Before we delve into Monty’s philosophy on handling birds let’s revisit the make up of the flock. From Aaron Johnson we learn:
Aaron Johnson – June 2019
Those birds go back too the originals brought in between 1969 too 1972. They originally went back too Pensom, Plona and Cooper. When Monty was still alive,most of this strain was still concentrated in the British Columbia province of Canada. Close friends of Montys in the U.S.A. did get the odd bird here, and there. If you were a close friend of his, and gained his trust. You had too show or prove too him that you were serious and would support the fly competitions every year! This strain comes in mostly selfs, and i know from a lot of guys out there they do not like the selfs and so would cross them into other bloodlines, too get the glamour along with the performance. Monty however did have a Red Bellneck bird, and did try an experiment with a Red Grizzle Cock from Max Runyon, with whom the guys in the Northwest area of Canada and States would remember this gentleman. It was not until 1989 That Monty brought in birds from the old 266 and 8409 blood, from Clint Hollingsworth. These birds really impressed Monty, and there would only be one way how they could get into Monties back yard, they had too be of the highest quality,I think Monty really loved the challenges and like too see with his knowledge and skills of what he could do with these birds. The birds have been spread out today. A lot of them have been crossed into, with a few isolated cases where they have been left alone. There lineage or orgin kept pure with no other blood coming in. I was very lucky too get too meet him during his last 2 or 3 years on the Planet. I saw or witnessed his very last kit he managed and flew, my only regret was that there were not more guys there too watch the kit go up and perform. It is really too bad, but it is what it is and it is History now! Well hope this helps. P.S. You would have brought an open box too put all 20 of those birds in the box too take home! 🙂
This first section was taken from the World Cup Fly website. It is believed that Monty’s win in 2000 was the highest scored kit of all time and only a handful of individuals were there to witness it.
|MONTY’S WORLD CUP RECORD|
|1991||1st Place||1997||8th Place|
|1993||4th Place||1998||1st Place|
This article was submitted by Joe Houghton
Unfortunately, I cannot remember just exactly when I met Monty Neibel.
But, I do remember the first time I saw him, as that head of red hair stood out like a beacon. Wiry, personable, and engaging. He was one of those type of people you couldn’t help but like.
When I first knew Monty, he his wife and three children lived in an older part of Vancouver, the University district. A blue collar area, where the houses were close together, lots were small. Out back, next to the alley Monty maintained his lofts. Above them a spaghetti of wires, which the birds had to filter though going up and coming down. Didn’t matter to Monty, he overcame, and flew great kits.
I got to know Monty very well, as we both loved to fish, hunt, and play golf. I made many trips up to Vancouver BC over the years to do those things he and I enjoyed.
He was the best shot I ever saw with a shot gun, witnessing many times him downing triples of ducks and geese. He literally fed his family on the game he shot or caught, and they were well fed.
Monty was reared in a family of modest means. His father eventually had done well, and had accumulated several apartment houses and peices of property. After Montys mother passed away, he inherited some of this property, but it didn’t change him. He was still the grass roots individual I’d always known.
He’d worked as a greens keeper on a private Golf Course. Because of his employment, he and I had some great rounds, he besting me most of the time.
Rollers were his passion, and he was in my estimation as good a roller flyer as the sport had ever seen. Personally, I never regarded him as a great roller breeder. But, there simply wasn’t anyone better when it came to flying. If a bird had it in it to perform, Monty would get it out of it.
He wasn’t one dimensional, in the respect of being only a Young bird specialist, or with Old birds. He prided himself, and rightfully so, on the old bird kits he produced and maintained. He was a severe culler, and the end result of his kits performances was a testament to his standards.
Like all of us, he endured the heartaches and set backs that are all to frequent in roller flying. But he was one who didn’t forget, and learned from his mistakes.
He was part of the formation of the International Fly, and won it several times. I was the first to win it twice in a row, and first to win it three times. Monty first to win it three times in a row, and then go on to win it again over a period of years.
He wasn’t a braggart. To the contrary he was a humble winner and gracious looser. But, he was also a fierce competitor, and would put forth the effort and do what was needed to compete to the fullest of his ability.
For those who had the privilege of knowing him, we were fortunate. For those who didn’t have this advantage, you missed one of the true characters and legends of the sport. Some may come close to duplicating Montys abilities as a flyer and handler of Rollers, but I doubt seriously if anyone will match him kit for kit.
I thank Mr. Hayes for the opportunity to contribute something about my friend Monty Neible. The sport misses him, but no more than those of us lucky enough to have known him.
