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These birds were also couriers during the European conflict and might properly wear service stripes as well as stars. They, like many other Homing Pigeons, were entrusted with vital messages which they carried successfully throughout artillery barrage and machine-gun fire from the front-line trenches to headquarters during history-making offensives (see text, pages 86, 87, 91, and 92).

a trumpeter at practice with a low-pitched
horn. There is another variety, now al-
most extinct, called the Laugher, whose
cooing resembles a human chuckle.


It is impossible to describe all the varieties of fancy pigeons seen at shows. There is, for example, the great class of German toys, with more than twenty subvarieties, including Swallows (see Color Plate X), Frill Backs (whose feathers. grow the reverse of those of all other birds), Helmets (see Color Plate IV), and Priests. There are the Magpies (see Color Plate XII), beautiful birds with wild magpie coloring, only richer; the Hungarians, parti-colored birds bred for centuries; the Mookees, Snabians, Sherajees, Chinese Dewlaps, Starlings, Mode

nas (said to come in sixty or more colors), and numerous others.

Fancy pigeons mate like the Homers. and, as a rule, are good parents. The short-faced birds, however, need assistance to bring up their young, and unless "wet nurses" are provided, valuable youngsters may be lost. Fanciers who like several varieties can solve this problem by transferring the eggs from shortfaced to long-faced birds and vice versa, for the short-faces, while apparently unable to rear their own young, are able to feed those with longer beaks.

If a fancier belongs to a pigeon club, he marks his birds with a registered seamless band, which is placed on one leg when the baby pigeon is about five days old.

Pigeons are exhibited as youngsters and as old birds. Some, such as Carriers, Barbs, and Orientals, do not appear at

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their best until they are from three to five years old. Others, such as Pouters and Fantails, coarsen with age.

In England pigeons are judged both in their single coops and in walking pens, and are marked on the double showing. In the United States only the walking pen is used. In this every bird has to display himself before the judges, just as a horse or dog performs in the tanbark ring.


Up to ten years ago, American Fantail breeders had striven in vain for good silver-colored birds. In 1916 a pair of my blue Fantails hatched a beautifully colored silver sport, which, upon maturity, proved to be a hen. The next season the parents were remated, but produced only ordinary young and no silvers. Then a mating between the young silver hen and a blue cock of good type and light color gave me two blue youngsters, both cocks. The following year a mating of the better-colored

mother gave two young, both silvers and both hens.

One of those hens has yet to be beaten in the showroom, and last season one of her sons was a champion silver and a grandson won first in his class.

In 1919 the process of inbreeding continued, the old hen being remated to her son, who had produced two silver hens, and the better young silver hen to her blue half-brother, who was also her uncle. These matings resulted in all silvers, both cocks and hens. Since then these birds have been inbred, line bred, and outcrossed (but only on the original family of blues), and to-day the silvers are among the best in my large family of Fantails.

My success in producing this winning strain of silvers was due to several factors. One was the abandonment of the original parents and failure to use the old blue father with his silver daughter. Another was that, thanks to a brother fancier, the very best blues of that time were



It is feeding time and the birds are waiting for the "dining hall doors" to open. Although the Old World's love of pigeons goes back to prehistoric times, these birds were not used as couriers until the First Crusade, when Christian commanders found the Saracens employing them to convey information.

mere perversity caused me to reject completely the stock scientific formula that yellow mated to blue would give silver.

The offspring produced by this experiment were not only numerous after the second year, but of high quality and resulted in fine silver males which to-day, if bred to blues, produce more silver than blue youngsters.

Regressions constantly appear in the best of pigeon families. A strain of blue. Fantails first utilized ten years ago has been bred ever since, with only two outcrosses, one on silver and the other on white. All of these birds were cleanlegged, as Fantails are supposed to be; yet last season an excellent young blue hen with grouse-feathered feet appeared.

Also, Fantails are supposed to have fine smooth heads, with no sign of peak or crest, but a pair of birds whose ancestry was known for more than five generations produced a crested Fan.

With regard to breeding for color, yellow saddleback birds have produced

reds, blacks, and checkers, but no yellows; red saddlebacks have given not only reds and blacks, but pure whites.

Last year, in an effort to improve blue saddles, a mating between a saddle cock with a solid-blue hen gave a pure-white youngster which proved good enough to win at a Fantail club meet.

