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After reading the last two NBRC bulletins and after reviewing the rules for NBRC kit competitions.  I would like to offer the membership the following for their consideration.  The performance and development of the true Birmingham Roller is very often misunderstood and hopefully I can shed some light of this subject.Kit flying competitions should measure the abilities of the fancier.  To carefully release a given number of birds, see them mount, maintain a tight grouping and perform in unison is a credit to the fancier that trained them.  Hopefully this kind of quality management will allow the individual champion to reveal itself in time.


In his copious writings, Bill Pensom was quite zealous in his endeavor to raise the standards of the individual fancier by pointing out the distinction between the mediocre performer and the true spinning champion. In fact, Bill did not feel that bird’s of- lesser spinning ability should be called Birmingham Rollers at all but should be called tumblers. Well, there is quite a large area of gray between a champion spinner and a tumbler and this area is the source of most confusion.  I grew up and spent many hours with Bill Pensom and can tell you that not every bird that was called a Birmingham Roller was a champion.  In an article by Ray Perkins in June of 1942, Ray quotes Bill and says, "to be worthy of the designation of- Birmingham Roller, that the bird should roll straight down - like a falling ball with inconceivable rapidity." 


In-my years of experience I can find no fault with this description for the Birmingham Roller.  Ray further quotes Bill and says that at the axis of the rolling bird a small hole can be seen, and when visible is the mark of the champion performer.  I feel that Ray has clearly marked the distinction between the true Birmingham Roller".  I have bred and seen many birds that fit the description of the true Birmingham Roller, but only a few that can be called champions. The reason for this should he obvious, the small hole is simply not visible when the bird is properly viewed from the side.  


This brings me to the point of the article.  The NBRC rules for competition state that every bird in the kit of twelve MUST show the hole from the side.  This is an admirable standard, but I have been flying rollers for just less than 30 years, and I have never flown twelve birds in' the same kit that could show the small hole from the side at the same time.  I watched Bill Pensom's kits literally hundreds of times and when a bird showed the small hole it was practically a local event.  I fear that the NBRC rule gives the impression that rollers that show the small hole are fairly commonplace. 


It is possible that in the world's best roller lofts that birds that can spin and do deserve the title of Birmingham Roller are commonplace, but birds that show the small hole, i.e. Champions, are not.  I feel this -rule forces the novice and the judge to see something that simply isn't there.  If the novice sees a bit of daylight thru a fairly rapid spin he will think he is seeing what is termed the small hole.  I have seen hundreds of birds that show some daylight through the spin, but this is not the small hole. 


Only the most extreme examples of high velocity spinning coupled with perfect type will reveal it.  Further, when a bird does show the small hole, who is in a proper vantage point to see it?  I can unequivocally state that there will never be a time in history when twelve birds will roll in perfect style, show the small hole, and the judge of such an event will be in a position to guarantee that every bird did in fact show the hole.  To watch a roller flying at 300 or 400 feet in a kit, and to properly see the small hole you would have to be at 300 feet yourself.  The times that I have been in the proper vantage point to see it have been very rare -indeed.


In 1972, Bill McRae and I had the pleasure to visit a fancier in the Black Country of the Midlands of England where our birds originated.  Mr. Norman Pearson was our host, an4 he did indeed have a most unusual loft location.  His loft was right on the edge of a 200 feet cliff and had he owned a bird that showed the small hole on that day we surely would have seen it because the birds literally flew at eye level and yet were more than 200 feet in the air.  To state it one more time, you cannot see the small hole even when it is there if you are 300 feet or more directly underneath the kit when it attempts a full turn.


In my earlier days as an NBRC member it was the practice of the club to score a full turn for young-bird kits when every member of the kit (20) performed in unison regardless of the quality or extent of performance.  This is not adhered to in England and I feel it is to their detriment.  Requiring young birds to spin in order to score towards a turn forces competitors to cultivate early developing rollers   This, of course, is not in the best interest of the breed when it is common knowledge that the best spinners develop later in life. Old bird competitions are another matter.


In conclusion, I would like to caution the novice fancier not to look too hard for the small hole.  Look instead for extreme velocity in the spin and study the body type of those individuals that appear to spin the highest number of revolutions per second.  The appearance of extreme velocity is less deceiving to the eye than the search for the small hole.  When you DO have a bird that shows the small hole and when you are in the proper vantage point to see it, you will.

Herb Sparkes