Excerpt from Heine Bijker’s 2000 World Cup Fly Report
Monty Neibel – Vancouver Island, B C Canada.
1894.40 points 5 -6- 7- 9- 6- 8- 10- 6- 10- 11- 10- 13 -7- 6- 7 -12 -7 -13 -15- 6- 12- 8- 5- 6- 12- 9- 10- 8
8- 7- 8- 7- 15- 10- 12- 9- 6- 14- 10- 9- 10- 9- 5- 10- 7- 10- 14- 15- 8
raw 740 Q 1.6 D 1.6 20 birds.
Monty was complaining about the weather all the time, but for a perfectionist like he was the weather is terrible if it’s not perfect. I thought the weather wasn’t to bad during the day, some wind, some sun, some rain but Monty was talking about a storm and raining cats and dogs. He was just nervous, he was very nervous. He wanted to fly that evening because of his feeding and training schedule, and so he wanted to have perfect weather that evening at 6.25 because that was the time he talked about all day, so not 5, 6 or 7 , no his time was 6.25. He was the master so I just listened to his complaining about the weather and his flying time and feeding schedule. Talking about feeding ; the last two times I saw that he fed his # 1 team he only gave them one teaspoon of millet and some mineral powder and he called that feeding! Of course this was just a part of his way to get them ready for competition. I handled a few of his birds and they felt really strong and muscular, a beautiful small strong pigeon, a real sport pigeon. I was afraid that some of his birds would be nothing but feathers and look real sloppy, but it was the opposite, strong healthy and good looking birds, so the torturing Monty sometimes talked about couldn’t be that hard. Monty just created an excellent family of birds, tough, strong, healthy, good-looking and hardworking pigeons, but I think they need the hand of a real good trainer to get them to work like he did.
That afternoon at 5.30 our very nervous Monty decided to fly because he thought the weather wasn’t going to change to be better. At that time it was overcast with a spit of rain and almost wind still so it was beautiful weather to fly. Monty wanted an overcast sky because he was afraid that his birds would go up high. As soon as he released the birds he called time in, and I started calling the first score within the first minute and they scored for the entire 20 min. It was amazing to see how in every break the birds rolled with beautiful style and velocity, the same depth and all the birds with almost the same quality.
It was easy judging, just count the birds that rolled out of the kit.
Almost immediately after the kit was together again there was the next break. It was such a wonderful show to watch that my mouth fell open and I almost forgot to call the score a few times. I’ve never seen a kit work this hard doing what we always want them to do ; roll together with style, speed and depth. It’s such a pity that there were only three people to watch this incredible show. [ The performance my birds gave last year was different, my birds were kitting tighter and waited longer between the breaks, there was more difference in quality between my birds in the kit I flew.]
49 breaks in 20 minutes, what a show! Monty told me right after the fly, he had a hard
time to keep his mouth shut, he said:” I wanted to shout every time they made a big break”. If you think that his birds fell right out of the sky after a show like this you’re wrong. A few minutes after the 20 min. fly after I recovered from the shock of the scoring sheet the birds flew real high, and most of them flew for at least another hour.
I do realize that a lot of people don’t or won’t believe that his birds scored so many points, and I was a bit disappointed that he scored a lot more points than my 1300 points worldrecord of last year, but I can only say that every break his birds made there was no doubt about scoring it or not because of the constant same good quality rolls they showed, it was just a matter of counting the birds. It’s just very sad that there are only two people left who witnessed this show. I hope no one of the other qualifiers feels offended because of this much more detailed fly report of Monty’s last fly than theirs, but I think everyone understands.
World Cup 2000 Judge Heine Bijker
Back row left to right is Devoe Manning, Marty Thompson and Gus Umphreys.
Front row is Monty and Wayne Wagher.
The Monty Neibel Way
By Brian Krog of Lumby, BC, Canada
Sept. – Oct. 2000 “Tribute to Monty Neibel” NBRC Bulletin
I first met Monty Neibel 32 years ago, and since then he was my best friend and mentor. I was twelve years old and Monty was 27, so I guess you could say that in our relationship he was somewhere between a big brother and a father to me. It’s therefore hard for me to distinguish my own beliefs from those of his own, as I sought his advice so often, did what he advised, and later questioned him about the “why’s” and “how’s” of his advice. We had a very close relationship, we hunted together, we fished together, we traveled the world viewing pigeons together, and we usually phoned each other couple times a week about something or other. I’ve never had a friend like that before, and I’m sure I’ll never have one like that again.
