Pigeon breeders charged with killing raptors
Federal authorities have charged three Oregon men with unlawfully attempting to take, capture, and kill red-tailed and Cooper's hawks, and/or peregrine falcons, in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The defendants, all leaders of “roller pigeon” clubs, were arraigned in the Portland, Oregon, United States District Court on June 8. The charges are part of a larger investigation across the United States — Operation High Roller — that targets roller pigeon owners who kill hawks and falcons, despite their protected status under federal lawYou'll find the national club's response in the link above.
In southern California seven arrests were made. The investigation determined that leaders and members of the National Birmingham Roller Club (NBRC) and other enthusiast organizations in the Los Angeles metropolitan area are responsible for killing 1,000 to 2,000 raptors annually.
The arrests and charges are the result of a 14-month investigation of roller pigeon hobbyists and clubs in California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Texas and other states by law enforcement agents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
The criminal complaints filed in Oregon allege that the defendants shot birds, and used traps baited with pigeons to collect and kill raptors. These activities are alleged to have occurred at the defendants’ residences where they raise and fly roller pigeons. The defendants are all affiliated with clubs that promote and compete roller pigeons - also known as Birmingham rollers - which are native to England and have a genetic defect that causes them to flip backwards while in flight. Enthusiasts breed the pigeons with an eye toward having a group of the birds roll simultaneously, then recover before hitting the ground. Raptors are attracted by the pigeons’ unusual flipping, interpreting the behavior as that of a sick or weakened bird, and thus easy prey.
Photo of raptor trap courtesy of US FWS