BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Stress is something we all have in common in our lives, and Jay Turner admits he’s no different, but when he returns home from his job as a construction manager, he has a way to de-stress, which is a little out of the ordinary. Jay raises pigeons, but these are no ordinary street pigeons. They’re National Champions!
“I’ve had them since I was nine, and somebody in my family has had them for over 100 years. I actually traded my brother a baseball glove for some pigeons when I was about nine years old, and that’s what started it. I tell everybody, I’ve still got the pigeons, but he doesn’t have that baseball glove anymore.”
Pigeons are Jay’s passion, “I got obsessed with it, I guess. We go all over the country and compete at a high level and do really well.”
If there’s a Pigeon Pecking Order, Jay has a West of England Tumbler named Scarlett, who is at the top of the list.
Jay explains, “All pigeons came from wild pigeons. We call them feral pigeons. Now, there’s almost 400 different breeds. The West of England Tumbler was developed in England as a flying breed. It was a bird that would actually fly and tumble in the air. "
“Scarlett has won everywhere she’s ever been. She’s been undefeated. She gets it done. She’s the Queen of This Loft anyway.”
But the lineage of Jay’s Pigeons includes champions by the score. “We’ve flown these birds to California. We’ve been to Washington State. We’ve been to Michigan. We’ve been to Connecticut. You name it. We’ve been everywhere we could go. We’ve taken these birds all over and they can compete at a high level.”
All the birds don’t compete, but every pigeon has a purpose, “We take the eggs, and we give it to these white homing pigeons, and they’ll foster, and they’ll raise those pigeons for you.”
Of course, raising perfect pigeons isn’t always possible. “Some of them are excellent and some of them are good, and then some of them are poor. I used to say that Joe DiMaggio had five brothers and they weren’t all great baseball players, but he was.”
When he isn’t competing, Jay is a championship judge as well. “I enjoy judging and so I can do that, and I can give back to the hobby now and go anywhere in the country and judge.”
But it’s in his own loft where Jay finds his joy. “I have a real stressful job. I work a lot of guys and we work all over the country. I can walk in that loft and all that goes away.”
For the Turners, raising pigeons is an ongoing family tradition.