I have written a lot of articles in my life about my own opinions about Birmingham rollers. I’ve been criticized by some, for my lack of “credentials”. It’s a fair criticism, because my own isolation has made very difficult for me to compete very often with my birds. I also have been criticized for merely parroting what Monty said about a given issue. In that respect, I plead guilty, because when it comes to pigeons, my own beliefs do mirror Monty’s beliefs. I was once asked “What motivates you to write so much?” My answer was, “because Monty Neibel writes so little.” Even when Monty chose to write, it was difficult for others to understand what he was really trying to say. Monty’s written word had a lot of similarities with Yogi Berra’s spoken words. In short, it could be hard to follow and difficult to understand what he was trying to get at unless you knew him as well as I did. Many readers missed the wink and smile behind his opinions, and believed him to be a hard character. It wasn’t true. He had a heart of gold, and I was fortunate when reading Monty’s writings to know where he was being serious and where he wasn’t. That wasn’t always true for the rest of his readership. Jerry Higgins once jokingly referred to me as “Monty’s press agent”. It was probably a pretty fair description, as basically whenever I saw something that Monty would have disagreed with I started hammering at my keyboard – and usually wrote an article taking issue with it. I guess at this time, the only real claim to fame I have is that I was Monty’s best friend, and the recipient of all his birds upon his untimely death. If I accomplish nothing else of value in this hobby, other than being the best friend that Monty had and the one he thought he could count on, I’ll always feel I accomplished something of importance. I have vowed to always maintain his pure strain of birds also, and I feel that will benefit the hobby.
Looking back at the way I did things, I can see now that sometimes I was deliberately attempting to do things differently than Monty did, for no other reason than to attempt to establish my own individual mark. Monty cast such a large shadow that I was forever trying to find ways to peek out from underneath it and be recognized as a separate individual. In retrospect, it was a pretty fruitless endeavor as my own writings always brought me back to the huge shadow again. I did different things like attempting to bring in birds with different colors than Monty had, or from different families to somehow separate my own birds from his. Sometimes I would feed them differently, handle them differently, and looking back, it was all for nothing. Under Monty’s shadow is where I deserved to be, should be and probably always will be – and now, I finally recognize that that is a pretty good place to be. I will endeavor, to the best of my abilities, to relate what Monty Neibel believed and did in regards to training rollers. I can’t promise that my emphasis won’t be different than his, because at this point in my life I truly can’t differentiate where Monty’s beliefs end and my own beliefs begin. Whenever I know my emphasis is slightly different than his was, I will make a point of pointing it out.
I guess with any good fancier their actions are motivated by a clear belief system behind them. I’ll attempt to start with some of Monty’s belief systems, as I understand them, in regards to rollers. Monty believed in looking forwards, not backwards, and as a consequence he placed very little emphasis on pedigrees. I don’t think that Monty knew the band number of one pigeon in his loft. Whenever a visitor would ask “What pigeon is that?” or “What’s the bird out of?” Monty’s reply would be “How would I know?” Usually followed with “If it’s important to you, I’ll look it up. Why do you want to know?” In my entire life of listening to Monty, I can’t recall hearing him ever referring to the grandparents of a particular bird. It was ever very rare, for Monty to refer to the parents of a particular bird. He wasn’t really concerned to what the bird was out of, but rather what he would do with it in the future. I guess that was the reason that Monty used to place so little importance in the band numbers of any of his pigeons. He referred to the band number only when he was making an entry into a book. The only time that I knew that Monty went to his book and looked at it intently, was when he was trying to figure out what bird he might use his prospective mate for another. In the latter years of his life, Monty’s breeding reflected a desire to inbreed in more deliberate and systematic fashion. The last few years of his record book indicate he frequently used brother and sister, father and daughter, and mother and son pairing whenever the bird’s aerial abilities indicated they were worthy of considering in the stock pen.
Monty was exasperated and perplexed by people referring to birds like Pensom’s famous 514. He would say with exasperation in his voice, “Are they still talking about a pigeon that’s been dead for almost 30 years?” – usually adding, “Haven’t they produced anything that has improved on that pigeon yet?” Monty never could understand why so many people were so fascinated with the past. I believe Monty felt that people should be referring to pigeons they bred in the last year or two.
