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A Birmingham Roller has the ability to somersault backwards in rapid, tight rotations. Depending on the family of bird and its training a Birmingham Roller can roll non-stop more than 100 feet at an inestimable speed. Unlike Tumblers, Birmingham Rollers fly in flocks called a kit. Ideally, a kit (between 11 to 20 birds) should stay together and perform as a group. When several birds spin at the same time this is known as a turn; if they all spin together at the same time, it is called a full turn. The frequency, depth, style, velocity, and angle are all determined by the breeding, training, and the diet of the birds. The flight time, height of flight, and responsiveness to the trainer's commands are all determined by strict training and diet, as well as a consistent daily fly routine. When a kit of birds simultaneously roll acrobatically like an airborne waterfall or ball of feathers, it is a sight to see. They are expected to recover from the spin and return to their kit as soon as possible. A good Roller is expected to continually do the same acrobatics with regular frequency, often in unison with other birds in the kit. The Roller breeders in US have the opportunity to take part in National Birmingham Roller Club (NBRC)'s National Competition Fly (NCF) and/or World Cup fly to compete against International fliers. While some breeders only fly for their own enjoyment at their back yard, some breeders fly their birds for their local club competition only.

Birmingham Rollers were introduced to Pan-America from the United Kingdom into Canada in the early 1800s. Around 1870, Rollers were introduced to the pigeon breeders of United States and became very popular by 1890. Birmingham Rollers are probably one of the most common performing breed in the USA and perhaps in all the world. As the name suggests and as also mentioned by Wendell Levi in his book The Pigeon, this breed was developed in and around the City of Birmingham in England. They were developed for their ability to do rapid backward somersaults while flying.

What breed source was part of the admixture to produce the Birmingham Rollers is not well documented, although it is clear that they were evolved from a conglomeration of breeds. There are three suspected breeds used to create Birmingham Rollers: the Dutch Roller (Tumbler), Oriental Roller, and the Old English Wire Legged Tumbler. Some reports suggest that Oriental Rollers did not reach England until 50 years after the Birmingham Roller breed was known. However, from the latest DNA microsatellite data of pigeon breeds, we now know Birmingham Rollers and Oriental Rollers share a common ancestry. That common ancestor existed a long time ago and probably looked and acted little like either breed looks and acts currently. It seems Birmingham Rollers got their smaller size and strong flying and tight kitting abilities from Wire Legs and their performance from the Oriental Rollers. It is not uncommon for Birmingham Rollers to show occasional peak crest, shell crest, more than normal 12 tails, droopy wings, and muffs in their legs. These unusual physical traits support the possibility that 3 breeds mentioned above might be the breeds used to create the Birmingham Rollers breed.

There are many other Rollers bred for various reasons all over the world. The type called Parlor Roller, which can often fly while young but cannot fly as adults. Parlor Rollers are known for their ability to roll on the ground for hundreds of feet and they were created in Scotland in the 19th Century and seem to have been bred by breeding deeper and deeper rollers together. The Oriental Rollers, whose origins come from the Middle East and Asian countries, do not fly in a kit like the Birmingham Roller. They prefer to be more individual performers and do their own thing in the air. An Oriental Roller is a bigger bird with dropped wings, and many people seem to believe that they are the ancestor to most, if not all, the other rolling breeds. Show Rollers are bigger than average Birmingham Rollers, and they are bred for their color and physical appearance, not for their rolling skills. American Rollers are smaller than the Birminghams, more on the size of a Parlor. American Rollers are a continuation of the line of rollers that were common in the States before the heavy importation of the Birminghams from England in the 1930s on.

Birmingham Rollers come in a great variety of colors and patterns. As in other performing breeds, the most important aspect in Birmingham Rollers is the performance. Some breeders, like myself, focus on perfecting color traits while maintaining the performance. The most common colors in Birmingham Rollers are: yellow, red, blue-bar, silver-bar, white-wing, badge marking, bald head, almond, grizzle, and mottle. The new color morphs and patterns are regularly generated, including reduced, opal, andalusian, pencil, toy stencil, and stunning bronze variants. Birmingham Rollers live to be about 10 to 12 years old if they survive hawk attacks and live in a healthy environment with good care. Rolling capability tends to improve with age, and regular exercising is vital to maintain performance as it is in every other performing breed.

There are unsubstantiated claims that the roller pigeons' tumbling behavior is the result of a genetic seizure-like condition. This condition causes them to throw up their wings, cock back their heads, and flip backward, somersaulting repeatedly during flight. This performance varies greatly in its extent as well as the birds' ability to control the instinct. The exact neurological causes of the rolling behavior are still unknown to the scientific community. People who breed Rollers have many disputed theories as to why rollers do back-flips, but most of them are not based on scientific evidence. While some consider it a defect, many think it is simply an ability that the birds are in control of their roll as they often take time to get in position before rolling. On the other hand, good bloodlines sometimes lose that ability to control of the roll and become a "roll-down". This is generally caused by inbreeding the same family of birds for too long, where the bird while in flight unable to get out of the roll and crash to the ground, causing serious damages to their bodies. In time, some of these roll-downs lose the ability to fly as they start rolling as soon as they are airborne and crash back to the ground. Occasionally I also produce roll-down birds but I do not use them in my breeding program. Many breeders do not breed from roll-downs as they think it is a weakness that should not be passed on to the next generations, while others purposely breed two roll-downs together to make deep spinners. Roll-downs carry a lot of roll and can contribute a lot to winning competitions. However, these birds are usually good Rollers for a short period then they either kill themselves or quit rolling all together.

In my opinion, roll-down birds should not be used as breeders unless the breeder understands what he/she is trying to achieve. Because the rolling behavior is caused by seemingly a few recessive genes, I have seen roll down parents produce babies that only do one or two flips at a time, while some become excellent flyers and competition rollers, and some become roll-downs just like their parents. The correct way to build a kit that can be counted on is by using mentally and physically stable birds that are in control of their rolling ability. Good Rollers may start rolling at four months of age and develop into great performers before they are eight months old. I have seen birds flip (tumble) in their first flight as I have also seen babies become roll-downs when they are only 2 to 3 months old. Perhaps they are physically, and mentally not ready to handle deep and fast spins at this age. Although pigeons can be mated after they are 4 months of age, it is suggested to wait at least a year before breeding performing breeds. Only the mentally and physically stable birds should be mated to produce offspring. Generally it takes 6 months to a year for a bird to mature and perform to its full potential before they can be considered for breeding.

I train and fly my Rollers in completion style and expect excellent quality, frequency, and depth (25 to 40 feet) from them. I fly mostly Smith/Plona, James Turner, strain of rollers, and some other families are mixed to achieve colors and performance I am looking for. In the beginning, I used my Rollers to train my Turkish Tumbler babies because most of my Turkish Tumblers were breeders. Now, I love my Birmingham Rollers. It's nice to have a flying kit of Birmingham Rollers above my roof, as Turkish Tumblers are usually solo performers and perform better when they fly alone. My intention is to breed good performing Birmingham Rollers with unique colors and patterns.

Copyright 2011 by Arif Mümtaz. All rights reserved.

 

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