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Performance Pigeons


  • Introduction


  • Rollers

  • Tumblers

  • Doneks - High Flyers

  • Health & Disease Prevention




Although performance pigeon breeds have been developed over a much longer period of time (6 or 7 centuries) than the relatively young (150 years) racing pigeon, they appear to experience more troublesome health problems. Generally, racing pigeons have a greater degree of natural resistance to illness because each year the genetically weaker birds are eliminated during the racing season when the hardships of racing act as a form of natural selection with only the strongest pigeons surviving to be used to breed future generations.

Rollers, Tumblers and High Flyers are closely related pigeons coming from common stock. They have been bred for their ability to fly at height and perform gyrating aerial acrobatics. Tumblers "tumble" but are unable to roll or spin. Rollers are venerated for their ability to execute a series of tumbles, or backward somersaults at great speed and without stopping between each somersault. The Birmingham Roller is noted for its ability to perform rotating or spinning backward somersaults at great speed for considerable distances downward. High Flyers are divided into endurance breeds such as the Tipplers that fly for extended periods at great height and those that perform acrobatic feats from similar heights such as the Doneks.



The Roller Pigeon is the most popular breed of performance pigeon and competitions are held in many countries throughout the world. Performing Rollers are housed in a kit box with average dimensions of around 3 feet wide, 3 feet high and 2 feet deep that holds a "kit" of at least 20 birds. Each kit is trained as a separate team for competition. Training performing Rollers to fly from a young age is beneficial for their continuing health. Performing pigeons must be encouraged to fly at heights from an early age as this essential for their aerial performances. Young Roller Pigeons should be allowed to fly early morning when there is little wind to encourage high flying as afternoon flying from a young age encourages low flying and delayed performance. Flying in wind from a young age may cause Rollers to fly in a zig-zag fashion rather than fly high fly in an effort to fly back to the loft.

Training Rollers to perform is similar to training racing pigeons to top form, but loft flying alone is used to get the kit fit. Feeding methods and good health are used to train Rollers and other performance pigeons to perform to their best ability. When perfectly fit and in form the kit will fly high but in view and train tightly as a kit and "roll" in unison.


Roller competitions in Australia are generally held regularly on the last Sunday of each month from May until November. Each fancier is allowed a minimum of 15 birds and a maximum of 20 birds I the competition kit. Most people will fly 16 or more pigeons because two rather than one "out-birds" are allowed before scoring stops or until at least one of those birds resumes the competing "kit" (small group of pigeons). The current rules being followed in Australia have been adopted worldwide and are known as the World Cup rules. In between local "flys (competitions) there are national (Australia-wide) competitions that at this stage includes teams from Victoria, N.S.W. and Western Australia. There is a qualification process to be passed in order to "fly" in the National competition. In Victoria, Rocky notes there are three registered Roller clubs with a total membership of about 30 members. The last "fly" of the season is the inter-club fly where the final qualifications are made. The World Cup "fly" is usually flown around the middle of the season. The same process is used as a qualifying procedure for the national "fly" in order to determine who is selected to "fly". The judging for our local "flys" is almost always handled by three of our own members that generally bring about a fairer result. In the interclub fly there is one judge from each club, whereas in the nationals the honor is bestowed to whoever won the competition the year before.

World Cup 20 Bird Rules

Mr. Rocky Carbone of Melbourne, Australia has outlined the rules for the Roller World Cup that is a world-wide competition held every two years.


Adopted Fall 1995, revised January 1999.


Fly-Off Rules

Kit Size


The kit size may range from 15 to 20 birds, but at least 5 must "roll" together in order to score.



The flyer has up to 5 minutes after release in which to declare "time-in". This allows the kit some time to recover from strong winds and the flyer to substitute for any birds that crash or will not fly. If the flyer does not call "start" or "time-in" earlier, scoring begins automatically 5 minutes after release. Any interference with the kit after "time-in" may lead to disqualification. Attempts to ward off birds of prey are allowed, but any directly related to kit activity shall not be scored.

