From Today's New York Times, July 9th
Here is an article that appeared in today's New York Times...thought everyone might enjoy seeing it:
Pigeons and Coupes
By COREY KILGANNON
Published: July 9, 2005
Amjad Ali released six of his champion pigeons and watched proudly as
they circled higher and higher into the morning sky and gradually
became mere specks. When they had all but disappeared, a beefy man
walked up and asked, "Hey, you got a radiator for a '97 Pathfinder?"
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Richard Lee for The New York Times
Amjad Ali's prize pigeons roost on the side of his shop in Corona,
Queens. The birds are Pakistani tipplers, known for long flights at
Enlarge This Image
Richard Lee for The New York Times
Mr. Ali, who sees himself as a trainer of champion athletes, feeds his
birds a special diet, along with vitamins. "Everything stems from the
stomach," he says. "If things are good there, the bird is healthy."
Mr. Ali runs an auto repair shop in Corona, Queens, where, perched
above the junked cars, scrap metal and twisted auto wreckage, he keeps
about 150 exquisite white pigeons with gray heads and outstanding
pedigrees. They roost in outdoor cages attached to the side of the
repair garage, above a smashed-up Lincoln.
Mr. Ali, 50, considers himself a first-rate mechanic, but he really
fancies himself an athletic trainer, treating his pigeons as a team of
finely tuned athletes. He breeds, trains and flies Pakistani tipplers,
which are known among pigeon aficionados for their ability to fly very
high for long periods - all day sometimes - before descending to the coop.
Mr. Ali said he grew up keeping tipplers in Karachi, Pakistan, where
the highfliers are immensely popular. Enthusiasts hold high-stakes
competitions to see whose birds can fly high the longest, the best
ones flying up out of sight in the morning and coming back down by dusk.
Although many of the rooftop pigeon coops that were a staple of New
York City decades ago are long gone, enthusiasts who keep birds are
still out there. Most of these pigeons either circle near their coops,
do aerial acrobatics or are "racing homers" trained to fly home from
hundreds of miles away at impressive speeds. Mr. Ali's birds are more
He immigrated to New York about 17 years ago, set up a successful auto
body business and settled his wife and three children into a nice home
in Flushing. Then, four years ago, homesick for the passion of his
youth, he persuaded a friend in Pakistan to give him 20 quality
tipplers. Mr. Ali said he paid $7,000 to meet various United States
government requirements so that he could ship them to America.
Since then he has carefully selected his top-performing fliers and
mated them to breed better ones. Each morning, after opening his auto
body shop, he feeds the birds and releases a half-dozen of them into
the sky. Then he goes to work on customers' cars, stepping out
intermittently to watch them go higher, up past the jet lanes leading
to La Guardia Airport. They disappear for several hours, and in late
afternoon they begin reappearing out of the sky, flying slowly down
and usually roosting on the coop by dinnertime.
Mr. Ali said that many of his birds were world-class fliers that could
easily fetch thousands of dollars from tippler handlers. He protects
his flock with razor-wire fences, coopside surveillance cameras and a
territorial German shepherd in the yard. He asked that the name and
location of his business not be printed.
"I already get a lot of people stopping in and asking me about them,"
he said apologetically. "I'll never get any work done."
He said that the birds often caught the eye of Pakistani and Indian
"A lot of Pakistani cabdrivers come in and ask, 'From where did you
bring them?' " he said.
Michael J. Beat, a pigeon enthusiast from Brooklyn Heights who runs an
online discussion group called Tippler Talk, said that he had heard
increasingly from Indian and Pakistani immigrants keeping high-flying
tipplers in New York, although he does not know Mr. Ali. "Twenty years
ago, we never heard of Pakistani tipplers, but you hear more about
Indians and Pakistanis coming to New York and the first thing they say
is, 'I got to have my pigeons, I have to import a pair,' " he said.
"It's familiar and it's country pride. It's what they know."
Mr. Ali has converted part of his shop into an indoor aviary. Inside
it one recent morning, he fed his flock and checked on the 10 nesting
pairs that sat on eggs or protected their newborn chicks.
Mr. Ali fed the birds food formulas he mixed himself, along with
vitamin mixtures he makes from garlic oil, enzymes, vitamins,
creatine, protein powder and a blend of spices his wife helps him mix,
to aid the pigeons' digestion.
"Everything stems from the stomach," he explained. "If things are good
there, the bird is healthy."
Mr. Ali says he has developed an expertise on pigeon nutrition from
extensive reading about sports nutrition, biology and pigeon
physiology. His pigeon handbooks and nutrition manuals are tucked
among the automotive manuals in the shop office.
Nestled between two books about transmissions, for example, was
"Feeding the Athlete Pigeon," and interspersed with manuals on engine
parts are handbooks on sports nutrition and the physiology of pigeons
He reads Pakistani newspapers to keep up with the competitive circuit
back home. From his research and experimentation, he said, he has
found diets that have impressed the tippler aficionados he keeps in
contact with in Pakistan, who have begun using his mixtures. He
gestured proudly to a promotional poster from Pakistan hanging in his
office advertising a coming race featuring some birds nurtured on Mr.
Ali's diet formulas. The poster bore a photo of one of Mr. Ali's
tipplers and listed the bird's name, American Express, in the caption,
Asked about the name, he explained that he plans to pass his business
on to his college-age son. Then, like a well-trained pigeon, he will
fly home to Pakistan, possibly for good, and revive his old coops.
"I'd like to go back with my best birds and race them," he said. "They
will all have American names - American Dream, American Fly, like that
- so the people in Pakistan will see how well you can breed their
birds in America
Thanks for posting the article for us. It's interesting for me as I've bumped into
a few men of middle eastern descent who are pigeon fanciers over the past few months. In fact, a pet store locally, that you would think caters to dogs and cats has a loft in the back w/some of the most beautiful pigeons, and he carries quite a line of pigeon supplies.
While I was visiting the "overpass" pigeons, a man and his small son approached me and started talking about the pigeons. He told me that he was from Iran and that alot of people in that area in general have pigeons up on their roof.
He said people didn't have dogs for pets there as they were considered "dirty",
although he qualified by saying he thought that had more to do with the cultural/religion than anything. He knew quite a bit about pigeons and it was a joy to listen to him reminisce about his youth in Iran, tending to and watching his pigeons from his roof.
It's good to keep in mind at times like these the things that bring us together as people that we can all share enjoyment in.
I was reading the article reffereing amjad ali from corona, queens NY. I myself am from pakistan and have been trying to import birds into the United States but have not gotten much luck. And since Mr. Ali did not want to disclose information about his shop. I was wondering if you could help me out in getting into contact with this fella. I do respect his privacy, but even an e-mail address will be greatly appreciated. Thank you
I can be reached at [email protected]
I would suggest contacting The New York Times and ask if that reporter is still at the paper. If so, ask to speak with him and see if he could pass your contact info on to Mr. Ali.
This seems to be the best contact info I could find on their Web site:
To send comments and suggestions (about news coverage only) or to report errors that call for correction, e-mail [email protected] or leave a message at 1-888-NYT-NEWS.
Also, follow this link. When the page opens, it allows you to click on the reporter's name and fill out a form to contact him.
Best of luck!
Thank you so much nicole I have sent him an e-mail and I hope they reply soon. I just have been so excited since I have read this articel because it gave me hope that I one day can have those birds myself, and hopefully I can contact Mr. Ali, and he can help me out.
Thanks for your help
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