Luminous Photos of Scotland’s Pigeon-Obsessed Flight Club

Finding escape in a never-ending aerial battle over the mean streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Connor Ross, from the Restilrig housing scheme in Edinburgh, was introduced to doo flying by friends. "Doo" is the Scottish word for horseman thief pouter pigeons. Photos by: Robert Ormerod/Statement Images/Redux


For the doo fliers of Scotland, keeping pigeons isn’t just about having the fastest or finest birds. It’s about stealing your fellow fanciers’ doos (male pigeons—horseman thief pouters, in particular) and hens, enlisting your own sex-starved flock as bait. “Men and women of all ages fly against neighbors, friends, or relatives and have been doing so for hundreds of years,” explains Robert Ormerod, whose luminous photographs capture a hobby that offers an escape from the mean streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow with an endless aerial battle.

Dylan Leppage with one his doos in his room in the Sighthill area of Edinburgh. Dylan’s stepfather encouraged his interest in doos after he was expelled from school. Some families have flown pigeons for generations.
 

Father and son Ian and Mark Wilson dye their newest pigeons yellow. The color helps the bird attract members of the opposite sex. Doo flyers sent their birds out to entice members of the opposite sex, which are then lured back to their huts.
 

A pigeon sits on a carrying box. In the housing schemes of Edinburgh and Glasgow, doos are flown from lofts, sheds, bedrooms, and living rooms.
 

Billy Casment, 12, at his home in Niddrie.
 

A baby pigeon. Doomen tell stories of pigeon fliers who eat and sleep with their birds and even those who have left their wives or girlfriends for their flocks.
 

Paul Smith, 43, with one of his birds in the Muirhouse area of Edinburgh. Paul found solace in flying pigeons after his 17-year-old son was stabbed and killed during an argument.
 

Pigeons fly near a high-rise apartment building in Glasgow

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.