The old bird race season usually starts in late spring, and the first race is usually around 100 miles, and ends at a long race, commonly 500 miles or more. The old birds are the best flyers, being mature, experienced and well trained. Young birds are flown on a natural system, using hunger as an incentive, old birds have often flown by the widowhood system where birds have eggs or young. Either the hen or cock are flown widowhood. Not all fanciers fly the widowhood system, but most try to keep their flying methods a secret. Some flyers depend on the eye sign of a bird to determine if the pigeon is a good bird. The makeup of an old bird flying team should reflect a group of birds 2-5 years old. Over half of a race should be yearlings. Too many flyers stop flying birds at 5 years old, but in the opinion of many, that is too young to stop them racing.
It is so important to keep records of race results and any other important information such as the weather or events that might have affected the race. With these records to fall back on, you will start to get an idea as to the birds that are sprint birds and those birds that do well in the long races, 500-600 miles. This is not learned in one flying season, it is learned over time, and sometimes a particular strain may be famous for their ability to fly well in the long races and not so well in the short sprint races (100–300-mile races). Do not give up on a bird after the first year of flying, I strongly suggest you give it 3 years. Get your old birds out to 40-50 miles before the races start, with lots of free loft flying. In season training should include at least two long tosses, Tuesday thru Thursday 60 miles and a 20-mile toss on Friday before a Saturday race. Those flyers that are not raced on that Saturday should be trained out to 100 miles.
Racing pigeons is fun, but it is not cheap and requires a lot of your time to be a consistent winner.
Chairman, NPA-Legacy Fund Trust