| Oct 16, 2008

Outdoors - Roller Pigeons

Back toHome

Outdoors in the LandO'Lakes - October 16, 2008 Roller Pigeons Outdoors in the Land O'Lakes by Lorraine Julien Usually our columns try to focus on local wildlife, flora and fauna but the subject of this week’s column doesn’t relate to anything found naturally in the Land O’ Lakes! We are certainly all aware of pigeons but the ones we are familiar with have almost nothing in common with the Roller Pigeon except for a general similarity in looks.

A Roller Pigeon is a breed or variety of domestic pigeon that has been bred for its ability to tumble or roll in the air – exactly as the name suggests. A seizure like condition causes them to throw up their wings, cock back their heads and flip over backwards repeatedly during flight. Performances can vary greatly but the spinning can be so fast that the bird looks like a ball of feathers falling to the ground.

It wasn’t until I started researching this subject that I realized the huge popularity of Roller Pigeons. On the internet there are literally hundreds of thousands of websites devoted to this specialized bird and the sport that has evolved. Many of the sites and blogs offer information on the care, health and breeding of the birds. I was surprised also to see a number of ads on the Kiijiji want ad site offering these birds for sale or trade.

There are many competitions involving Roller Pigeons with the winner determined by whichever pigeon rolls furthest. These flying acrobats can roll or tumble well over 100 feet.

Roller Pigeons may have originated in India and were brought to Germany by traders in the 1870’s. In 1875, the breed became a favourite in England and the Birmingham Rollers became famous. The Birmingham Roller was developed in and around Birmingham, England by an owner who wanted to develop birds that were more than just aerial tumblers. Eventually a strain of performing rollers was cultivated that became known for its special skill of great rolling performances, not just tumbling. The Birmingham Roller was thus born and the event exported to North America.

The fame of these birds soon spread around the world where different varieties of Roller Pigeon are raised by enthusiasts who compete together in regional and international competitions. As an example, the World Cup Fly is an international event that is held annually. If you qualify in the regional competitions, you can compete in this prestigious international Roller Pigeon event.

An example of a similar breed of pigeon is the Parlor Roller. It can do backward somersaults on the ground but cannot fly.

There has been some controversy recently where Roller Pigeon aficionados have been accused of killing hawks (some of which are on an endangered list) that prey on their prized birds. In the U.S. this past summer, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife special agent infiltrated Roller Pigeon clubs and discovered some of the group were illegally killing hawks and peregrine falcons who attacked their prize birds. As you can imagine, Roller Pigeons would make very favourable targets for birds of prey.

I’ve tried to describe the special traits of the Roller Pigeon but a “picture is worth a thousand words” and there are many photos and videos on the internet showing their rolling flights – some even in slow motion.

Please feel free to report any observations to to Steve Blight at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.