The Performing Birmingham Roller: A Color Balance Analysis
By Richard Jaconette 1980
Of the many visitors who come to see this writer birds in the air, several fanciers have remarked, “I notice you have birds of all coloration’s rolling. How do you breed for a performing Birmingham Roller like Black Rain? “
First, I must say that acquiring the proper bloodlines is paramount toward producing a kit of outstanding Birmingham Rollers in the air. Once the proper flying stock is acquired, then do not to hesitate to avail yourself to the breeder’s knowledge. This is especially important for future matings. The proper bloodlines, as I see it, is not offspring of a famous bird many years removed, or is it the accumulation of pedigree papers. Rather, it is the progeny from a strong stock loft, who themselves, for the most part, are fine spinners and were picked for stock by type, and that alone.
Second, let me say, I do not breed spin to spin. For if this was all there was to breeding good spinners, then everyone should have a loft of fine performers. Such is not the case. It is my personal judgment that the breeder who knows how to spot the correct type in these birds and breeds for same, will have more than his share of exceptional performers! Consequently, one’s cull to good bird ratio will be reduced.
Having digressed for a moment in the preceding two paragraphs, let me now focus on the subject of this article; that being importance of color breeding in a Birmingham Roller. If one is to have a measure of success in this hobby, the bird’s pigmentation then must be given careful consideration. A prominent fancier in the hobby visited me and this writer remarked to him, “I would rather have a red or blue check, bar or self, in my kit, whose parents were not both checks, bars or self, than have a red or blue check or self whose parents were the same color.”
One must understand first of all that we have the hard character birds at one end of the spectrum and the weaker colors and the opposite end. The hard character birds, that is, birds of the dark checker, bars or selfs are the strong birds. Conversely, the weak character birds are the mostly white or light colored pigments.
The features of a hard character bird are they generally make the best velocity spinner at maturity. They have more than their share of control genes. They are the stronger flyers. As they continue to mature, they become less frequent in performance. They fly longer and higher. This makes them less than ideal for competition flying. In their second and subsequent years their performance becomes, at best, infrequent.
For clarification purposes, this writer will assign a numerical value to the various colors. One can place a 10 for the strongest character birds. These being the blue, black and red checks and bars. Place an 8 value for the dark reds, blacks and dark dun. And place a 5 to 6 value to blue, black, dun and red check with white flights and or tails. Many in this color class are the badge of medium colors can be included. Next assign a 4 down to a 1, as the bird’s plumage progressively becomes more white. Ideally then, a color balanced Roller would be those coloration’s found in the 5 to 6 numerations. Therefore a color balanced Roller would be a bird who can roll with good velocity, be of medium depth, possess an acceptable frequency factor and maintain good frequency with further maturity. “Black Rain”, NPA 226, is an ideal competition type of Roller.
Let the reader be aware, I do not dislike checks or selfs. In this writers flying kits are several checks and selfs, but with one important distinction. These birds are not both from checks or selfs. Only one of the parents is a check or self. The other parent will be of a lighter or with some white coloration. So, in reality, this color balance of the stock bird’s, influences even the checks and selfs from becoming hard in character. Yes, some of the old timers understood this concept well and practiced same.
My thoughts go back many, many, years to Ray Perkins home in upstate Connecticut. Having lived close by, it was my fortune to be Ray’s guest for the day. We enjoyed an early morning fly. A short time later, J. Leroy Smith and Bill Pensom arrived for a visit. It was Ray who confronted Bill and Leroy concerning a particular problem Ray had noticed with the birds. It seemed the blue checks, red checks and some selfs had developed a pattern of flying above the kit. These same birds flew much longer, and of course, higher. They became seldom in the roll. Their energies seemed to be channeled to a strong fly. Though I had said nothing, I noticed the same thing in the mornings fly. After searching back through the matings of these birds Ray and Bill concluded that the checks and some selfs in the kits had become too hard in character, an apparent influence derived from breeding these strong character birds, back to back. A short while later, Bill had arranged to import birds of light plumage from the Birmingham area. These birds would be mated into the hard character stock birds. The resulting influence was seen in a positive manner from the progeny of these matings.
Mating birds by color and not giving special attention to the aforementioned value of stock and type will do one no good. The serious flying fancier should give special consideration to color balancing in the stock loft and use same as an important tool but not an only tool.
Black Rains father is a strong red check self of proper type. He is an outstanding 20-60 foot roller not lacking in velocity nor style. Black Rains mother is a light dun grizzled hen and I have witnessed none more frequent that she. Her velocity is more than adequate and she is a 10-15 ft spinner.
As for 226, Black Rain is a 10-30 foot spinner. She possesses exceptional velocity and is most frequent, never failing to return to the kit in a minimum of time. Personally, I have never witnessed a better competition Roller in the air. On the ground, in my estimation, one would be hard pressed to find a prettier Roller. Yes, color balancing of the performing Birmingham Roller will provide the serious flying fancier his just rewards.