Thanks, Kurt, for your observations.
I don't have any peregrines where I am, but I've always been tormented by sparrowhawks. This is largely why I gave up with rollers, as they were easy pickings. I couldn't fly them between the end of autumn and well into spring, as they'd be picked off one a day. One of the pleasures of keeping dewlaps is that they've never been targeted by hawks. I think the reason is twofold: first they're flown in smaller groups and, secondly, they're faster and a more direct flying bird. Rollers take off and land like aeroplanes, and the sometimes endless circling on the way up and down means a hawk can get amongst them quite easily.
Anyway, when it comes to any pigeon problems, the finger is often pointed at the feed, especially when birds rise too high. I've had the same finger pointed at me having lost so many dewlaps. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules here, as the advice I was given simply didn't work. A prolific Dutch breeder of dewlaps feeds his solely on milo (red dari). In most pigeon circles, this is considered not a complete food, and it tends to be used for short periods for one reason or another, or as part of a feed mix. Typically, roller flyers will have a 50/50 mix of milo with the better all-round wheat. But this Dutch guy has managed very successfully on just milo, so I gave that a whirl. No joy, as the birds flew low and just wanted to come down after a few minutes.
Next came just wheat, then wheat and milo, but neither made the dewlaps lift to a decent flying height. I eventually settled for a two thirds wheat/one third general mix of peas plus other seeds/grains. This had the desired effect and so I had my dewlaps at a decent height. However, some are suggesting to me that this diet is too rich and this is what might be causing them to lift too high. To that I have to respond that if that were the case they would lift beyond dropper control regularly. As it is, it's only on the odd occasion when they go to high and get lost. I'm reluctant to switch to a 'safer' diet of, say, just wheat, if that means they don't fly and dive as I would wish.
But even if the diet is too rich and sometimes this means the birds fly higher than usual, this brings me to the core of the problem: their homing instinct seems pretty poor, and I hadn't appreciated that. Since I lost the last four a week ago, I've just had a call to say that one of them is available to collect about five miles away. To be truthful, I've also had rollers not come back from that distance, but I rarely had them getting lost so easily on a day-to-day fly.
The bird which took off from the loft could have been attacked by a hawk and high-tailed it out of the area. When I lost five out of six one day, a hawk was flying nearby but showed no interest in them. It seems to me that if they get spooked, they won't just fly a few blocks, but for miles and miles. I'm trying to establish whether the particular strain I'm working with has tendencies which apply to most dewlaps, or whether they're specific to what I have. I know that other guys in the UK have very tame dewlaps, whereas as mine are a very nervy bunch indeed. This applies to the breeders, then everything I breed from them. No amount of fondling as youngsters works!
So, because I'm down to so few birds left, I'm thinking it might be better to start again with a different strain - but only if I'm not going to see the same thing again, simply because it's what Adana dewlaps do.
Something else I should mention. In the UK, a number of guys have taken to dewlaps this past few years. Having flown rollers there is a tendency for them to mob fly them as kits. I never understood this approach because everything I've read has been about two and three bird squadrons. However, as I've found mine to be slow breeders, the most I've ever had in the air has been six at a time. Usually it's four or five. In future, I think I'm going to be stricter and keep it to two or three, mainly because that way if on a particular day they rise up and they're gone, I'm only going to lose two or three and I'll have some in reserve.
The other thing is that because mine typically want to come down after about 8 minutes, I don't see the point in sticking ten, twenty in the air together, then the show's over. I'd prefer to launch them in small bunches and get to see the show more than once. This raises issues as to housing, so that twos and threes can be released and dropped in succession. At the moment I just shove everything out together - or I did when I had some to fly!
I've just read an article on doneks (might have been on this site) where the author stresses the need to keep them from flying too high, as their homing instinct is poor and they seem to be easily lost if droppers aren't put into play when doneks start rising. This is what made me wonder whether the same applies to Adana dewlaps, or whether I just have a strain with issues.
Thanks for listening.