The true North American High flying Roller first appeared in the loft of George Stevens of Toronto, Canada in 1869. Stevens was known to breed for high quality, fine color, vivid markings, and most importantly their ability to fly high, fly long, and to roll deep.
A well-known fancier and authority on pigeons, named Arthur Karp from Cleveland, Ohio purchased these rollers from Stevens in the 1870’s. In 1883, Arthur Karp, it is noted had crossed his Stevens birds with red and yellow Gansel Komorners. Karp was credited for creating a fabulous line of Red and yellow spangles from this combination.
The resulting pigeons were of a longer cast, very leggy, and became a much stronger pigeon all around. Possessing plenty of vigor, known to be extremely hyperactive, and carry exceptional aerial strength. These birds flew 6 to 8 hours or more. In addition, would roll very deep 50 to 100 feet. Nevertheless, were very difficult pigeons to settle or control.
About 1890, the Whittingham strain had arrived in Canada. The Whittingham strains were imported into the United States from 1890 to 1915. The Whittingham rollers had a reputation for being outstanding high and long flyers. Many rollers found in the United States and throughout Canada until 1930 were referred to as being of this Whittingham strain.
Many of the Whittingham birds imported into the USA, from 1901 to 1909, had come from J. McAree of Toronto, Canada. Many roller fanciers began to cross Whittingham blood into their birds to increase stamina and endurance. Notably one of these fanciers known to have an exceptionally fine family of Whittingham families during the 1920’s was an Englishman named Joseph Bygraves from Camden, New Jersey.
Bygraves was known for never parting with any of his fine birds. Bygraves did fly his birds several times a day and continued in the English tradition of keeping the pigeons very hungry. These were much different feeding and flying methods used from the standard of the day.
It was in 1934 when Lester Manz and Frank Sinkleris both from Riverside, New Jersey, Purchased and bought out the famous Author Karp of Cleveland, Ohio. Les Manz decided to keep all of the reds and yellows, while Frank Sinkleris kept the blues and blacks from this Karp family.
Les Manz also purchased another family of pigeons from his long time friend Joseph Bygraves after his passing. Whereas, Lester Manz, the genius that he was with rollers, decided to cross the two families of Karp and Bygraves together. The Karp when crossed with the Bygraves had become 100% easier to handle.
These very intelligent pigeons kitted very well together and would fly for hours with plenty of roll, even making breaks never before seen from the original Karp birds. It was in 1936 that a long time friend and student of Lester Manz, named Charles Hubbs, whom also resided in Riverside, New Jersey, began his long journey of creating Mottles and Whitesides from the original Lester Manz strain of rollers.
Charlie Hubbs was given a red spangle cock that Les Manz was going to dispose of because the bird had acquired the disease canker. Excited to show his expertise in pigeons and impress Les Manz, the young Charlie Hubbs used a medicine called Enhepin. Charlie Hubbs carried the sick bird home, treated the pigeon, and returned it to Les Manz a week later very healthy and totally disease free.
Les Manz then told the young Charlie Hubbs to keep the pigeon since he would never let any bird that was ever sick back into his loft under any circumstances. That red spangle was the very foundation bird of the family Charlie Hubbs has to this very day.
Through the years, Les Manz has given Charlie many of his Karp and Bygraves cross birds. Charlie Hubbs mated that red mottle with a yellow hen which Les Manz gave him and produced a cock bird. Charlie bred two sets of red mottles from them. When Les Manz first seen the mottles he was amazed, and then encouraged Charlie to continue breeding them.
It has taken Charlie Hubbs over 30 years of dedicated breeding of this family before he would confidently say he has a loft full of Mottles and Whitesides. It was through the very process of inbreeding these Mottles, where Charlie will get Whitesides from them, but not in perfect markings.
However, by inbreeding this family for many years, Charlie produces nothing other than straight gravel grey pearl eyes, and only reds and yellows for the past 60 years. For all of the years that Charlie Hubbs owned these birds he has never put a cross into this family. All of the young continue to flourish healthy and without any defects. Charlie Hubbs birds still roll deep, will fly high, and continue on the wing literally for hours.
Most American Rollermen in the beginning of the 20th century selected and bred their quality rollers for a long time on the wing, high flying, and with very deep roll. The North American Roller ruled the skies over all of North America with very little effort until about 1940, when word of William Pensom of England began to export his famous strain of Birmingham Rollers. This is another story, for another time.