Monty also believed in survival of the fittest – and the way in which Monty chose to use nature to help him cull his stock was a very strong belief. In regards to the medication of pigeons, Monty was against it very much. I heard the same quote over and over again when Monty would refer to this topic. “Out of 100 pigeons in my kit boxes, eating out of the same containers, eating the same food, drinking out of the same water container, this one gets sick. Why would I ever want to save it? Who would want to pass those genes on anyway?” He was adamant about this point. In Monty’s eyes, that same philosophy held true in the breeding pen, and in the very rare occasion that a stock bird got sick, Monty would simply pick it up, pull its head off, and throw its body into a garbage bag. Again, the refrain you would hear would be the same – “Well, that’s the last time it’ll pass those weak genes on”. Monty didn’t own any medicines, or use any medicines. People with experience with Monty’s strain of pigeons have indicated that they are indeed tougher than the average bird. No doubt this quality relates directly to his feeling about medication. That’s not to say that Monty didn’t believe in helping his pigeons maintain health. Due to the fact that Monty had non-chlorinated well water, Monty did believe in adding a little bleach to the drinking water to chlorinate it. Monty also believed that apple cider vinegar, crushed garlic, and a few drops of iodine all helped his birds maintain a natural health and vigor. he was a huge believer in the importance of lots of airflow in a loft, many times chastising people for having lofts “too tight”. Monty would berated a person even more if he found any moisture or wetness within the loft. As a consequence, Monty always watered his birds out in the fly pens believing that dry litter was the most important preventative medicine that a person could practice.
Monty’s belief in survival of the fittest principal extended to the way that he handled his kit birds. I don’t believe I’ve ever known the time when Monty gave a pigeon more than three chances to correct something it was doing wrong. Whether the offense was tree sitting, out flying, rolling down, hanging back in the back of the loft and not wanting to fly. Monty would write the birds band number down, tape it and then give it two more chances. Upon getting that third strike, the pigeon was killed. In my lifetime of knowing him, I never knew Monty to ever hand release a pigeon. Monty always told me he regarded the necessity of hand tossing a pigeon as a sure sign that such a bird was a cull.
Monty wasn’t one to maintain a lot of different feeds at his place. His breeders were fed a mixture of wheat, corn, peas and layer pellets. In addition to that, they receive red grit, oyster shell and sprinkle of Belgian mineral powder once a week. Monty’s young birds were put on an almost all wheat diet from the day they were separated from the parents. I used to think that this was somewhat harsh and worried about the health of my young birds and potential of such a diet causing weak feathering or sick birds. In retrospect, I believe that my worrying was out of place – because Monty seemed to have pigeons with feathering every bit as good as my own and with no more sickness in his kit pens that I had. Monty believed in feeding the birds a small sprinkle of millet as they were trapping, believing that this tiny grain gave the bird something to “work on” while the slow birds had a fair chance to get into the kit pens. He would usually let the birds pick away the millet for about five minutes in order to give the harder working birds time to cool down, catch their breath and relax. Monty would then go up to the kit pen and give the birds a measured portion of wheat. That was all the young birds ever got to eat for about nine months of the year. In winter, temperatures caused Monty to give the occasional mixture of corn in order to get the young birds to fly long enough, but he believed it was a detriment to roll and used it only one necessary in extreme temperatures. Monty’s old bird kits and holdover kits were fed in much the same way except that on occasion he would use peas. Usually the use of peas was restricted to birds that were working excessively hard and were having trouble making the required flying time. For such a bird, Monty would pick the bird up in his hands, open up its beak and proceed to hand drop a dozen or so peas down into the birds crop. This was an ever-present ritual before a big fly. This was due to the fact that Monty always had his birds cut down so much that some of them (usually very small hard-working hens) would have trouble flying the required time without the extra assistance. In the last few years, Monty was playing around with the use of peas two days before they were released for a big fly. He didn’t believe that young birds prior to the age they were working hard needed anything other than wheat and that very small handful of millet. When the young birds began to perform, he would slowly alter their diet to get more in line with what he was feeding the holdover birds and the old bird teams, and of course fly them less.
Monty coined the phrase “Yo-Yo” feeding to describe his beliefs in the importance of varying the competition kits diet up and down. He once told me he liked what Bill Schreiber had said about getting the best out of the kit of rollers. Bill impressed upon Monty the importance of “tickling their nervous systems” as Bill put it. Monty loved that phrase and remembered it. Monty related to me, how in the past many years ago he had attempted to keep his birds lean all the time in an effort to get the most performance out of them and to minimize the risk of having them overfly. Monty said that such a system of feeding was always a tightrope walk between disasters, on the one hand (feeding too much and risking overfly) and on the other hand, feeding too little and seeing the birds weaken and seeing their performance suffer. For the longest time Monty struggled to maintain a consistent unvarying diet for his kit birds, to no avail.
