North East's biggest pigeon show takes flight ahead of national bird flu lockdown

  • Report by Julia Breen

The biggest show in the pigeon-fanciers' calendar returned to the North East this weekend.

The North of England Homing Union held the event in South Shields for the first time in three years after being forced to cancel previous dates due to the pandemic.

There were concerns that bird flu restrictions could have an impact as a national bird lockdown comes into place on Monday 7 November.

However, permission was given to hold the show ahead of the new restrictions being introduced.

Organiser Richard Wade said the new regulations, brought in to try and curb the largest outbreak of avian flu the UK has ever seen, would not affect many pigeon races as the season was over.

Richard Wade organised the event at the Temple Park Centre in South Shields. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

He said most pigeons were kept in anyway throughout the winter, and they would be allowed out for an hour each day.

More than 1,000 people attended the NEHU show at the weekend - and Mr Wade said it was "good to be back".

He said: "Because of the Covid situation we couldn't hold the shows and some of the racing season was also hampered and now obviously we have bird flu happening."

Pigeon racing is particularly popular in the North East. Mr Wade said it was traditionally enjoyed by many miners and steelworkers who kept allotments with racing pigeons in them and enjoyed spending time tending to their birds after work.

However, there are concerns in the community as the average age of pigeon fanciers is increasing, leading to fears it will decline as a hobby.

"The main objective now was to recruit younger generations into the sport to prevent it dying out. Introduce younger generations to the joys of caring for, and racing pigeons," he said. 

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