Hundreds of thousands of racing pigeons vanished into thin air on the same day, allegedly due to freak weather.

On Saturday, June 19, up to 250,000 birds were launched in 50 races around the United Kingdom, but only 10% returned in the time allotted.

Pigeon Race
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Thousands of them are still missing, and some have been found as far as Holland and Majorca.

Some have dubbed the day "the darkest day in the sport's history" because of the widespread disappearance.

First Report of Disappearances

The first reports of disappearances came from a race from Peterborough to the North East, in which more than half of the 9,000 pigeons competing went missing.

The same thing happened to Dene Simpson, race controller for the South West Wales Federation of Pigeon Fanciers, and his pals.

A large number of the birds they'd tenderly raised from chicks mysteriously vanished.

'We'd let ours go from Swindon at midday on the same Saturday - it's a 92-mile voyage with the wind behind them, so it shouldn't have taken that long,' said Dene, 38, from Swansea.

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Many Left, Few Returned

Pigeon Crate
(Photo : Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

'However, only approximately 200 to 300 birds returned home out of the 1,400 that went out. And subsequently, when we checked on social media, we discovered that many other federations around the UK had had similar experiences.'

Dene, who is in charge of choosing when and where birds are released on race days, as well as interacting with other federations and monitoring the weather, claimed there were no warning signals that something unusual was going to happen.

'The forecast had been cloudy in the morning but with decent visibility - by the afternoon, back home in Swansea, there were brilliant blue skies.'

'Which is why I believe something unseen by the human eye happened, something that interfered with the birds' internal Sat Nav and led them to dramatically deviate from their original route.'

Homing Pigeons

He went on to say that homing pigeons can navigate using the Earth's magnetic field as a guide but that a strange occurrence like a solar storm might have thrown them off.

This might be one explanation for the enigmatic Bermuda Triangle, but the solution is still a mystery.

'There was certainly something unusual going on that day since there were hardly any wild birds in the sky prior. It was completely lifeless up there,' Dene continued.

'I haven't ruled out the possibility of a succession of smaller tornadoes being to blame.'

Dene said a fellow member of his federation, which includes Port Talbot, Pontardawe, and Llanelli, has been informed that one of his pigeons has been sighted in the Netherlands and identified by the tag or 'life ring' around its leg.

'It's terrible for the boys because they've raised these birds by hand and really looked after them,' he continued.

'And, while money is probably the last thing on anyone's mind at the moment, pigeon fancying can be a costly pastime. It must have cost a fortune to lose so many birds.'

Not the First Time

A Flock of Pigeons in Coordinated Motion
(Photo : Angie Bandari)

He did note, though, that this was not the first time something like has happened.

'Some of our elder members may recall the same inexplicable occurrence from around 60 years ago, but it was well before my time,' Dene said.

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