Fly Time


The kit is "in judgement" for 20 minutes after "time-in", or until the second bird lands, whichever occurs first. However, the kit shall be disqualified if more than one bird fails to fly for at least 15 minutes after time-in unless driven down by a bird of prey or extreme weather. A bird down that spontaneously crashes (after one bird has landed) shall be given up to 10 seconds to resurrect and resume flight or else it shall be considered the second bird down.



The judge may call a single discretionary "time-out" for up to 5 minutes in case of an attack by a bird of prey, blow-away, or other whim of nature or act of God, the flyer must ask for the "time-out" and ask the judge to put them back on the clock if he deems necessary before the 5 minute deadline. Although the 20-ruminate time for judgement shall be extended by such a time out, the 15 minute minimum qualification time is not affected.



Except for a 15 bird kit, scoring shall continue if one bird leaves the kit. Scoring is suspended but time continues if 2 or more birds are out. A bird is not considered "out" if it is returning directly from a roll or it has been separated by extreme weather or chased off by a bird of prey - even if the pigeon lands or is captured.

Extra Birds


If additional rollers join the kit, a simple discount for the extra birds shall be made for each turn involved. For example, if 2 extra indistinguishable birds are in the kit and 7 roll together, the judge would record 5.



It is mandatory for the region to furnish a timekeeper/scribe for the fly-off judge for each finalist. The judge shall simply estimate and record the number of birds rolling adequately in unison for each break involving 5 or more. "In unison" means that the last bird involved must begin performing within ½ second of the first, and that all continue performing together for at least ½ second. The suggested minimum depth for scoring is 10 feet. Afterwards, the judge shall multiply those numbers by 1 for (5-9), 2 for (10-14), 3 for (15-19) and 5 for (20). Those results shall be added together to produce a raw score. Next the raw score shall be multiplied by a quality factor of 1.0 for "adequate" to 2.0 for "truly phenomenal" based upon the judges overall impression of the average quality exhibited in all of the turns scored. Likewise, a depth of duration factor of 1.0 to 2.0 shall be multiplied to produce a final score. The judge shall announce the final score before leaving.



The judge shall not score anything that does not meet his standard for adequate quality and depth or duration of performance. The competition is for rollers and not tumblers! Roller flying is a subjective sport and the judge may have to make allowances for extraordinary circumstances. In any case, the judge's decision is final and anyone verbally ore physically attacking the judge will be disqualified from the fly and may be banned from future WC events by the WC Committee.




Many countries have developed their own varieties of Tumblers. Each may differ slightly in appearance and aerial acrobatic capabilities. The beautiful Turkish Tumbler is selected for an ability to perform backward somersaults. Tumblers compete as a flock and are judged on their ability to perform in unison. Specialized tumbling feats, such as the backward somersault, can only be performed by a small proportion of Turkish Tumblers. The challenge for those who breed Turkish and other types of Tumblers lies in the ability to produce specialist tumblers rather than enter their flock into competitions.


High Flyers (Doneks and Tipplers)


Tipplers and Doneks are closely related to the Rollers and Tumblers but have been selected to fly at great heights to perform. Doneks perform by spiraling downward and vertically from great heights at high speeds until they reach close to the ground. Their speed is so fast that an atmospheric plume is sometimes seen streaming behind them. Doneks can also roll but are bred for their ability to perform a high speed corkscrew downward spiral.

Tipplers are endurance high-flying pigeons that have been selectively bred to fly at very high altitudes for extended periods of time (the world record is 19 hours non-stop flying time). Competitions for Tipplers and Doneks are different to Rollers "flys". Rollers fly for 15-20 minutes and must be in good view. High Flyers (Tipplers and Doneks) ascend to such great heights that they appear as dots in the sky. Tipplers are flown as a 3-5 bird group and the aim of a competition is for the kit to fly together for as long as possible. In some parts of the world they have been recorded as having flown around 19-20 hours. Tipplers in Australia generally fly for around 6 hours. Duration of flight is determined by training, feeding and most important of all, bloodline.

