Fans of feathered friends flock together

Nelson Judge Peter Lyall checks a hard-feathered bantam, 
Nelson Judge Peter Lyall checks a hard-feathered bantam, helped by recorder Serena O'Brien (12), of Oamaru, on the first day of the Oamaru Poultry, Pigeon and Canary Society's annual show in the Drill Hall. Photo by David Bruce
Fancy pigeons bred by local farmer Barrie Rae were among the attractions at the Oamaru Poultry, Pigeon and Canary Society's 130th annual show last month.

Society treasurer Trevor Hill said Mr Rae was ''renowned New Zealand-wide for the way he prepares for a show''.

His fantail pigeons are gleaming white, their tail feathers displayed in perfect formation.

Mr Rae said he simply washes the edges of the birds' wings with water and cleans their feet. The pigeons stay white of their own accord and are very quiet and easy to handle.

He inherited his father's love of breeding pigeons and has been involved with them since he was a preschooler. There was a hiatus when he was busy setting up his sheep farm, then his children left him their pigeons once their own interest in them waned.

Mr Rae has become a stalwart of the Oamaru show, while his wife, Lyn, helps to feed the team of helpers at the Drill Hall for the two-day event.

There were ''so few people'' breeding fancy pigeons now that it was no longer very competitive, Mr Rae said. The breeders were happy to help each other and to keep the old breeds going in New Zealand. They were not allowed to be imported nowadays.

Pigeons pair up ''virtually for life'' and ''live to a great age'', Mr Rae said. The male and female take turns to sit on the eggs.

Mr Hill said there were 783 entries from Blenheim to Invercargill in this year's show - ''a wee bit leaner than last year''. Some regular exhibitors were unable to attend.

The Oamaru show was still one of the biggest in New Zealand, he said. Only Ashburton and Christchurch would have higher numbers.

It took a dozen people about six hours to set up the hall for the Oamaru show.

Next year it would hold the national show from July 18 to 20, with about 2000 birds expected from throughout New Zealand.

- Sally Brooker 

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