Racing pigeon survives run-in with raptor during 500-mile journey from France

Injured bird fortunate to land in Dartmoor Zoo near a member of staff who was giving a talk to visitors

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The mystery of a champion racing pigeon who went missing on a 500-mile journey from the south of France has been solved.

In a story reminiscent of the computer-animated film Valiant about pigeons in World War II, it emerged that the pigeon, called The Pit Man, was downed over Devon by a bird of prey, The Daily Telegraph reported.

However, fortunately the injured bird landed in Dartmoor Zoo near the meerkat enclosure as a member of staff was giving a talk to visitors.

Justin Aird said: “It was an amazing coincidence. I was just giving a public talk about how the meerkats stand sentry duty to look out for birds of prey when suddenly there was a commotion overhead.

“Moments later the pigeon dropped out of the sky and landed nearby.”

Zoo staff intervened to save the pigeon from being killed by the bird of prey.

Colin Northcott, the zoo’s curator, said: “Obviously the bird was very shaken and had sustained some minor injuries, but he was very lucky to have fallen where he did.

“If it had been anywhere else, even in a more remote part of the zoo, the buzzard would surely have finished him off.”

An identity tag enabled the zoo to contact owner Craig Dewar, of Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent.

“I was thrilled to hear that he’d been recovered,” he said.

“When The Pit Man was born my grandfather, who’s been flying pigeons since 1955, said that this one was going to do well in racing, and he was right.

“I just can’t believe that he will be back with us soon.”

The Pit Man was taken back to south Wales by a special courier service.

In the 2005 film Valiant, members of the Royal Homing Pigeon Service are locked in a struggle with an enemy peregrine falcon over vital intelligence sent from France to Britain.