Some high-flyers have lost their ability to home when they are blown away from their loft by a strong wind. Nick Moriatis uses crossbreeds that help to keep his Greek High Flyers near home.


Performance Pigeons & Health


Because not every individual bird is capable of performing complex acrobatics, many performance pigeons have been selected purely upon their superior ability to tumble, roll or other aerial movements rather than on their ability to repel disease or breed strong healthy offspring. It is difficult to breed Turkish Tumblers that are capable of performing the rapid backward somersault as only a very small percentage of Turkish Tumblers possess this ability. his variety became susceptible to Circovirus infection soon after its introduction to Australia during the 1980's due to inbreeding that resulted from a severely limited gene pool. Greek High Flyers in Australia are highly vulnerable to Salmonella infections for similar reasons.

Performance pigeons have been bred based upon the decision and instincts of the fanciers themselves. Fanciers who breed performance pigeons often follow the same principles of selection as racing pigeon enthusiasts. They select birds that possess an apple body, straight keel, good performing ability and temperament as breeders. For many centuries the fanciers have culled ill birds and bred only from hardy stock, and some breeds have a very strong degree of natural resistance to certain illnesses. This has occurred because of the wise decisions of fanciers over time to cull those birds which bred squeakers with Canker. The fanciers have bred the Canker out of the family, by selecting genetically resistant individuals for their breeding stock. Many diseases can be "bred out" of a flock, but this often takes many generations (4-5 at least) to achieve and birds that are resistant to disease are not necessarily the best performers. Sometimes there is a link between the best performers and genetic weakness as seen with the Turkish Tumblers present in Australia. Herein lays the difficulty for the performance pigeon fancier, who must produce young birds capable of performing acrobatically. Over time the successful fanciers have improved the aerial abilities of their flock by inbreeding and line breeding, but in so doing may have compromised the flock's natural resistance against disease. Salmonellosis (paratyphoid) is rarely seen in racing pigeons in Australia, but is common in many varieties of performing pigeons. Breeding from Salmonella-resistant birds best controls salmonella infection.

Performing pigeons are vulnerable to the same infections as racing pigeons and should follow the same Health Programmes as outlined in the online pigeon health available in the Client Only section of this web page.


Disease Prevention in Performing Pigeons


Genetic Resistance to Disease


Performance pigeon families comprising of inbred individuals are the most likely flocks to experience serious sickness during the breeding season. An informed breeding strategy is required to control disease when inbreeding or poor selection of breeding pairs is the cause of recurrent illness. The introduction of vital and healthy outcrosses offers the best means to strengthen the natural resistance of inbred lines. As well, in order to improve the overall health of the flock, the inbred birds selected for breeding must be vital and resistant to the "resident diseases".


Loft Hygiene


Most infections of performance pigeons can be prevented by the hygienic management of the loft. Rodents (mice/rats) and insects (cockroaches, ants, slugs, weevils) are a major source of infection and must be controlled at all times, especially during the breeding and young bird seasons. It is difficult to control diseases in lofts that are dark, damp or dirt floored. Wooden (marine or form ply) rather than concrete or wire floors are recommended in the lofts of performance pigeons. The ceiling and walls should also be lined to prevent any condensation that pre-disposes the flock to respiratory, bacterial and fungal infections. A protected open flight area should be provided to allow performance to bask in the direct sunlight. Water containers should be of stainless steel or glass and elevated off the ground so any spillage does not wet he floor of the loft.


Feeding & Nutrition


Feeding performance pigeons to competitive success follows exactly the same principles as those used for the racing pigeon as the best performances are achieved from the most fit and healthy "kit". Flying and performing ability of the performance breeds is determined mostly by the breeding background of the birds. Hand feeding and discipline as described for racing pigeons in the Pigeon health book are required for performing pigeons as they must not become overweight and perform best when hungry.




Fit performing pigeons are able to repel diseases more easily than unfit birds.

Information on Rollers, Tumblers, High Flyers, as well as health and disease prevention.

Information on fancy pigeons and important aspects of show pigeon health.

The common signs of respiratory disease in racing pigeons and checklist.

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