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Jun-08-2007 09:25printcomments

Oregon Pigeon Hobbyists Charged for Killing Birds of Prey

Three Oregon cases are part of a nationwide effort to stop the illegal killing of hawks, peregrine falcons, and other birds of prey.

Red tailed hawk
Courtesy: Ted Steinke/Utah Birds

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - 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 8th. 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. The defendants are members of the NBRC's local Portland area club, known as the Northwest Roller Jockeys.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is continuing its investigation on the illegal use of such traps or other illegal activities effecting migratory birds such as raptors. The traps are large, box-like structures with walls of wire mesh, designed to bait and trap hawks, falcons and owls. They consist of two parts, a bait cage and a trap mechanism constructed with a wooden "A" frame. See picture at

Anyone with information should contact Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents, Dirk Hoy or Robert Romero, at (503) 682-6131, or e-mail information to The Audubon Society of Portland is offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone illegally killing birds of prey. The reward is part of the Society’s ongoing Migratory Bird Protection Fund. The Audubon Society of Portland’s many bird conservation activities include a significant effort to restore peregrine falcon populations in the Portland area. The Society also manages a wildlife rehabilitation program based at the Wildlife Care Center on NW Cornell Road in Portland.

The Oregon defendants include: Mitch Reed of Mount Angel, and Peter Kaufman of Portland, each charged with one count of 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. Ivan Hanchett of Hillsboro, is charged with two counts of same.

Migratory birds are among our most highly valued natural resources and require regional, national and international conservation programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conserves and manages the 913 native species/ populations of migratory birds, including many raptors, in partnership with others to fulfill international treaty obligations and U.S. trust responsibilities. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is the primary legislation in the United States established to conserve migratory birds.

The act prohibits the taking, killing, or possession of migratory birds unless permitted by the Secretary of the Interior. Authorized take and possession is focused on a limited number of allowable activities such as research, rehabilitation, education, depredation control and other purposes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 National Fish Hatcheries, 64 Fishery Resources Offices and 81 Ecological Services field stations.

The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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