Birds of Prey

Many good pigeons have fallen victim to one kind of hawk or another which is a frustrating state of affairs for pigeon fanciers as birds of prey are generally protected. There has been a population explosion of them especially in Germany with its large forested areas and complete protection. What is a fancier to do? Many have given up on this hobby altogether while others let out their birds for exercise only during a few short summer months. How could the situation ever get this bad? Does nature not provide a control of the Goshawk's seemingly unlimited increase in population?
It appears that man is responsible for this imbalance at least in Germany as it was man who exterminated the Uhu (the largest eagle owl) there, the natural enemy of hawks in general. While it is true that this bird would also eat pigeons, given a chance, it hunts at night and is therefore less of a concern for pigeon fanciers than the Goshawk.
It was in 1987 when this Eagle owl was reintroduced into Schleswig-Holstein. As the number of breeding pairs of this owl increased, the number of Goshawk breeding pairs declined until a steady state was established in 2001.
The nesting of Goshawks was severely impinged upon by the nesting of Uhus who took over the territory formerly occupied by Goshawks.
The summary on the left shows clearly the inverse relationship between the number of owl breeding pairs and of the hawk breeding pairs.
(Modified from Busche et al. 2004)
There is an understandable knee jerk reaction after one loses one of one's pigeons, especially if this pigeon showed promise, but I think that it is wiser to temper this anger and try to work with rather than against nature. Remember that it was the extermination of the Eagle owl which caused us racing pigeon fanciers so much grief and I have no doubt that the extermination of another bird of prey, such as the Goshawk, would be just as short sighted.
Original Article at "Die Brieftaube 121 (2004) Nr. 16 | 597"
Some of you, especially those living in areas without a population of Uhus, may look at the above as just a theoretical exercise. However, there is a practical side to it. Fanciers who already considered giving up this beautiful hobby of flying pigeons decided to play a tape with the sounds of this Uhu during periods when they let out their birds for exercise. This resulted in no more losses of pigeons to hawk attacks. If this system would also work in areas where the Uhu is not normally encountered remains to be seen but it would be worth an experiment.
An .mp3 file (730 Kb) or a much longer .wma file (12.2 Mb) can be downloaded (File > Save As...) from here:
Any of these files can be burned onto a CD repeatedly, giving you an hour of protection. Some fanciers are enthusiastic about the results, one of them claiming that even magpies are not around his loft at exercise time any longer. The 24 minute file includes many varieties of different sounds made by the eagle owl.
Here is what my friend Roly, the source of the 24 minute file, wrote: " works too, just 30 minutes before letting the birds out is a good idea."
The following is from an article published in "Nature" (April 21, 2005)
How a white feather can outfox a falcon
Tim Radford, science editor 
Thursday April 21, 2005.

When aerial menace zooms in from behind, the feral pigeon does what a dove's got to do - it shows the white feather and stands a better chance of getting clean away, US scientists say.
Albert Palleroni of Harvard University and three colleagues report in Nature today that they set out to solve the puzzle of the white patch often found on the rump of the feral pigeon Columbia livia.

In seven years the researchers recorded 1,485 attacks by five adult peregrine falcons on flocks of feral pigeons flying around Davis, California. They also observed 309 attacks by juveniles. They made a note of the plumage of the luckless target.

And they found that whether the peregrines were at the peak of their powers, or still on a learning curve, the result was the same. Only one dead pigeon in 50 had a set of white feathers on its rump.

The scientists reasoned that the white patch might be an evolutionary adaptation that helped its inheritor to live longer and procreate more. Falcons swoop with fearsome speed: the fastest have been clocked at 157 metres a second - around 320mph.

So they tested the idea by capturing 756 white-rumped and blue-grey pigeons and swapping their plumage coloration. They then released the birds again, and monitored the kill rate of three particular peregrines.

Those birds who could no longer show the white feather fell victim to peregrine strike as often as the blue-coloured pigeons, while the newly whitened showed a much increased ability to survive.

No pigeon can out fly a falcon. They escape by aerobatics. The white patch somehow distracts the peregrine.

The peregrine falcon almost disappeared from large areas of its range 40 years ago, but has slowly been making a comeback. As more falcons begin to cull the pigeons in modern cities, the US scientists argue, an increasing proportion of their prey will start to show the white feather.

Some fanciers also reported very good results through painting the underside of the wing and the side of the body normally covered by the wing with red ink. This red flashing is thought to confuse the predator with the result that he pursues other prey in preference. The mechanism with which this is accomplished appears to be similar to the study reported in "Nature".Many fanciers have better results with the firing of warning shots by using blanks.


