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
"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
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
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
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
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
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