DAD’S Lad is a real high-flier – and now he’s been crowned the UK’s fastest pigeon.
The bird, who lives with proud owner Derek Jones in Havant, beat thousands of others to win a race back home from Messac, France.
Dad’s Lad flew at an average speed of 60mph to complete the 214-mile challenge in as many minutes – 3 hours and 34 minutes.
That made him top of the flock of 5,575 feathered competitors to win the race, organised by the National Flying Club.
Derek, of Muccleshell Close in West Leigh, was delighted with his triumph which had particular meaning for him.
He named the bird in honour of his father, Ken, who died aged 66 10 years ago – and Dad’s Lad’s triumph came on Father’s Day.
Derek and his dad used to race pigeons together.
Derek, 44, said: ‘It was definitely an emotional moment when Dad’s Lad flew into the garden and I realised he had won.
‘There were a few tears – what with it being Father’s Day and everything as well.
‘It would have been the perfect Father’s Day gift for my dad.
‘Dad’s Lad has definitely got some of his spirit in him.
‘I’m extremely proud of his success. He’s a beautiful bird.’
Competition officials keep track of racing birds thanks to electronic tags attached to their legs.
As well as his champion pigeon, Derek had 20 other birds in the race.
Derek, who says his partner Kerry Tanner tolerates his hobby, said: ‘I keep about 70 pigeons in my garden.
‘I love everything about pigeon racing.
‘It runs in my family. My dad got me interested when I was 10 years old and his dad kept pigeons too.
‘Kerry just lets me get on with it. She enjoys it when one of the birds win something though.
‘It amazes me that you can send a pigeon more than 200 miles away and it will come back to where his or her home is.
‘I made sure Dad’s Lad was thoroughly prepared for the race.
‘I took him up to Fontwell a few times and let him fly back home from there.’
Dad’s Lad competed in his first race last year when he flew from Carentan, France, back to his owner’s garden.
Now Derek will call time on Dad’s Lad’s racing days to allow him to concentrate on breeding elite racers of the future instead.
Mr Jones said: ‘I want to make sure Dad’s Lad remains happy and healthy. I’m always wary as well about birds of prey and the potential harm they can cause, so I think it’s best that he stops racing now.’