TNB Night Owl – Roller Pigeons

Birmingham Roller, photo by Graham Manning.

Pigeons are a part of life in cities throughout the world. Nicknamed “flying rats” by some, they are famous both for their willingness to venture close to people while scavenging food and the seemingly ubiquitous, disease-ridden white splatter which coats locations where they flock. While some have been made famously useful because of their homing abilities and their intellect has earned them a spot as a trainable pet for rare urbanites, for the most part pigeons are not an especially beloved member of the aves class.

It takes a special breed of pigeon to develop a serious fan base, and that breed is often the Birmingham Roller. Named for the area of England where they were first cultivated, the birds have a distinctive flying pattern. Specifically, they perform backward somersaults in midair. Moreover, the birds are smart enough to learn to time their actions at the same point in their flights, or to react to basic external stimuli.

The result of this is a bird which, when properly trained, can perform tricks – or at least the same trick in a variety of timings and angles, and often on command – for viewers. As they are a flocking type of bird, they can even synchronize their actions with other Birmingham Rollers.

As with any other field of human endeavor there are competitions. Local, national, and international Birmingham Roller contests are held where trainers show off their flocks (known as kits) and demonstrate both the beauty of individual specimens and their ability to perform solo and synchronized aerial stunts.

What is particularly odd about American competitions is the development of an unexpected center of sporting activity. Specifically, Compton. The home of Crips and Bloods and the honorary home of West Coast rap, where midnight basketball and a variety of other programs have been attempted in a fairly futile effort to tone down gang violence, it seems that the somersaulting pigeons have been successfully drawing teens away from the temptation of crime.

So, the next time you see a bunch of large birds stealing french fries from someone’s plate, be nice… they may be athletes in training for the next World Cup Fly, working to promote peace and harmony in depressed communities. Or they might just be flying rats. You never know.

Question of the night: What is the most unusual pet you’ve encountered?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.