with the advance of the American troops, varying from 12 to 30 miles. The Army estimates that less than io per cent of the birds were lost or failed to return to their lofts by reason of the short period of training! The outstanding fact to be noted is that not a single important message entrusted to pigeons in this vital action went astray or fell into the hands of the enemy.