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 Ask Ed > Droppers
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  What are "droppers" and how do I use them?

Droppers are pigeons that are used as decoys to bring racing pigeons out of the sky and into the loft quicker. They’re usually brightly colored, calm, and mingle well with other strains. Strains such as turbits, frill backs, owls, and satinettes work well. These birds are slightly smaller than racing homers, so they aren’t likely to try to dominate the racing homers. Since they are not flying breeds, they’re not likely to try to fly with the homers when released.

Droppers can be trained to drop to the landing board. This is the talent that makes them so valuable to the fancier. Some fanciers cut the end flights of the droppers shorter, which induces them to want to come down quicker. If droppers are trained from an early age, they can be tossed up to go directly down to the landing board. When a fancier sees his homing pigeon coming in from a race, he tosses the dropper into the air. The dropper coming down to the landing board lures the racing homer to do the same.

In California and other parts of the U.S., fanciers use special droppers called Casanovas. Originally bred in Spain, they are slightly larger than a homing pigeon. Casanovas are extremely passionate, with the males being very aggressive and the females being amorous. In old bird racing, they’re used to help prepare the racers for the race and to get them to come home. Casanovas don’t like to fly, either. When they’re tossed up, they come right down to the landing board.

Most lofts keep five or six droppers. Once a dropper is trained, he can be used for many years. I remember visiting my old friend Tommy Mooneyham, who had only one old dropper in his loft, and once when I asked him which pigeon in his loft had won the most races, he pointed to that old dropper and said, "That one!" Tommy perfected the dropper’s work by using hooples, devices which look much like oversized tennis racquets that can be used to run the birds in. Nobody could out-trap Tommy Mooneyham with his old dropper and his hooples.

Thirty to forty percent of pigeon fanciers use droppers. Most people keep their droppers with their young bird team, but away from widowhood hens or widowhood cocks. You should refrain from using aggressive birds like Modinas, because they can cause disturbances in the loft by breaking eggs and fighting. Also, avoid birds that can fly well, because they’ll take off and fly with the homers.