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Racing pigeons, a high-flying business in Tampa

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Times Correspondent

Erio Álvarez, now 80, has been a racing pigeon fancier since he was a teenager. He and enthusiasts from surrounding counties compete with each other, releasing their birds from as far away as Georgia and timing how long it takes them to fly home to their various backyard lofts. It’s about 340 miles to Álvarez’ lofts. He is past president of the Greater Tampa Bay Racing Pigeon Concourse. His son, Eric Álvarez, who grew up loving the sport, is now president.

“I say jokingly that I carried him in the loft and he never came out. And he’s a phenomenal pigeon fancier.’’

The senior Álvarez, who owns about 150 pigeons, said a good racing bird can cost several hundred, but both racers and breeding birds, which produce the champions, can go for thousands. He paid $3,000 each for two of his breeders; one got out of the cage and flew off, perhaps to become the pricey meal of a hawk.

As his pigeons cooed in their…

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