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pigeon COLOR BREEDERpigeons
By: Cliff Ball

I have long heard the term “color breeder” and wondered exactly what it means. Most often, it seems to be used with a derogatory connotation; one of disrespect. But, personally, when I hear the term "color breeder" used, I think of pigeon breeders who primarily concern themselves with interest in genetics and the pursuit of the perfectly expressed genotype of color or pattern, whatever it may be…. imported from another breed many decades ago, or one that is inherent in the several breeds that were used to create the Birmingham Roller. Genetics is a fine aspect of the hobby to get into, and is very educational for the expression of genetic factors and their descriptive terms. Many fine men are primarily interested in the showing of many performance breeds, and the colors and patterns they have achieved. They gain much pleasure and pride from this activity, as it is very difficult to breed a perfectly expressed genotype in any breed of pigeon.

Now we come to Birmingham Roller. We are told without reservations, that the early development of the BR was done by men who were interested ONLY in performance; without any regard for colors or factors. However the past century has many records of the efforts of roller men to breed rollers of a variety of colors; again, some imported from other breeds, and some inherent in the breed already. The fact is most of these men had no education at all in the identification of genetic factors. Colloquialisms for proper genetic identifications were the norm, and I accept this as a fairly accurate representation of history of that time. Many fanciers today still make observations and describe their birds based on colloquialisms rather than use the proper genetic terminology. Add to this confusion in describing any given color or factor, the fact that many factors are recessive, and the fact that many look, phenotypically, like some other factor. Then add to that, the fact that spontaneous mutations occur more commonly in pigeons than any other bird, and you see how the possibilities abound for many questions to arise around the issue of the colors and factors that exist in the Birmingham Roller today. Many of the colors and factors found in the Roller were man-made. By that I mean, either the colors and factor was present in the breeds that were crossed in the development of the Birmingham Roller, or a breed carrying a certain factor was crossed in a roller to gain a specific color or modifying factor that was not previously found in the breed.

We all know that breeding a quality, performing "ROLLER" or a quality performing “BIRMINGHAM ROLLER” is no easy task, but we continue to try. We lay our hands on the best performing pigeons that we can…and we start our journey. Much has been made of the introduction of rare colors into the Birmingham Roller, but criticism has not stopped the roller fancier who enjoys the performance of the color-enhanced Roller. Take it one step farther and we find no other definition for the Birmingham Roller other than the time-honored descriptions of numerous authors down through the century, which describes the breed with a broad genetic diversity in its background, distinguished from other tumbler varieties based only on its performance. This performance standard is the only standard that is used by all the national and international Roller organizations today.

That being the case, we have many choices when it comes to rollers.... as long as the primary concern is met per the performance standard. We have “100% pure” pigeons that can be defined as Birmingham Rollers and we have Birmingham Rollers who are NOT 100% genetically pure per the early imports. Both of these groups of pigeons have their share of culls and both of these groups of pigeons have their share of outstanding performers. Either can earn the title of Birmingham Roller based on their performance; both are capable of being flown in any of today’s competitions.

So how does all this relate to the subject " color breeder" that keeps coming up? Good question, and one that I really have no answer for. The men who compete with their birds, no matter if they are “100% pure” Birmingham Rollers, or “99.9% pure” Birmingham Rollers, could care less about their color. There are no points awarded for this color or that color. Should the mere fact, that a roller breeder has a few rare factors carried or displayed in his kit birds/breeders, make him a “color breeder”? What about the breeders of the baldhead roller? Does he qualify as a “color breeder”? Maybe the question should be "ARE WE PERFORMANCE BREEDERS"?

Can a breeder be both? Are we more interested in colors, or pedigrees..? OR PERFROMANCE? If indeed, the answer is “performance” and a flyer regularly places his birds in competition to be judged for their performance... is he still a color breeder?

I have seen few men who are actively crossing breeds to get colors, but I have seen plenty of Birmingham Rollers that contain color modifiers performing to standard, and are NOT 100% pure. I do not condemn anyone who breeds “color-challenged” Birmingham Rollers (those of the basic colors), proud of their pedigrees and of the presence of some long-dead roller in its history. They are fine by me...breed what you like. There is no rule broken that I know of, by men who wish to fly these 100% pure Birmingham Rollers. But on the other hand, if a man chooses to fly Birmingham Rollers who meet the performance standard and are less than 100% pure...neither has he broken any rule of any roller organization currently in existence. BUT does he merit the title of “color breeder”? You decide!

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