The Birmingham Roller pigeon is a smallish bird compared to some of the other pigeon breeds such as racing pigeons, modenas, runts, weighing in at about 12 ounces and a little more for the bigger sizes. It is hardy and will do well with modest care.
The roller’s popularity is based on its ability to perform backward somersaults when released in the air. When properly executed, this backward somersaulting known as “rolling” takes on the illusion of a small ball spinning with rapid velocity until it pulls out of it after falling 20 to 30 feet!
Rolling was once thought to come from an uncontrollable physical and mental urge as though it were a kind of “epilepsy” brought on by flight and stimulation during flight. The newest theory is that it is a part of the roller pigeon’s genetic makeup. That there is a “roll gene” and based on its dominance will effect rolling performance.
No one is quite sure of the exact cause of the rolling factor, only that it can be refined and improved upon within certain family strains to give spectacular rolling performances or can be destroyed by careless breeding and selection.
Common legend has it that small villages in the English countryside have flown it competitively since the 1800’s. With a slower pace to life at the time, English bragging rights and honor was a serious thing and many a drunken bar patrons had his honor challenged and the only way to recover was to beat the challenger to reclaim top spot in a fly-off with seeing who had the better performing roller.
If there was a single individual most responsible for the popularity of the Birmingham Roller it was William H. Pensom. Originally from England he migrated to America and settled in California to become a pigeon legend. He imported top pigeons from the very best roller men in England to start a line of rollers later knows as Pensom Rollers. He even had a club named after him in his honor, the Pensom Roller Club.
Due to much of his activities and writings, the Birmingham Roller became a favorite of thousands of enthusiasts over the last 50 years. Much of what we know about the roller had its foundation laid by his commitment to improving the breed unique insight.