Eneida wakes up at the crack of dawn each morning. She takes a bus to an industrial egg farm three towns away, where she works tirelessly until sunset building chicken coops with her hands. But at her home in San Miguel, Panama, Eneida has a very different relationship with birds.
For the past five years, she’s been breeding and selling pigeons from an elaborate cage in her backyard, located a few meters up the hill from Kalu Yala. The Roble y Semilla team recently stopped by Eneida’s home to view her operation firsthand. Accompanied by two young boys from the neighborhood, we watched her expertly interact with the docile birds, who didn’t so much as wince when she reached into their dusty cage.
“Their songs are really pretty,” she told Roble y Semilla in Spanish as she perched a bird on the tip of two fingers. The boys clamored to the cage, trying to poke the pigeons’ heads. “Suave,” she instructed them gently, showing them how to use their index finger to stroke its head, down its back, and both sides of its tail feather.
Eneida’s love for her winged companions began as a young girl in rural Panama, where she grew up with pet parakeets. A few years ago, she bought two pigeons from her neighbor. They mated. “Soon, I had a whole flock,” she said with a laugh.
She soon realized that the birds were in high demand. Now, she sells them for $20 each, advertising only by word of mouth and through her WhatsApp account.
And she claims they have a very special skill — though she hasn’t seen one deliver a message firsthand, the birds are the same breed as the carrier pigeons that came over from Colombia to help wartime Americans nearly a century ago.
“They have a great sense of direction,” Eneida explained proudly, beaming toward her cage. “They’re not difficult to raise at all. Calm and quiet. Basically, the perfect pets!”