Starting out with Flying Oriental Rollers
by Alan Bliven
Performance VS The Birmingham Roller
The most common question I get asked by the curious about Flying Oriental Rollers is if they can they perform like a Birmingham Roller? The answer is yes and no.
They are not Birmingham Rollers and they do perform differently. The best Birmingham Roller can not perform like the true Flying Oriental Roller. But Flying Oriental Rollers could never compete against Birmingham Rollers with Birmingham Roller rules. The reason being they are two separate breeds, bred to do different things. It's comparing Apples with Oranges. The Flying Oriental Roller is bred to do many more things than a Birmingham Roller. The following is a list of many of them: Highflying, long flying, spiral and spin diving like Diver breeds. (In fact, the Donek and many other Diver breeds originated with the Flying Oriental Roller).. Soaring, deep tail rides, propeller spins etc. The Birmingham Roller is bred for a different type of performance.
Flying Oriental Rollers don't just roll one way. They are very diverse in their performance. They might roll fast and deep one time and later in the same flight roll shallow and very frequent. A fast roll also looks different. It's like it rips the sky, as opposed to a fast gentle fall. I don't know how else to explain it.
Sometimes they will do a long 100 foot fast spin and turn around a few minutes later and do single quick flips, one after another in a straight row, and then do a long loose roll. And at other times they will do Propeller Spins. But most of their performance is fast rolling.
Sometimes they Roll horizontally; rolls are briefly behind each other, one after another, very frequently and chaotic.
They also do stretched out deeper rolls with in-between pauses.
They are great divers and can be taught to dive as the diving breeds are. In fact most diving breeds where originally bred from Flying Oriental Rollers. It is a high flyer that returns to its loft in a death defying dive.
Another unique characteristic of it's performance is it's darting about during flight.
Another part that impresses me is the soaring
when they are high. They look like eagles soaring, little or no wing
movement, just soaring around and around through the air. Many times
when called in to land they will soar down from way up there and land on the roof without hardly moving their wings all the way down.
Unlike Birmingham Rollers they are great at avoiding hawks. They are built specifically for evading the desert falcon in the Mid East. I am surprised more Birmingham Roller people that get eaten up by the hawks don't keep Flying Oriental Rollers too. Very rarely can a hawk catch a Flying Oriental Roller. If he does, you don't want him anyway. It's a natural way to cull. These birds should be able to avoid hawks, if they can't they are not worthy of being stocked.
Notice the shape of the Flying Oriental Roller, it's not just for looks. Every part of that shape and size is there for performance.
It's best not to fly more than a dozen per kit if you desire good kitting.
Exhibition Oriental Roller vs the Flying Oriental Roller.
Think of it this way. If you were breeding
Birmingham Rollers for only exhibition and didn't pick your stock birds from
the air for 20 years, how good would the performance of your stock be
after those 20 years? You would have been breeding from many culls for
the last 20 years. Plus, on the grounds that they are not breeding them for
the flying type, they are breeding them for a type that will hinder
performance, not help it. The show birds are bred away from the
original type by breeding for more loose feathers and a
For this reason, in general there has been a lot
of confusion surrounding the "Oriental Roller." The true
FLYING Oriental Roller is a completely separate breed from the common
OR we see in the states. The common breed is a show bird. The TRUE
Flying Oriental Roller is rare here. But that's changing.
I guess you could say their attractiveness in
the show pen has been their greatest curse. It causes us to start
breeding for looks over performance. But that's not the end of the
story. There are some of us who have held down a standard of
performance first and these strains are the true "Flying"
Here in the states there are different types and as I mentioned earlier, even two different breeds of Oriental Roller. Let me categorize and describe them.
1) The exhibition type birds you see in the shows. They originally were performing only birds but for countless generations they have been bred for exhibition ONLY and their performance has degenerated.
The type is also different than the others, being bigger and a more loose feathered bird. These are labeled as "Oriental Roller" and are exclusively found in America, mainly in Utah. Flying, performing and hawk evasion skills varies but most of them cannot perform as they once did when they were selected exclusively for their performance.
2) The Flying Oriental Roller designated as a separate breed by the NPA has two types. The first type is the type that is primarily bred for performance. Most of them are the Husband family and Ferholtz family, but there are some of the old mid east imports still around. The Husband family are those Dale Husband has been flying since the 30's which originally came from Kurdistan. The Ferholtz family was imported from Europe from the loft of Hartmut Ferholtz of Germany.
3) The second type of Flying Oriental Roller is the German exhibition type. They have been imported in the states and go under the name Flying Oriental Roller. They have almost the same type as the other Flying Oriental Rollers but they also suffer in performance but can fly much, much better than the American exhibition type because the Germans haven't deviated from the flying type standard like the Americans have. These birds look almost identical to the performance type but because of lack of selection from the air, their performance also suffers. So, just because a bird is a Flying Oriental Roller it does not mean it's a performance bird.
Flying Oriental Roller's are more complicated to
train than Birmingham Rollers. Training the young birds is the best
idea instead of trying to mess with older birds because older birds
will get lazy if they haven't been trained first when they are young.
Train all young birds as soon as they are weaned. Don't wait till you
have a full kit or they will be too old and many will be lazy.
Diving is the way they like to naturally land
but you can refine that with simple training. Fly them hungry and blow
the food whistle when you want them to dive to the loft. They will
dive down to land when they hear the whistle. It works best with just
a few birds but you can experiment.
These birds were originally bred to evade the desert falcon of the mid east. But no matter how much it's in their genes they need to be in condition. They need to be mature and in great flying shape. You just can't start training squeekers in the middle of hawk season when your area is infested with them. It's best to train them during the off season and get them in great flying condition before exposing them to the Hawks.
They also need to be flown and breeding stock selected by their performance and Raptor evasion abilities (unworthy birds get eaten, itís natural selection at work)
Part of the entertainment in keeping these birds is watching the Raptor's futile attempt at catching one. The gyrations they go through to get away is amazing. But if the raptor is inexperienced the birds don't even fly off they roof to avoid him, they will just fly to the other side of the roof as if they have a lot of confidence in their abilities.
Many times a Coopers hawk will attack while the birds are landing. But these birds are also a diving breed and will shoot down from the sky like a falling rocket and hit the roof at an amazing speed. That makes it very difficult for an ambush predator like a Coopers Hawk to snag one.
There are other breeds good at evasion as well and use different techniques. But the FOR is the only one I know of that is an excellent Roller and an excellent hawk evader at the same time. If there is another breed that fits this category, someone please let me know!