Once he started playing around with dramatic increases and decreases in the kit birds’ food supply, he told me that he realized once and for all, that he would never go back to his old way of doing things. This method of feeding became his trademark, and the term “Yo-Yo” feeding is now well known and understood by most of the hobby. In a very simplistic fashion it can be described as follows: once the young birds start to perform in unison, they are eventually weaned off of the everyday flying and everyday similar feeding that they’ve become accustomed to, and are put on the new Yo-Yo feeding and flying method. From this point on, the birds will be flown every three days only. On the day they fly the birds receive that small closed handful of millet in order to get them to trap, and they are then fed approximately 2 1/2 measured cups of wheat after a short period of rest to enable the hard workers to catch their breath. The next day the birds are not flown and receive approximately 1 1/4 measured cups of pure wheat. The next day after that, the birds are not flown again and receive only about a half a cup of pure wheat and a sprinkling of grit and mineral powder. Any bird that needs it might be given a few peas individually. In short, that’s all there is to the Yo-Yo method of feeding. Monty believed it was important for everyone to use their own variation of the system (usually by only changing the last non-flying day’s amount), varying it for variables such as updrafts, downdrafts, temperatures and the individual strain of bird with which one is working. In using such a method of feeding, Monty believed that individuals should b attempting to have a competition day (at least a practice one) every third day at their own place. The only variable to the system that Monty used in regards to an upcoming important competition was that lately Monty was keeping the birds in for four days. On the third day Monty was experimenting with using peas (and had done so with his last World Cup team on that day they performed so well) the fourth day that birds receive only a tiny sprinkle of millet throughout the day in small measured doses and some grit and mineral powder.
Monty’s feelings on the importance of color, as related to performance, were pretty well known. He absolutely knew that color was of no importance in his own strain of pigeons, and he believed it was probably of little importance in other people’s strains. Monty particularly hated to read people expressing the opinion that the so-called hard colors could not be bred for a long time steadily without resulting in the loss of frequency. Monty had only four colors in his loft – blue bars, mealys, blue checks and red checks. Almost 99 percent of those were self’s. Monty had bred them that way for over 30 years. He used to say, “How can people watch these pigeons in the air and still come up with that opinion?” He would then add, “Do people really believe everything they read without bothering to check it out?” He had absolutely no diminishing of frequency and in fact said that frequency in his own strain of pigeons was more often a problem than infrequency. The World Cup team that scored 1890 points the day before his accident had 48 or 49 breaks in 20 minutes! The breaks were described as “telephone pole depth and greater”! I believe Monty’s flying record indicates that Monty’s birds were getting better and better as time progressed. In international competition (the Northwest International fly) and in the World Cup competitions, his record would indicate that since the 1960’s his wins were becoming more and more frequent and the quality of his birds was always improving. He did this without the benefit of any recessive red, grizzles or birds with much white in them. Today we read that these colors are important and necessary in the best birds for competition. I think, without a doubt, that Monty’s record lays that myth to rest, at least in his own strain for sure.
In some articles, Monty did mention that he liked to clash his blues with his reds. In one article I read, he said he didn’t know why he did it that way when asked, just that he had always done it that way. In later years he told me many times that since learning about sex linked mating, he enjoyed having the ability to sex young birds in the nest while banding them. Even in non sex-linked matings, the cock birds from a blue-red clash will carry the distinctive black ticking that also aids in the sexing of young birds at the time of banding. This was very important to Monty, because Monty chose to separate his birds based on their sex as soon as possible. I had always used a different system in this, separating my kits according to their age while young birds and then later varying my kits by shifting birds back and forth depending on the quality of roll that they were displaying. Monty never did this way, from the very first day that he could tell, he was separating his birds into cock kits and hen kits and he kept them this way forever. Only a week before a big fly would Monty have added a couple of cock birds into his hen kit in order to make the best kit possible for competition. After the contest, the birds were getting separated and flown in their separate all-cock or all-hen kits. If any weakness is to be found in attempting to fly the so-called “hard-colored” pigeons in competition, Monty was adamant that a lifetime of flying rollers hadn’t shown anything to indicate the truth of that belief to him.