The question naturally arises as to what one is to do with these sports and throwbacks. If they are outstanding in good quality, they should be kept and bred, as they possess dominant natures and will, as a rule, influence their descendants for years to come. If bad, even though unusual, they should be killed, for breeding from an inferior causes birds to deteriorate.


Pigeons are good to eat, and if one breeds only from the best, there are certain to be plenty for the pot.

There are several varieties of pigeons bred mainly for the table, including Runts

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These birds, as internationally famous as those of Saint Mark's in Venice, are now in disgrace. Their continual pecking at the mortar between the stones of the cathedral has endangered the safety of the portico of the building, and city authorities plan to destroy all except a few, which, for reasons of sentiment, will be allowed to retain their old lofts. Since Parliament has long protected these pigeons, a special act is necessary before their numbers can be legally reduced.

(the largest of all pigeons and one of the oldest), Carneaux, Kings, Mondaines (see Color Plate VII), and Working Homers.

The French were the first to rear squabs for culinary purposes, but within the last 25 years squab-breeding has spread over the world.

The young pigeon is heavier at four weeks, when it is just ready to leave the nest, than at any later period of its life. It is fat and soft and makes one of the finest delicacies served to-day, being especially good for convalescents and children. Squab breeders work the year round and are not separated in winter, as are the fancy and racing birds. If not crowded, they produce from 10 to 14 young yearly.

those operated by workmen as a side issue, after regular hours, or one-man plants where the owner does all of his own work. Labor and building costs are so high that the expense of additional help and housing above the one-man-plant size is almost prohibitive.

Not all lovers of pigeons are so situated that they can exhibit their birds; but while the showroom and race course provide the final test of a breeder's accomplishments, one's real pleasure and lasting delight are to be found among the birds in the loft. Formal exhibitions are soon over, but one's own aviary furnishes a constant display of beauty and affection, and the fancier's presence is always welcomed


The National Geographic Society to Maintain a Solar Station in a Remote Part of the World to Coöperate with Smithsonian Institution Stations in

California and Chile



IDING, one day, between Salt Lake and Los Angeles, my newly met seatmate, learning that my business is to observe the heat of the sun, said that he did not believe the sun is hot. "For," said he, "the higher one goes on a mountain or in a balloon, the colder it gets." What would you say to that? Plausible, isn't it? The secret is the same as that which keeps a windowpane cold. If you sit inside the room in the sun, your black coat and your shoes soon become very warm, while the windowpane, through which the sunbeam comes, keeps its wintry chill.

Sun rays are not heat. They are of another form of energy which we call radiation. It is a wave motion, like radio waves, only enormously shorter in wavelength. Most radio programs come in on waves of 200 to 500 meters; visible sun rays come in on waves of 0.0000004 to 0.0000006 meter, or about 500,000,000 times as short. Clear air and clear glass are very transparent to sun rays, which pass through these substances almost without absorption of energy; but black shoes or clothes, and lampblack still more, absorb sun rays, and their energy is diverted from its beautiful wave-play to promoting the irregular vibrations of the molecules which we call heat.

The upper air is so very transparent that it stays cold, for it absorbs almost no solar energy of radiation, and although a person or a blackened object absorbs even more of solar radiation at high altitudes than at the earth's surface, yet, being surrounded by the very cold air, which is carried along by the winds, his temperature is kept low for the same reason that a fan cools the radiator of an automobile.

Besides charming us in the rainbow, the sunset, and the blue of the sky, sun rays keep the earth warm enough to live on. They maintain the inimitable chemical processes by which plants grow; distill into the clouds all of the ocean water that comes to us as rain;* cause all the weather; and, when we get wise enough, they will furnish us a trillion horsepower for mechanical, electrical, and heating purposes, if we need so much power by that time.

No wonder that "Uncle Joe" Cannon once said in the Appropriations Committee of Congress: "I don't care so much about the stars that are so far away that if they were all abolished to-night our great-grandchildren would never know the difference; but everything hangs on the sun, Sherley, and it ought to be investigated. I think this appropriation is all right!"


This is just what the National Geographic Society has given me a grant to undertake to measure the radiation of the sun. But since I have been in this work for the Smithsonian Institution for more than 30 years, members of The Society have a right to know what more is expected to be found out with the aid of this generous grant.

The fact is, we have discovered that the sun is a variable star. Mr. H. H. Clayton, the eminent American meteorologist, who has been coöperating in the work, has proved that very distinct changes of barometer, temperature, and rainfall are caused by these changes of

* See "Toilers of the Sky," by McFall Kerbey, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for August, 1925.

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