Friday, June 08, 2007

Pigeon breeders charged with killing raptors

Have you heard of these pigeons and clubs before?

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 law

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.
You'll find the national club's response in the link above.

Photo of raptor trap courtesy of US FWS


Blogger GrammarJunco said...

It's pretty unfortunate that people think they can violate federal law because their free-flying pigeons are at stake. Using the same logic, I could start slashing car tires and say that my dog has a right to run through the streets safely.

Now, I'm sure that roller pigeon fanciers are just like any other group of people--some are good, some not so good. However, it's troubling to see how many pigeon fanciers are sympathizing with the law breakers. That was certainly the case for the press release, which chooses to "in no way endorse" rather than "actively discourage" killing raptors (there's a big difference!).

I also went to and clicked onto the discussion of this topic on the site's message board. Comments I found included

"Having a trap on your property is not against the law. [...] Unless the trapper is caught right handed, he is presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. Remember that you can not be charged for a crime unless you were caught right handed."

"don't post things that will incriminate you."

There's also a convenient link for a "Migratory Bird Depredation Permit." If approved, it grants the holder the right to "control" hawks and the like.


June 08, 2007 4:07 PM  
Blogger Birdfreak said...

If there are any non-murderous pigeon breeders out there, they had better speak up because this really gives them a bad name! How sad, really, that a human being can be this cruel.

June 10, 2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger Gerardo said...

I am a pigeon breeder and do not kill raptors. I fly my birds when the raptors have been long gone on their way to where ever it is that they migrate. In my state we have clear skies from April through late September. I'm from Texas. In comparison, the guys who were charged all along the west coast have a much different situation. I am not here to argue that what they did was right nor to comment on the cases since I believe, like the comment above, that in every group there are good and bad people. What I do want to make perfectly clear is that most pigeon guys are law-abiding, hard working, decent people. We know the risks and we try to limit our exposure to them. Luckily for me, hawks don't stick around Texas through the summer since it is too hot and they find easier prey elsewhere. I don't have to worry as much, but on occasion I do lose a bird or two. That's when I know that the hawks are back, or that they haven't left yet. I'll lock up my birds in that case.

The only thing I do take issue is that the media has already done a lot of harm to the hobby. They have painted with a very broad brush the pigeon hobbyist as a niche nuisance that is dispensable. The fact is that there are tens of thousands of us in this country and the vast majority are like me: peaceful and nature-loving people. We wouldn't be raising pigeons if we didn't have that type of personality. There is nothing aggressive or innately antagonistic about raising birds for competition or show. Lest we forget that had it not been for the efforts of racing pigeon breeders in the first and second world wars, when Uncle Sam regularly conscripted all young pigeons for service in the corps, that many of the freedoms we enjoy today, like 'blogging', may have not been possible.

So I would simply ask that you take care to not paint all of us with that same brush. Lastly, with regard to the comment above that the national organization doesn't "actively discourage" certain behavior, I would say that it is understandable that they wouldn't. Any organization shouldn't have to actively discourage any kind of law breaking. It is implied that by living in the United States, it is already incumbent upon you to follow the laws. If you don't, you'll pay the penalty. If this organization actively discouraged this behavior, then why not actively discourage drunk driving, or domestic violence for that matter? Any number of arguments can be made for such. That they don't encourage it should be more than enough for law abiding people to enjoy this hobby by the up and up. It and any other organization should not be the police of their members, much like you wouldn't expect the AKC to police people who fight pit bulls. It is criminal to fight dogs and laws are on the books to prosecute offenders. The AKC won't be out in force pasting billboards up, preventing dog fights, and by the same analogy, you shouldn't expect the national organization for rollers to do the same with regard to raptors.

I think it is admirable that the NBRC hit on all points necessary to get the full story across in their press release. If you don't think it is a good use of your time to look into the sources of the press releases by the FWS, I would recommend you take a look at Operation Falcon.
Here is a link for your pleasure from the FWS, in their own words:
Once you read that, read the facts and outcome of that operation:


June 12, 2007 3:02 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Wild birds have to eat just like people or fish or .... Roller Pigeon flyers should take care to fly their birds in areas where there are no raptors. It is irresponsible mnot to do so. Personally I hope the Fish and Wildlife folks really stick it to the Raptor killers.

June 25, 2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger Valiant said...

The problem I have is that individuals and now groups are manipulating a genetic defect, the "roller" aspect, for their own pleasure and amusement. In a way, it seems almost depraved to me. This genetic defect rarely occurs in feral colonies for a simple reason: it is a defect and hinders normal flight, including the ability to evade predators. What sort of hobbyist would make his bird more available to predators? This is a defect in pigeons that should not be encouraged or allowed. I shudder to think what would happen if one of these "roller" people had a three-legged baby!

December 24, 2007 7:25 PM  
Blogger REECE said...

I am a pigeon racer of great Britain i am also a member of the royal society for the protection of birds

i have helped save many birds in my time , but i have also lost pigeons pigeons i brought up from eggs and had a huge emotional attachment to them , if i ever saw a falcon try to kill one of my pigeons i would launch a cruise missile at it never mind trap it and torchture it , i do not think they should of tortured the falcon (s) but on the other hand i have to sympathize with them , you also have to think of the cost of a single pigeon which can range from $40 - $4000000

January 17, 2008 4:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

killing /torturing raptors of any kind makes me sick. these are benificial animals without which the world would be over run with rodents and other vermin.the indiscriminant killing proves these pigeon folks are idiots. there are only 3 or 4 species of raptor capable of taking a pigeon yet these roller club guys go after everything with a talon. the sport of falconry is heavily regulated to protect these birds- too bad the pigeon clubs don't have the same regulatory restraints

May 19, 2008 6:27 PM  
Blogger AnDY said...

I am currently a racing pigeon fancier. I hate to see how people are so selfish. Anyone who is only favoring one side in this situation is an idiot! This is the reason why there can never be peace in the human race! I'm sure we can find a solution to solving this problem. I love pigeons and I'm just starting to fall in love with the raptors as well. Although I don't believe that pigeon fanciers should kill any raptors. As a racing pigeon fancier, I lose my racing pigeons all the time due to racing them, and I'm pretty sure you pigeon fanciers know what I'm talking about. I understand that pigeon fanciers love their pigeons very much, but so do falconers love their raptors very much too. Everyone should be responsible to take care of their birds without doing any harm to any animal. As a pigeon fancier I am responsible to protect my pigeons from any wild raptors without doing any harm to the raptors. I personally leave this problem to the pigeons and the raptors. Let nature solve it-self. If a pigeon isn't healthy enough to escape from a raptor then maybe it can be the perfect meal for the raptor. On the other hand if the raptor failed to catch the pigeon then maybe it will have to starve to death. It's survival of the fittest. I love both animal and I really want everyone to take a peek from both sides. Please stop the trappings and killings; there too many animal species out there that are endangered due to our actions. Imagine what you will do or feel if the animal you have a passion for is the endangered one.

October 29, 2009 10:32 PM  
Blogger petersteel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 29, 2009 4:36 AM  
Blogger marion said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 06, 2010 11:41 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

Oh my heart!!!! People are HORRIBLE!!!

March 15, 2010 7:09 PM  

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