As a general rule, Monty believed that the biggest failure of most fanciers was in their failure to cull severely enough. Monty would roll his eyes whenever he saw a fancier hand releasing pigeons in order to spare them from rolling down. Sometimes, Monty couldn’t help himself, and he would just blurt out “Why don’t you just pull the heads off of those culls?” Monty was rarely “politically correct” even when in other people’s back yards. Monty hated hearing the term “too hot” to describe rollers. Monty said, “There’s no such a thing as a pigeon being too hot. What those people are describing in those birds are birds that are unstable! I wish they would start calling them that!” Monty was also adamant that pigeons should never be stocked until they had completed their second molt. Some people, upon reading such an opinion, have stated “What’s so special about the 18 month old mark?” I think this shows a lack of understanding of what it was Monty was trying to explain. Monty never believed that pigeons should be stocked after he was 18 months old. To Monty, that was the absolute minimum. Most of his pigeons were never stocked until they had reached three or four years old. In doing things this way, Monty was able to win competitions and score huge points, with birds that in other people’s lofts, would have been stocked long ago. Monty never stocked a bird out of his kits unless he had a need to do so. What I mean to say, is that he only wanted a certain number of stock birds; in later years this was usually about 14 to 16 pair. Unless one of those pigeons either died from old age, or the cock had difficulty filling the eggs, or the hen ran out of eggs. Monty would not replace it. Monty’s World Cup team consisted of 20 individuals that all had the notation “potential stock bird” written beside their name. To Monty, this meant that any one of those pigeons was good enough to go in his stock pen should the need be there. As long as there was no need – the birds stayed in the kits and growing older and helping him win contests. If his stock birds were healthy and producing, sometimes in his #1 kit he would have birds that were 6, 7, or even 8 years old, due to the fact being that he had never found the need to stock them. I know that many people in the hobby express disbelief in him doing things this way, but his record book doesn’t lie, and this was the way that Monty did it. Monty believed that once a bird made it into his stock loft it deserved to grow old and die there, unless it proved incapable of reproducing itself. Some of his stock birds in the past had notations beside them to the effect, that they could not reproduce themselves, these birds were put back into his old bird teams and were flown until their death from old age.
Monty believed that fanciers should cull hard and raise more birds if necessary. Monty believed that if a pigeon wasn’t rolling in proper style on the date of its first birthday then it should be culled. Birds were also culled if they rolled down three times, sat in trees three times, had to be chased out of the kit box three times, came down early three times (unless the kit was flying for an excessively long period of time). Monty believed most definitely that it was no fault for a pigeon to come down early, if it worked hard and wanted to have no part in the highflying antics of its fellow kit mates. Monty used to tell me, he believed that such a pigeon was displaying greater intelligence than the rest of the birds, those would choose to fly until exhausted. Monty’s opinion of the intelligence of the Birmingham Roller is well known to all whom knew him he once told me that if you took all the intelligence of all the roller pigeons on earth – and put them in a thimble you have room to spare.
Monty’s pet peeve of all the things the roller could do was the fault of out-flying. Even the manner in which Monty killed a pigeon reflected the severity of the pigeon’s offense. I can remember Monty picking up birds that had been marked with a tag and were not rolling. Monty would cradle the bird gently in his hand while looking up its birth date in the record books. If the bird had reached 12 months of age and was still not rolling and he felt that he needed the room, he would cull it. Usually, he handled it a few times and gave it a good look to see if there was anything he might learn from viewing it. Then, almost gently, he would twist and pull the bird’s neck simultaneously and then walkover and place the bird where he was going to put it (sometimes in his sink). He did so with a look of resignation and he seemed saddened by having to do it. Contrast this, to the way that he handled the out-flyer. The out-flyers were usually marked with a special color of tape if it was the third day that Monty had been watching such a pigeon his anger grew and grew with each observation of out-flying. If such a bird would come down to trap, Monty would invariably grab it roughly as it attempted to go through the trap and throw it as hard as he could against a flat rock that bordered his garden and ran parallel to his kit pens. I believe that in U.S. military parlance this is called “termination with extreme prejudice”! It was safe to say that Monty hated this fault above all others. He believed the out-flyers distract the kit, reduce the amount of breaks, sometimes broke up the kits, and were about the worst thing that person could have if they were attempting to win contests.
