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The Flying Oriental Roller Common Misconceptions

by Andy Estrada

*Special thanks to the Flying Oriental Roller Society for use of this article.

There are many false ideas about the Oriental Roller in this country. Some are so prevalent that the false idea is taken for fact and is “common knowledge” in the pigeon fancy. Many of these ideas have been around for some time and are usually regarded as true because it appeared in print at some time or an opinion leader in the pigeon fancy said it is so. Some of the ideas are relatively new but just as untenable. A few of the more common false ideas about the breed are listed below with an attempt at correcting them.

“Oriental Rollers don’t kit. They are individual performers.”  This is the most common falsehood about the breed! I have listened to more than a few fanciers describe how they’ve seen Oriental Rollers fly all over the sky and never kit. Maybe there is or was a strain of Oriental Roller without kitting ability that I’m not familiar with. Oriental Rollers were kit pigeons back in the late 60’s when I first flew them. More recently, I’ve flown just about every strain available in this country and some from recent imports out of the Middle East and Europe. All fly in kits. Oriental Rollers have a strong instinct to kit. So much so that one weak flier in the kit will bring the entire team down. Oriental Roller kits are loose with the lead pigeon constantly changing. There is a nervous shifting and flitting in the kit and if the team is too large the kit may break up into two or three individual kits but eventually re-group into one team. A kit of Oriental Rollers appear rough and rowdy in the air compared to the orderly, regimented appearance of a kit of Birmingham Rollers. None the less, they do kit and should kit well.

“They only flip over once or twice” or “There is no velocity to their roll” etc. These and other ideas are performance related. There are very few fanciers in this country with substantial experience flying the breed but there are many that know all about how the breed is a mediocre performer. The fact is there are all sorts of styles, depths and velocities in the roll seen in the Oriental Roller.  Some of the deepest rollers I’ve seen have been Oriental Rollers. They can also spin with high velocity though I’d stop short of saying they are as fast as the best Birmingham Rollers.  Oriental Rollers generally perform to their full potential when flown in kits of their own kind and the kit performance can be spectacular.

“Oriental Rollers are only popular in Utah.”  While it is true that the State of Utah and more specifically the Salt Lake City area has long been a hot bed for Oriental Rollers since at least the mid-1930’s, the breed has had a following as a flying breed in other sections of the country. Fanciers were at least semi-active working with the performing type Oriental Roller in parts of the Mid-West and on both coasts prior to 1995. Currently the breed is found in most parts of the country.

“The breed was developed somewhere in Europe.”  How this idea came into being I can’t say. I’ve been hearing this lately and it is patently false. The Oriental Roller is an ancient breed originating somewhere in Asia Minor or in the Middle East and can still be found in these regions. It is documented that some of the first imports of the breed into this country came out of Turkey and shipped to a zoo in New York in the late 1920’s. In 1998, I received a few pairs directly from the Middle East in and these are nearly identical in type our flying/performing Oriental Rollers.

"Oriental Rollers are physically weak due to the lack of an oil-gland.” Or “..when they get wet, the feathers get water logged due to no oil-duct” etc. It is true Oriental Rollers have no oil duct. In fact if the pigeon does have an oil duct it is definitely not an Oriental Roller. However, the lack of an oil duct has no apparent ill effect on the pigeon. The absence of the oil duct may be compensated for by the over abundance of oil quills common in the breed. These pigeons can appear to get more water soaked only because the flying feathers are proportionally longer than in many other flying breeds and  not because of a lack of oils. The Oriental Roller is an exceptionally sturdy breed that is long lived and seems resistant to many pigeon diseases.

"All Oriental Rollers have or should have neck or head tremors and this is a desirable trait in the breed.”  Yes, some specimens of Oriental Roller shake their necks to some degree or another. However, the issue of this trait being desirable is at least questionable. None of the Oriental Rollers from the recent imports out of Germany and the Middle East are neck shakers. Neck shaking appears from time to time in my stock as a recessive trait. In 1997 I bred for the trait and in 1998 I flew 6 young birds with visible neck tremors. Every one of these rolled down. So, it seems that neck shaking is definitely not a desirable trait as far as my Oriental Rollers are concerned. This trait in another strain might be fine.  

 Remember to see what you see and not what someone tells you to see.*

Birmingham Roller Guardians by Paul Sisk

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