The Birmingham Roller Pigeon is a very popular domestic pigeon. As its name suggests, it was bred in Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
Through selective breeding, people were able to create a pigeon that does very swift somersaults in the air while flying.
A Birmingham Roller should turn over backwards with inconceivable rapidity for a considerable distance like a spinning ball.
Though this is an apt description of a Birmingham Roller Pigeon, there are several variations that you will come to learn if you start keeping Birmingham Roller pigeons.
Birmingham Roller Origins
The exact origin of the Birmingham Roller Pigeon is unknown, but we do know that the breed was popularized in the city that provides its name.
When the genetic mutation occurred to enable them to somersault in the air is unknown, though we do know it was a genetic mutation that occurred in breeding domestic flying pigeons.
Perhaps a single person noticed that their bird rolled while flying and bred it with several other birds hoping to recreate the results.
Or, perhaps breeders met and bred their rolling pigeons as a bit of fun.
Rolling pigeons are not mentioned much in historic texts, but a Persian manuscript from the 1100s mentions tumbling in pigeons, (Ibid., Sec. 231), and we do know that the mechanics of rolling while flying and tumbling on the floor are very closely related.
Birmingham Roller Pigeon Appearance
The most common colours/patterns are blue and red, and they are displayed as: checked, self, bar, spread, badge, mottle, grizzle and bald.
Other desirable traits that may impact performance are bird size, bird feather quality, show/domestic temperament and its eye features.
If a bird is lacking some of these qualities, then it may be marked down by judges in competitions.
There are hard and soft feather varieties that are just as equally prized, though it really depends on the competition.
As it stands, it is often best to strive for a middle ground if you want better resale values.
This is partially due to the trend set by judges in various events, and due to the fact that birds with softer feathers sometimes look less desirable as they become very old.
Why Do They Roll?
There is no solid evidence to back up the many reasons why people think rolling pigeons roll.
The mechanics are understood, but the bird’s compulsion to actually roll is completely unknown.
There are theories that aerial acrobatics are good for avoiding predators, but the roll doesn’t help in that regard otherwise we would see a lot more of it in other birds.
The instinct to roll is something that occurred by mutation, but the why is not known, though scientists think it is the same trigger that causes ground rolling birds to roll.
An interesting note from recent studies is that a roll takes place when the bird’s head goes back, tail goes up, and wings are raised, which is the opposite of what a bird does when it is attempting to fly, which may suggest that whatever biological mechanism the bird uses to judge its location and its flying may have mutated in an incorrect way, which explains why rolling birds were not seen in the wild prior to being developed by selective breeding.
Some say that the modern Birmingham Roller Pigeon is a descendant of the Oriental Roller, but nobody has provided genetic evidence to prove this claim.
Also Read: Why Do Tumbler Pigeons Tumble?
Breeding The Birmingham Roller Pigeon
Consider bird feather quality and try to mix a hard feather with a soft feather so long as they are not too closely related.
Some breeders say that hard feathered birds are the best, so perhaps consider two hard feather birds if you are experimenting.
Flying ability is another thing to consider, remembering that the fastest birds are often the strongest. If you breed strong birds, they will often have stronger offspring.
Do not breed birds that roll too frequently.
If you have a pair of rollers who roll too often and too tightly, then the offspring they produce are often undesirable.
The most important thing to remember is to change pairs every year, even if the offspring they are producing are very good.
Their offspring are almost always better when you change the partners from one year to the next.
Birmingham Roller Character
These birds are popular for many reasons, and one of the reasons is that they have character.
You will get to know their quirks, from the two who are always the last to come in during feeding, to the hens who kick other hens when they are on perches.
These birds have personality if they are normalised to human behaviour, especially in a domestic suburban setting, and especially if they are allowed to hang around with other birds.
They take cues from each other, so if you put a nervous bird with other birds that are confident around you, then the nervous bird will relax when you are near.