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Flying Oriental Rollers

An excerpt from the book “So You Want to Raise Rollers” by W. Paul Bradford used with permission. *Special thanks to the Flying Oriental Roller Society for use of this article.

Carl A. Naether writes in his book The Pigeon, That the Turkish or Oriental Roller is doubtless the oldest breed of performing, flying pigeon. It received mention in Persian manuscripts of the twelfth century. Ever since, this pigeon has been bred for its remarkable flying and rolling qualities.

It was first introduced into England about 1870, being considered a distinct variety of Tumbler. It had a longer flattened head, back and a strong beak. Special characteristics of the Oriental are its long, high tail consisting of from fourteen to eighteen tail feathers, one lying over the other in two divisions. It’s drooping wings, Yellow or Pearl eyes, patterned or solid color, and especially its lack of  the oil gland, distinguish it from other Tumblers. The Oriental is a swift flyer which, if well trained, will perform satisfactorily in kits. The performance of any two birds is rarely alike. It is a high flyer and returns to its loft in a death defying dive. Another characteristic of Oriental Roller performance is its nervous darting during flight.

Orientals are patterned, bar or check, with an abundance of kite or bronze coloring. Orientals have a dilution factor allowing for silver, yellow and buff colors to appear. They were small in size and flown in small groups. These birds were prized and were sold in central Europe and England. They were imported to the United States by breeders of flying, performing pigeons. The early breeders of the Birmingham used to cross the Oriental into their birds to improve performance. Hence, They became the ancestor of the Roller as we know it today.

There are some special characteristics of Orientals if you are interested in breeding them.

The Oriental is unique in that it has no oil gland. Its feathers have a naturally oily appearance. Most birds have an oil gland close to the tail. They preen to oil their feathers; not so with the Oriental. This is the first thing you should check to be reasonably sure you have an Oriental Roller.

The tail of the Oriental has Thirteen to eighteen feathers. Sometimes they will have twelve and occasionally more than eighteen. The tail feathers are long and strong and packed tightly to form a slight arch. The tail is carried at an up angle of about twenty degrees. 

The flight feathers are also long and strong. The wings are carried below the tail. This is very characteristic of the Oriental Roller. Its long flight feathers aid in its flying ability.

The appearance is very important in the Oriental Roller. It is slightly larger than a Birmingham Roller. Its appearance should give the viewer a long, snaky look. The head is oval-shape and flat on top, not round or square. The Oriental is streamlined, with sweeping wings below the tail.

The flight of the Oriental is strong and swift. Its wings and tail are designed for quick, maneuverable flight in order to stay one wing-beat ahead of the desert falcon. Orientals are high fliers and good performers, though not as frequent in performance as the Birmingham Roller. They Range in flight, then swoop and dive when coming in to land. They are flown in smaller groups of twelve to fifteen birds. A kit of Orientals will climb out of sight in within minutes, then before you know it, their performance will bring them down to the landing area or loft. 

The temperament of the Oriental is slightly mean. They are not afraid of man and are content to allow you to walk among them. They make interesting pets when given attention. I have seen Dale Husband’s Orientals fly to him and alight on his shoulder, wanting attention.

One of the special traits of the Oriental is their cooing sound. They are more dove like and have a rolling, singing coo. If you listen carefully you will know if you have a true Oriental or a crossbreed.

The Orientals from Asia Minor are a little larger than the Persian strain. They are usually black, red, yellow, dun, or almond color. Other characteristics are common to both strains – Asia Minor or Persian.

I hope the breeders of this pigeon will rally to its support and salvation. I have no idea of how many true flying performing Orientals are left in the United States. If you have them, I hope that you will maintain them as they were meant to be. The Oriental Roller is a flying performing pigeon and should be bred for that purpose. 

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