Over and over, Monty would tell me that the areas that had the slackest rules in regards to the treatment of out-birds were the areas that one would generally see the poorest kitting. If Monty had his way, the World Cup and the Northwest International Fly would immediately go back to the old-fashioned “one bird – no scoring, one down – disqualification” rule. Monty passionately believed that the single worst problem hindering the majority of flyers today was the way in which they coddle the out-flyers. He couldn’t stand it when he heard people express the opinion that if you have lots of deep pigeons, then out-flyers were inevitable. Monty believed out-flying had absolutely nothing to do with the depth of the roll, but had everything to do with the instability inherent in such pigeons. It was his belief that out flying was often the first symptom of a bird that felt unable to control its urge to roll. Monty felt that such a bird could not trust itself in the company of other rollers because that might cause it to trigger something within itself that it might be unable to stop. He believed the first symptom of instability was out flying, it was often followed by tree sitting, or hanging back and being forced to fly out of the kit pen, and usually eventually, rolling down. My favorite quote on the subject was this; “Good pigeons have complete control over the roll. With garbage pigeons, the roll controls them – cull them!”
Monty’s breeding practices were the picture of simplicity. Other than checking to see if the bird had another close relative in the stock loft (to increase the chance of “fit” or “nick” happening), Monty’s criteria for getting in the stock loft was their aerial expertise. Not a 100% though. Every bird in Monty’s loft eventually was rated on a scale of 1 (being the best) to 5 on “type”. His records show that he then went ahead and mated them together without regard to his rated “type” score. The only exception to this was he used very few 4’s and as far as I could see, never used a 5. The most common comment beside a bird getting a poor “type’ rating was – “too big”. Placing a far second, for reasons he disliked a pigeon’s type, was “head deterioration,” (meaning usually a bird with a tiny short beak, flat head or pinched in front of the eyes). I (wanting to be an even greater performance purist than Monty), used to say, “I’ll take any of the off-type birds you don’t want to use – I ONLY consider performance in MY matings!” Monty used to laugh, but he said “nope – you don’t need any of that deterioration in your program” and then he would add with a twinkle in his eyes – “those are the birds that I leave in my kits forever, to help me in competition!” But, he would never breed from those either. I did find one little amusing thing in his record book on this subject though. Sometimes a pair of birds with perhaps a “type 3” rating beside their band numbers would become a top producing pair. In future years they were often re-evaluated for “type” and often their “type” improved considerably in future re-assessments! I found that amusing! Also amusing were the many times at the bottom of a page where after noticing a great spinner he would write “no band” or “parents unrecorded”, followed with “STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!” Once, he even wrote in one notebook, after forgetting to record something -“Old-timers disease?” (meaning Alzheimer’s?). What a guy!
In his record book Monty also sometimes had the notation “DNB” beside a bird flying in one of his old bird teams. It stood for “DO NOT BREED!” It was often for birds that had had trouble during their development (like bumping, sporadic outflying, swollen heads, blood in the eye or for the above mentioned “off-type” birds). The developmental faults were noted and recorded but were of a seriousness that didn’t merit culling. In the case of birds that had a developmental problem but straightened it out before being culled – those were the ones that got the DNB! beside their names. In short, Monty considered them good enough to live on in his competition kit forever but he would never breed from such a bird. I think this might explain why Monty was willing to fly some birds in his competition kits for periods of up to 10 years. He didn’t think they were worth of the stock pen in spite of their aerial excellence because of some developmental problem while growing up. When other people used to make excuses for birds going through a tough period like “oh, that bird – well he was sick and is still recovering” or “well, his wings are sore because he’s on the 10th flight feather” Monty would say “Nonsense!” Lots of the other birds in the kit are on THEIR 10th flight too – and they aren’t leaving the kit to come down early or after a particularly violent spin recovery.” So, Monty would KEEP such a bird and compete with it forever. But he would never breed from it and he also would never make excuses for it. My favorite quote about aerial excellence from Monty? “A true champion will NEVER give you ANY problems!” Monty only raised what he considered a “Champion” about every three years or so (so that would make them the result of the production of between 1 in 200 and 1 in 300 birds, that he thought worthy of that designation. These birds were often mated up ahead of the rest and would sometimes be allowed to go much later into the fall than the rest. They sometimes were put on two different mates per season and generally were used to raise about twice as many pigeons per year as a “normal” (if you can call any bird good enough to get in the Neibel stock-loft, normal”) stock bird. Monty told me he never had a champion EVER get sick – he did confess to me though that if it ever did happen it might make his “no medication” policy more difficult to live with. I got the sense he might have “cheated” on just that one bird, just that one time though – if it had happened. Monty loved his champions – when they died, he confessed to me that sometimes he cried.
In closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to express an opinion that Monty held ever so passionately. Monty felt that nothing in the history of the Birmingham roller had done so much for the breed as competition. Monty would say, once an area started to fly in kit competitions that the quality of the birds in that area would improve almost immediately and often very dramatically. He was of the opinion that a well judged contest could never hurt the breed, and that only very rarely could a lesser quality kit defeat a better quality kit due to the vagaries of scoring. Over and over Monty would derisively point out that people that derided the modern roller competitions by stating it was ruining the Birmingham roller didn’t know a thing about rollers. With total exasperation in his voice Monty would ask, “If these guys that don’t compete have such great birds, then how come everybody isn’t talking about all the great birds they are seeing at these guys’ houses!” Monty believed passionately that the more an area competed, the better off it would be in the production of world-class kits. Monty believed the best thing to ever come along in the sport of roller competition was the World Cup. It was the World Cup that he felt had united fanciers from around the world, allowed people to compare their birds with those from other areas in the world, and then generally broaden the base of knowledge within our sport. In short, to Monty Neibel, competition was everything! His highest admiration was reserved for the other men he competed against. He had absolutely no time for the guys that talked and didn’t compete. He felt it was good for people, it was better for the birds, and gave us all an excuse to get together on a regular basis making new friends – some wondering if Monty preferred salmon fishing over roller flying. I wasn’t really sure and had noticed many times that when the big Chinooks were running the pigeons definitely would take second place for quite a while. He would sometimes abandon the birds for days on end leaving them only a full tray of feed and an extra waterer or two, and then come home – load them all up again, and be gone for another three or four days. So, on one fishing trip I asked him if he had to give up all his interests and all his hobbies except one, what would it be, and why. Monty thought about it for a few minutes before answering, and then responded saying that if he can only do one – it would have to be the pigeons that he kept.
His reason? Monty said it was due to the fact that this hobby had introduced him to so many wonderful people from around the world that he now regarded as true friends and brought them into his backyard, and allowed him to be welcomed into theirs, and for this reason Monty felt that the roller hobby was something truly special! I know I can second that opinion, because this hobby has given me enjoyment for the more than three decades and allowed me to meet many wonderful people from all parts of the world who I regard as true friends.
In particular, this hobby allowed me to share 32 years with a man I will never forget. My mentor, my brother, my second father, my best friend — Monty Neibel.
Exerpts from 2 different writings by Monty Neibel
I wrote an article some time ago called HOW I DO IT and it was recently done up by Carl Schoelkopf. He is sending out copies on request. I have made some slight changes in my program but still fly every 3rd day with day flown counted as day of rest. The rations are winter rations and I feed much less in summer. Summer more like 2 1/4 cups (20) day flown, second day rest 1 cup, 3rd day rest 1/3 cup. I no longer feed a mix occasionally as I found they don’t need it if you feed very small amounts of MILLET. This stuff is incredible octane and must be used very carefully. Other than that they get straight wheat and small doses of mineral grit and Belgian Powder. All this applies to an established kit of performers not untested young birds. You must apply stress on – stress off. My birds ALWAYS WORK under this system.
For this competition I have held them one extra day. Day one of rest all they could eat (17 birds). Day two 2/3 cups of WHEAT. Pinch of red mineral grit day 3 and 4. Day three of rest 1/2 cup of wheat in morning and one teaspoon of millet at dark. Fly next day morning. Any bird that might look a bit off I will throw 10 peas into it. All this is up to you to make slight changes according to weather and reading the birds. You must be able to learn how to SCAN birds. I have 2 kits entered, one is mixed cocks and hens, other all hens, 17 in each kit. Normally I fly seperate sexas. Soon as they mature SPLIT the sexas for flying. Always work towards a kit of old hens. HOW I DO IT, Pages 108 and 109, May 1990 American Pigeon Journal. I have to fight bad lift conditions.
8. In the young bird fly between 1969 and 1984, I did not win many young bird flys but I was the big winner in the old bird flys. I only fly with old birds now in competition as there is no B.C. Roller Club at this moment. Young birds will not respond to my 3 day yo-yo system. Young birds should be fed even and flown every day until you get some quality breaks. Once they dress out or get close to it I like to fly them every other day. 20 birds about 2 1/2 cups and then 1 1/2 cup day rested. They should be yo-yo fed like I said but on not so dramatic a scale as you would the old birds. Old birds are a whole different ball of wax and can be abused much to kick them into gear. Young birds I find are usually are too frequent anyway. Old birds that are good deecent rollers know they have to do it so will uaually get out of the yard high enough to be safe and put on a good show even if they don’t fly very long. Young birds if you get too tough with them might just circle low in the yard and quit.
Your friend in the fancy,
Monty J. Neibel