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pigeon Character pigeons
By: Ken Easley 9/07/00

Quite often one will hear the novice as well as a hall of fame member mention the character of a roller when giving an assessment of it’s worth. The character of a bird changes with age just as the fruit ripens on the vine.

The character of a young bird is visible and one can generally see when the bird possesses natural smarts above the common roller. This will help them in dangerous times to make the decision that will be the difference in life and death, but not always.

Most rollers will make a mistake in their life one time or another. It is true that some never do but there are far less of this type if good at rolling. One can see the differences in character after a mistake has been made by the actions that follow in subsequent flies. A sound roller will make adjustments so that the same mistake will not be repeated.

Changes in conditions may cause what is normally a sound roller to make a mistake.

Examples of such bad conditions would be a young bird that has come into the roll and is learning to cope with this new condition when the owner decides to feed a different type of feed, such as the high protein content of peas. This may over-excite the bird causing him to roll down and either kill himself or only to rub the tree tops etc… When a young bird is coming into the roll it is best to keep everything the same for a while until they have had sufficient time to adjust.

One can look at the seasoned veterans of an old bird kit and see real character. The look of cunning and experience will be seen on the best. One may see one or two birds that do not posses this look but have somehow managed to slip by on mostly luck. If flown long enough they will fall by the wayside as suspected. After flying teams of rollers for five or so years one will have birds that have seen it all. They will have returned from many overflies and out-maneuvered hawks on several occasions and avoided bouncing off the roof or ground. They will have stayed in the kit and rolled as required by the owner to avoid the ax. These are the mainstays of the loft. They are the seasoned combat veterans with real character.


It will be noticed that some will make the assumption that richness of blood or that glossy and shiny feathers are an indication of great character. These are only indications of health and not a true indicator of character in a roller in a working kit. It tells me the bird is not working hard enough. Maybe it says the character is too strong, but not what we are looking for.

One is looking for the very best to retain as stock and the very best will of coarse be feathered correctly and be healthy as well, but a hard working kit of rollers may have the lean and mean look that comes with day to day rigors of kit life. These birds will fill out after being stocked and begin to show the true nature of their health after a good molt.

When judging character first look to the air for true conformation, then look for age and experience. After these important factors have been established then one can look for and learn what character looks like in the best. Once one has seen many examples of such birds he may be able to see these small signs of character on the ground in younger birds.

The idea is to put 20 of these in the air as a team. They should be of one mind. They should kit tight and fly the same speed and break at the same time. It will be noticed on a veteran team of high caliber rollers that under a hawk attack the whole team will not roll but rather tighten up and fly in a high speed zig zag pattern. Once the danger has passed, you will usually see a big break.

A roller that will not work in the team and chooses to leave the kit, is a cull and lacking in character, no matter how well he rolls or what he is out of. He doesn’t have the heart or courage to go back to the kit to roll again.

The best birds will shoot straight back to the kit after each break. They will act and think like a team. We do not want individuals that work alone because this would only take away from everything a team of Birmingham rollers is supposed to be.

So, character then, is the ability to stay in the kit after each and every break. It is also the ability to spin hard, fast and deep without hitting the ground. It is the ability to know how to get home in adverse conditions.

This is not to say that one will not have to use his patience for some individuals. Some birds go through a rough patch and with time make fine team mates. Learning to spot the ones with potential of making the grade takes experience. One way to spot the ones that have a chance is they will try hard to stay in the kit even when it is difficult for them. This is showing heart.

Do not look for character on the ground until it has been proven in the air over time. Sometimes what appears to be character is only confidence which can be easily lost after hitting the ground.
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