A brief description of The North American Roller pigeon is of a medium size frame, with a weight of 8 to 12 ounces. The body is short in stature, longer in the keel with a full chest, carrying a proportionally oval shape head, with a stout neck that gradually tapers down to the shoulders.
A flesh color, medium size beak with very fine white wattles that are not overly pronounced. Gravel grey pearl eyes. Clean legs, with flesh color toenails. Possesses a tail with 12 feathers only, wings carried above the tail, and the wingtips measure ¾” before the tail, and a full chest.
Colors are red, yellow, black, blue, and dun. With markings of saddles, beards, baldhead, rosewing, bell neck, spangles, mottles, and Whitesides. The owner’s instruction manual* that came with my family of NAHF rollers states; Breeders are to be fed strictly commercial high protein (17%) maintenance Turkey pellets. Occasionally commercial pigeon feed mixture is added later to allow adults to show squeakers how to eat properly.
All of my flyers are fed the same 17% protein maintenance Turkey pellets and a high protein commercial pigeon feed mixed at a 50/50 ratio. During the winter month’s whole kernel corn, and safflower seed is added to supplement and increase fat content. During the molting season, I add additional safflower seed to ease feather molting.
All food is freely fed and available to breeders, and flying kit. These pigeons are never kept hungry. They eat whatever amount they want daily. Oyster shell grit with red grit added at a 50/50 mixture and kept in a separate bowl. Grit is available always. Fresh water for drinking and bathing is available and changed frequently throughout the day. (This particular family of pigeons has been fed straight turkey maintenance pellets for decades. Before the invention of pellets, a dry yellow powder called chicken mash was once used).
Training begins with those young birds that are able to feed themselves confidently and consistently. Training consists of allowing only the new very young birds to sit upon loft roof to learn their bearings and imprint the immediate area surrounding their loft. Times do vary, as these very young birds will fly up on their own accord or when something spooks them. Teaching to get them accustomed to the trap is another story, but I do leave a couple of bobs lifted up to allow a larger opening for them to pass thru more easily.
All the flyers are flown daily, preferably early AM, and are never allowed out after 12 noon. Birds are kept in the loft if inclement weather threatens. I know you are asking yourself the question, “Why not fly the kit after 12 noon?”
These birds will normally fly for 6 to 8 hours before returning to the loft for fresh water and feed. I do not want them up flying when it begins to get dark, because they will stay up flying very high, and they will be attracted to the big city lights of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and may get lost.
Breeding within this family will take place when the local wild birds begin mating which is usually March or April, and only 2 to 3 rounds are bred per year. All breeding stops mid to late June to rest the birds.
The Les Manz family of pigeons were fed and trained for the past seven plus decades using these exact methods. I will continue in the same tradition, sticking to the old reliable phrase; “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.
My Les Manz strain of birds will fly in excess of 1000 plus feet, occasionally disappearing into the clouds while circling high overhead the loft, again, depending on the weather conditions and the pigeons mood. The roll and depth of roll from these birds is what everyone seems to care about most, it seems to peak the most interest. Well, let me try to explain. “The Roll” you always read and hear about states; “is not as frequent, as the Birmingham”.
Not as frequent means, there are no short quick bursts of pigeons raining from the sky, only to quickly sweep up right back to the kit and perform again in very short order. These pigeons do roll in proper form, backwards at a high speed, but individually, for a very long depth of 100 feet or better.
Since the roll is from a much greater height, and a longer distance, the pigeon must fly back up to reach the kit and it does take some additional time to accomplish this. These birds really enjoy rolling deep and are very stable. Flying a 30, 50, or 100 bird kit and watching as each and every pigeon repeatedly drops and rolls at a phenomenal distance for literally hours is a sight and feeling that is sure to please any hard core competition roller flyer.
At one point, the NAHF Rollers were so wide spread on the continent they were perhaps the most dominant breed of roller in all of North America. Today this pigeon breed has mostly died out and there are roughly a dozen or so dedicated breeders left in North America.
William Latham, III, RN, BSN, PHN
(AKA: Bill from NJ)
*My owner’s manual is actually my friend and mentor Charlie Hubbs.
Please note: This article was written for informational purposes only, and is not intended to promote sales of any kind. I do not sell nor ship any pigeons