"Fascinating Orliks of the Ukraine"

By K. D. Spurling (Debut Oct'98)

In the Ukrainian region of the ex United Soviet Socialist Republic exists a certain class of flying pigeons that is most interesting.

This particular class of pigeons is native to the Black Sea region of the South Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula and are generally known there by the name of "Tucheresi" or "Tucurez". It said that the first of these birds appeared at the city of Nikolayev (Nicholaev) in the last century and over time have spread into the surrounding regions. This class of pigeons has reach North America, beginning first in Canada as far as 1967; and are often referred to as "Ukrainian Skycutters". However, the term "Ukrainian Skycutter" is not exactly 100% correct and has led to a great amount of misunderstanding. As I understand it, Nikolayev is a city in the South Ukraine and "Tuchereti" will in fact translate to mean "Cloud Cutter" - hence "Ukrainian Skycutter". Unfortunately, a clear conception of the name has never been held on this continent and in fact, three different breeds have been given the generic name of "Ukrainian Skycutter" resulting in a great amount of confusion. These three races are the two Orlik varieties, the Ukrainian Shield Tumblers and a strain of white Nikolajevski. The result has been that because of this generic name, the three have been crossed to a horrible degree. It would be my opinion that at least half of the so called Ukrainian Shields in North America are actually crosses between the two Orlik races and the White Nikolajevski. So for the future, let us rid ourselves of this term "SkyCutter" as a breed; since it refers to a class of similar breeds and let Orliks  be  known  as  Orliks, Nikolajevski as Nikolajevski (or Nikos) and the Shield races (2 races of these) as Shields. This situation would be much worse if other Tuchereti races such as the Kursks, Charkovski Whitetails and others were present in North America. In stead of three races being confused as one. These differing races have in common a relation to one another that is as similar as the Saxon Spots, Saxon Storks and Saxon Shields. The birds are related so closely that they differ very little from one another, but no one in their right mind would call them as one race and maliciously cross them together for no genuine reason.

It is not the purpose of this paper to describe the entire Tuchereti family as space does not permit for this, but instead it is aimed at discussing the two races which are known as Orliks in their native land. Still, much of what applies to the Orlik does apply to the   Nikolajevski   Tuchereti, Nikolajevski Boczaty(Ukrainian Shield), Kurski Tuchereti, Charkovski Whitetails and the others for the general enlightenment.

The Orlik as it is known, could be defined as being the westernmost race of Tuchereti class breeds. This race is indigenous to the grassy plains of East Poland and western White Russia. Undoubtedly, the breed is of a Russian/Ukrainian descent but the breed is regarded as one of the most traditional flying breeds in Poland. All authorities upon Polish breeds claim the breed as Polish in origin, and in fact; the name "Orlik" is the Polish name for a young eagle (eaglet). This name was given by early fanciers who saw in the air, due to the breed's short neck and broad wings and tail; a similarity to a small eagle who rode air thermals to high altitudes. In fact, when the breed first reached the English speaking countries, they were referred to as "Orlik Falcon Tumblers" - even in this country. Well, they are no Falcons and definitely not a Tumbler!

Senor Ralph Buch Brage of Cuba has put forth the belief in his correspondences to Levi that the Orlik was descended from birds brought to the Black Sea region by Spanish sailors in the 18th century. Brage cited the Catalonian Red Whitetails (Roig Coliblancas) as the parent of this class of pigeon in this theory. However, Brage was never aNe to put forth any proof or even supporting evidence to even begin to suggest such a thing. I for one,  cannot understand careful student of Domestic Pigeons could even begin to put forth such a blunderous theory! The fact is, such a theory borders on near insanity.
Having kept and flown both races I am prepared to say it, there are absolutely no similarities between the Tuchereti and Roig Coliblancas other than the color and to my knowledge, throughout the world is found no other class of breeds who exhibit the tell tale signs of family Tucheresi in the air - and definitely not among the Catalonian and its related breeds are a very far cry from ever matching the Tuchereti for endurance or altitude; let alone to display anything near the true flying style. Any sort of connection between the two had to be a product of Brage's own imagination.

In fact, we have a very good idea as to how the Orlik came about. In the Middle East there is a breed known as "Ghirbhaz" (not sure if this spelling is correct having only been told of this breed in conversations with fanciers of Mid Eastern descent). The Ghirbhaz are a small race of tumblers with very large wings, (28 to 30 inch wing spans). These birds are commonly Com. Red and Yellow pigeons; either white tail marked, Bellnecked or splashed. The Ghirbhaz are said to "fly like ravens" in that they ride the air thermals and are capable of standstill flight, the birds on occasion tumbling. It is known that all but a handful of all Slavic races of tumblers were introduced into Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, the Ukraine, etc. with the Turkish dominion. It would be my personal opinion that the Ghirbhaz were introduced to the South Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula by the Turks and from these have sprung the Nikolajevski Tutcheresi and possibly other races which came to be with the Ghirbhaz being bred to the
local tastes. It is interesting to note, that in  portions of Romania are to be found some races who bear some  similarity  to  the Nikolajevski Tutchereti, but they lack the flying style. These birds include the Romanian White Tailed Tumbler   (Porumbel   Codalb Romanesc), the Bucharest Ciung (Ciung de Bucuresti) and also the Romanian Naked Necked Tumbler (Ciung Cheli or "Git Golass"). These birds are strikingly similar in type to the Nikolajevski. The latter is very interesting for a number of reasons. In the first place, some authorities have described a race of Russian Naked Necked Tumbler called "Golsenia" and they cite this as the originator of the Romanian race. The Golsenia is (or was?) somewhat similar to the Nikolajevski so there seems to be some relation there. Even more interesting; many  of  the  Nikolajevski, Nikolajevski Boczaty and Orliks in North America exhibit the signs of being heterozygous for the naked neck factor. Many of the young birds show a tendency of thin plumage and damaged barbules in the back of the neck, but these signs generally disappear after the juvenile moult. In years past, this writer had not only the Romanian Naked Necks, but also a strain of Dom. Red Thailand Fantails with naked necks. These naked necked Thailand's arose from typical Thailand's with normal necks, but on occasions produced a naked necked specimen. All of the heterozygous birds were intermediate for the factor showing "damaged" plumage in the back of the neck, which generally disappeared after the first moult.

