Nearly 300 racing pigeons stolen from Florida man's backyard, officials say

Police: Nearly 300 racing pigeons stolen from man’s backyard

Investigators are searching for whoever stole nearly 300 racing pigeons from a Florida man’s backyard.

Frank Varriello is increasing security after at least 275 of his birds were stolen from pens in his backyard over the course of a week, WTVT reported.

"You spend many years developing and training racing birds, and then somebody comes one night and steals your birds away from you," Varriello told WTVT. "People who steal these birds are not stealing them for their lineage. They're stealing them because they can get five bucks in Miami for them. It's like stealing your children away. I mean, that's how much time and money I've got invested in these birds."

Homing pigeons are raised and trained from birth. They are given tags on both legs; one has the date, and the other has an electronic chip to help record distance and time.

Race season is from October to November. Some of the more experienced birds can travel as much as 600 miles in about 11 hours, the Hernando Sun reported.

And the pay isn’t birdseed. Varriello won $40,000 for first place in a race in 2011.

The hobby is very popular in Hernando County. The area is home to Gulfcoast Homing Club, one of the largest racing pigeon groups in the country.

For Varriello, his flock is like family.

"You don't wanna lose them," he told WTVT. "And you will do anything in your power to try and keep them, and you try and deter anyone who's trying to steal them."