This very ancient race of pigeon is supposed to out fly even a peregrine falcon but I speculate that this is exaggerated. Peregrine falcons have been "molted" by Nature over countless millennia and are specialized for the job of hunting on the dive. A pigeon, even an escampadissa, has none of these for diving specialized anatomical structures of a peregrine falcon.
But escampadissa had been used in the past for trapping peregrine falcons and other birds of prey by flying into a special loft with 2 ceilings. The openings of the top ceiling were large enough (15 cm X 15 cm) for the bird of prey to fit through comfortably but the openings of the second ceiling were large enough only for the pigeon to fit through. The bird of prey was therefore trapped between the 2 ceilings.
I am certain that many kinds of pigeons could be used to trap birds of prey using this method. Besides, these escampadissas are small pigeons that should not be released when too windy. They are easily blown away from the loft and have a notoriously poor homing ability.
Below are your comments:
Wednesday January 10, 2007
Alan Bliven
Tucson, AZ
Birmingham Roller Guardians by Paul Sisk Written for Circus Lofts' website: When I was getting back into rollers I did a lot of research. Having been wiped out by hawks twice in the last fifteen years. I read up on Catalonian Tumblers and Flying Oriental Rollers and after talking to some people and reading a lot of articles I decided to go with the Flying Oriental Rollers because they were originally bred to avoid desert falcons and had a more varied performance than a Catalonian. I have since also learned that performing Catalonians are very rare in the U.S. I picked up a few birds but was unable to come across any that I really liked. An article I read had said that Dale Husband's family of birds were possibly the only true performing Oriental Rollers left in the United States so the quest started to obtain this family. Whether it was fate, destiny, or pure dumb luck I just happened to find the National Performing Roller Association and seen an advertisement by Alan Bliven of Circus Lofts that his friend Dennis Radi had a whole group for sale. I immediately called Dennis and secured the birds. I got six pairs of breeders and an eleven bird kit already trained. Meanwhile I had also picked up a twenty bird kit of Pensom Birmingham Rollers that a breeder was getting out because of hawks. After getting the birds used to the kit box they were put to the air. I flew them for months with no predator problems at all. I was in pigeon heaven. I then acquired a kit of Galati Rollers and started flying them and then one day it happened. I guess I was in a major migration route. I had two kits up that day, one kit of Birmingham's and one kit of Galatis. They flew quite well together and some of the Galatis were just coming into the roll. They made a pass around and over the timber and four birds were missing. They made another pass and the kit came out busted up and going in every direction. Right then I knew I was having a major air raid. I called in the birds but did not get them all in until dark. My four best Galatis and one very promising young almond Birmingham were missing. Flying on an every other day schedule, no birds were flown the next day. The next day I looked around carefully and saw no sign of any hawks so I put them up again. Again they made a pass over the timber and the kit was all broken up and going everywhere. Neither time I never saw a hawk but when they landed I was missing three birds, one Birmingham and two Galatis. I then went into lock down until deciding how to carry on. I had yet to test the Flying Oriental Rollers against hawks but decided now was the time. I took them out of the stationary kit box and put them in the portable. I put a kit of young Birminghams in the other side of the portable. I took them to the farm and proceeded to release the Flying Oriental Rollers with two hawks visible in the distance. The kit went up and the hawks immediately came in for a visit. The time was now to find out the truth first hand. It was a couple of sharp shins and they made a pass at the kit but the Flying Oriental Rollers darted and dived almost to the ground and evaded the hawks. The hawks made another pass with the same outcome. I was quite pleased. They had performed just as advertised. I started flying the Flying Oriental Rollers every day and had a couple of half hearted attempts until the hawks finally just sit and watched. This pair was evidently migrating because after a week or so of going hungry they moved on. I finally flew the Birmingham kit one day and boom, out of nowhere the predator came in and took one of my whites. The next day I put up the Flying Oriental Rollers first and out came the hawk. It was a large Cooper hen and she was quick. She was hot on the tail of a yearling cinnamon hen. They darted and dived through the trees and I lost site of them both. Neither came back that day. But it is also written that if a hawk does catch one of your mature Flying Oriental Rollers you didnít need it anyway. The next day the little hen was in the kit box only short half her tail feathers. Now I fly two kits at a time. I always release the Flying Oriental Rollers first to check for hawks and after they trap in I release the second kit of Birminghamís or Galatis. I have twenty one Flying Oriental Rollers in the kit box so that if I want to fly three or four kits that day I will only release half at a time. The local hawks will not even attempt to catch the birds now, they just sit off in the distance and watch after so many frustrating unsuccessful attempts at catching the Flying Oriental Rollers. Hawks are intelligent birds and they learn where a meal is will be a good place to come back and look again. They also learn not to waste vast amounts of energy on fruitless chases. I think I have found the perfect solution for my predator problems. I will now and forever put up the Flying Oriental Rollers first to train my hawks that they cant catch my pigeons. I also believe there is a plus to having the hawks chase my Flying Oriental Rollers. I feel that since this is what they were bred for that possibly this will enhance performance. I guess time will tell, as I will breed from the air. One word of caution for the first timer with Flying Oriental Rollers. Even though the mature birds are or should be hawk proof the young birds are venerable. It is the diving, spinning and spirals that the birds use to evade hawks and until the young develop these traits they can be caught as easily as a Birmingham. Even though I have not lost a bird of any breed since I started this method, when I get an occasional attack it is really quite amusing watching them make their tactical evasion techniques. I was considering getting out of Rollers but now I think I will happily fly them using my Birmingham Roller Guardians. Paul Sisk Notes from Circus Lofts: Not only do these bird perform as Paul testified but they will keep you entertained as well with their rolling, spinning, diving etc. This is a true performing roller breed. If you attempt to try this method yourself, you need to understand that there are two breeds of Oriental Rollers in the U.S. One is is show type simply named "Oriental Roller" and the other is the genuine "Flying Oriental Roller." You will be best served using the Flying Oriental Roller.
Friday November 9, 2007
C. Paci
Central Coast, CA
Does anyone know where to get some Escampadissa's?
Friday November 9, 2007
SOCAL, Republik of California
We need to fund an Eagle Owl program here in the states. An Eagle Owl Fund to rival the Peregrine Fund.
Thursday February 14, 2008
florin merluse
zephyrhills, Florida
Where do I find any good Galatis rollers? Please E-mail me
Sunday March 16, 2008
Pedro Bento
Lisbon, Portugal
Hello. I do not entirely agree with you in what concerns the ability of Escampadissas to escape from Hawks. Its obvious that you never saw a Escampadissa diving from the sky with tremendous speed and stoping only about 1 meter from the pigeon loft as I did in my last trip to Palma de Mallorca in Spain. Of course many people can say its simply not possible for that to happen, its only a lgend or something like that. Please take a look at my website, in the Escampadissa section. Regards Pedro J. P. Bento

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