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pigeon Birmingham Roller Strains pigeons
By: PAUL MAYWALD 1998

The definition of Strain according to my Webster's Dictionary is as follows:

A. Ancestry; lineage

B. The descendants of a common ancestor; race; or stock line.

C. A line of individuals different from its main species or race by certain generally superior qualities.

D. An inherited character or tendency.

From all the reading I have done on the subject of Birmingham Rollers, the mention of Strain always comes up in one form or another.

Now if memory serves me correctly the Birmingham’s originated in the "Black Country" on the west side of Birmingham. The boy's had succeeded in developing a Strain that could execute ten to twenty rolls or more in rapid succession. The Birmingham roller Strain was born, the best Aerial Acrobats of the Roller world. Thanks must be given to the father of our present day Birmingham’s, William H. Pensom, for without the birds he exported to the U.S. we wouldn't have the foundation of a Strain of Birmingham Rollers, and the Standards on which to keep us tuned to breeding the perfect spinner.

Rollers were imported in 1936 then after the war again in 1946. In Pensom's book there is an interesting commentary, which most I'm sure have overlooked because we are searching for the guide lines on how to perfect our beloved Rollers.

"A few Rollers off of imports could still be had from J. Leroy Smith and Raymond L. Perkins. The offspring from the birds off of imports produced the most nearly perfect Rollers. The further off from imports the birds were, the less apt they were to produce perfect spinners."

This is the year 1998, and the greats have gone. Pensom, Lutes, Palona, McCully, Smith. We have now in their place Modern Greats, and the birds they produce are further off of the imports.

So what to do? We all have preconceived ideas of what a Birmingham Roller has to be. Consistent, frequent, small, medium, roll once per min., show the hole, and what ever else we envision the birds to be. How do we get this ideal bird? Breeding ! We go out and get birds from successful breeders and hope we have hit the right combination, so on fly day we have a kit that shines like the ones the Stars had. But have we read what the Stars did? I don't think so. To develop a Strain of birds they were in-breeding.

How can we take a young bird from Joe, whose breeding pair came from Pete and Bill, and breed good consistent Rollers.

Just looking at the above, there are three Families or Strains involved, and if you look back four generations, there is a minimum of twenty one breedings. Now that young bird from Joe, is mated to a spinner from John, another twenty one breeding combinations are involved, that's forty two breedings. We are now breeding from a pair of ALPHABET SOUP, and when the young birds don't perform we fault the folks who sold us the birds, not realizing that we have created these birds with a variety of strengths and faults, and because the faults outnumber the strengths, we have developed a kit of so so birds.

We as breeders, are always using outstanding flyers from someone else to get to the road of Glory Faster than the other guys. Well this is only a hit and miss breeding program, and most generally after a damn good season of flying we produce mediocre birds that just fly the time, but roll down and or don't roll with the depth and frequency of the parents we bought. How then to achieve consistency and a Strain or Family? Inbreeding.

Inbreeding, has always and will be the key to all progress visa vi the breeding of superior livestock of any kind that by definition also includes the Birmingham Roller. By definition inbreeding is the continual (and I stress the word continual) mating of individuals of the same related stock. More than this the truly correct form of the word inbreeding designates only, the mating, between brother and sister or between offspring and parents (that is daughter/father, son/mother) in one or more generations. Please note that nothing else constitutes Inbreeding!

You must always keep in mind that inbreeding favors the production of homozygosity ( and if selection criteria are shrewd) and a steady continuous build up of breeding merit, and therefore emphasis upon the production of a Strain or family of your own Birmingham Rollers based on one or two pairs of birds purchased from an outstanding breeder, who has developed a Strain or family through intensive inbreeding and has eliminated the faults, and perfected Rollers that you often read about. Outcrossing has just the opposite effect!

A word of extreme caution is necessary at this point, remembering that inbreeding is a tool to an end. It is a special purpose tool. In an of itself it cannot create anything new. It can only fix in a Strain or family desirable or undesirable genes. If the breeder was unfortunate enough to choose incorrectly in the original stock then the task of breeding out undesirable characteristics may prove totally impossible (which is in most cases).

As for me I will continue without fail, mating sister/brother, mother/son, father/daughter looking for the qualities that I have set forth in my mind of what MY SPITFIRE STRAIN of Birmingham Rollers should be, being guided by the information written by the Masters.

Being a past breeder of Endangered Species Pheasants and having achieved Breeding Awards in that field, I felt I had the credentials to write this article not to criticize, but to create a thought process for the New Years Breeding Season. Many years have passed since I had Rollers, and I'm happy again to be a part of the Fraternity of Sport Flyers, comments are always appreciated.

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