MILTON, Ga. — Some days, a few homing pigeons from Roddy Motes’ 100-member flock spend the day in a basket on the floor in his Milton Public Works Department office. That’s until he releases them outside.
It’s all part of the training that’s required for his award-winning flock of homing pigeons.
Motes, public works manager at the city of Milton, belongs to the North Atlanta Racing Pigeon Club and keeps his birds in good shape for races several times each year.
Motes has several lofts for the birds in his backyard.
As the pigeons are born and begin exploring their surroundings, they begin leaving Motes’ yard for longer and longer periods of time on flights.
“After a month, they can be gone 30 minutes to an hour ranging,” Motes said. “That’s when their internal GPS [is being set]. They’re born knowing how to home. We teach them where home is.”
Once he’s sure his young birds are ready, Motes will take a drive and let them out of their cage to fly home, something he often does from the parking lot of Milton’s City Hall.
“They should be able to make that in 20 minutes,” Motes said of the 13-mile distance between City Hall and his backyard. “On a good day, they should make that in 13 minutes.”
That’s all preparation for race day when Motes will send 40 of his pigeons out on a truck the night before.
The next morning when the race begins and they’re released, Motes is waiting at home for the first birds to fly back into the pen. His birds race against other club members’ birds and are measured by yards per minute, flying an average of 62 miles per hour.
While waiting on his birds to come home on race day, Motes alternates between pacing his backyard and sitting in a chair where he can spot his birds in the air flying west.
“It’s more important to me to have my birds come home than win a race,” Motes said.
He’s been racing his pigeons for three years, though he started raising them 25 years ago as a child with his grandmother.
It’s a dying sport.
A weekly publication highlights a few pigeon enthusiasts each week who have passed away. There aren’t nearly as many people entering the sport as there are leaving it.
Roddy and his wife, Honor Motes, have been coworkers at the city of Milton nearly since it was formed.
Each came to the new city a few months apart after 13 years as coworkers in the city of Roswell (but never in the same department).
“This is the first time we’ve been in the same [building],” said Roddy.
Honor is the revenue coordinator for the city of Milton.
They carpool to work every day and are participants in Milton’s Clean Air Campaign, which recently won an award for employee commute alternatives.
When Roddy has to come in on a snow day, Honor goes with him as an honorary member of the public works department for the day.
Honor and Roddy see each other here and there at the office, but some of Roddy’s homing pigeons often spend more time in Roddy’s office than Honor does.
Roddy encourages others to get interested in homing pigeons by releasing up to 50 at Milton’s annual Memorial Day celebration. He’s willing to show people how to become involved in the sport.
To find out more, email him at Roddy.Motes@cityofmiltonga.us or call Milton City Hall at 678-242-2500.