        The first aerial standard of the Nikolajevski is said to have been put up at Nikolayev in 1872 and is denoted as "Nikolajevski-Torzovi" according to a chart that shows flying styles put up by Dmitri Geller in the 1980's. It seems  that  the Nikolajevski were gradually introduced into other portions of Western Russia during the 19th Century and bred to meet local tastes while upholding the theme of the flight style. It was in thj way that the Orliks arose, arising Ii the Northwest of the Russian Ukrain and splitting into two sub varieties

The first of these sub varieties is the "Orlik Wilenski", denoting cultivation at Vilnius (Wilno) where after the Bolshevik Revolution was in  the northern portion of the White Russian S.S.R. Today Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania. The Wilenski's easiest identifying mark that it drags its wings beneath the tail.

The other sub variety is "Orik Polski" or "Orlik Lubelski" which denotes the city of Lublin in East Poland. The Lubelski carries the wings upon the tail.

The  breed  occurs  most commonly in Dom. Red and Yellow, but also existent are some Blacki Bronze birds and also Blues wibars. The Black/Bronze birds are of the "Kite" type with a rich red bronze cast over the Black. These are not very common. This writer has never seen a Blue Orlik, but he would like to obtain them! Also sometimes reported are Silvers, Dun/Sulphers and on occasions, Blue Checkers. The Orlik is a Self colored bird with a white tail, and on each side of the tail are two colored retrices as a frame (in the ideal.) This is one area where the Nikolajevs and the Orliks differ. The Orlik is always white tailed with the frame  feathers,  whereas  the Nikolajevski comes in all markings. The White Tailed Nikolajevski are not required to have the frame retrices. However, many Orliks are seen with white in the thumb feathers and also the primaries, as well as elsewhere. These are to be considered as faulted. Considering the 2 X 2 frame retrices as the ideal, the Orlik is not exactly simple to produce for the show room. This writer has seen only a handful of 2 X 2 birds, and unorthodoxly marked tails are far more the rule.

It is in the air where the Orliks and other Tutcheresi show their true mettle, and all birds should be valued primarily upon their flying ability. In the first place, the terms "Tumbler" or "Highflier" are incorrect. "Tumbler" implies that the birds execute backward  (or  even  forward) somersaults - something no Orlik, Nikolajevski or other member of this class should do. The act of tumbling is to be regarded as a severe fault and any birds which show such actions should be destroyed outright upon sight. The term "highflier", while more suitable is not 100% correct. Thomas Hellmann of Germany (pers. com.) has suggested the use of the term "style flier" and for the record, that is the best to date along with the term "Tutcheresi" or "Tucerez" as indeed, the birds are to be evaluated based upon their style of flight and wing action.

Two main variations of flight are recognized amongst this class of breeds:


The "Serpasti" style is thought to be the oldest of the two variations and was known at the latest by the early 19th Century at Nikolayev in the South Ukrain. Of the two flying styles, it is also somewhat less desirable.

The "Serpasti" are those who maintain a more normal (front to back) wing action as seen in other races of high caliber flying pigeons. The wing action is graceful and light in its power and the birds will ride upon air thermals in broad circles, soaring like birds of prey. (Hence the name "Orlik" (small eagle). The "S erpasti" type does not "kit" as could a kit of rollers or Viennas, but tend to soar in broad circles in total disregard to one another as is seen in kettles of Vultures who amass in very large numbers over the top or carrion.

This type of flight seems to be the most often seen amongst this breed, and is of less value than the more developed type as described below.


As already stated, the "Torzovi" type is considered to be of more value that the "Serpasti" type. The Nikolajevski-Torzovi was first standardized at Nikolayev in 1872 and from this has arisen several sub types which are hard to describe.

The basic "Torzovi" is a pigeon of a unique wing action and flight style. Unlike other pigeons, this type has a reversed wing action which is back to front, opposed to the normal front to back. It is my opinion that because of this wing action they are able to somehow manipulate their style of flight. This adverse wing action is even conspicuous to an experienced flying fancier at a very high altitude as one can see the wings flashing rather conspicuously; especially on a sunny day about late morning. One will see these pigeons form loose kits at very low altitudes and then they will come to a complete standstill in mid air, their wings flashing oddly while the birds hang in place. This action is called "Stop" and old experienced fliers may hang in one spot in mid flight for a few minutes on end. It is found that the birds continue to improve with age. These pigeons will then soar upwards without circling like kites to an extreme altitude. Most good highflying breeds require 20 to 30 minutes of flight to reach the edge of invisibility, but the Torzovi can cover this altitude in a matter of only a few minutes time. Kits of older experienced birds have been timed from liberation to invisibility at times of only five minutes, and one team has covered this ground in 4 minutes 46 seconds. These pigeons are capable of such fast ascendants rates primarily due to the fact that their manner of flight is straight up as though they were climbing a ladder, opposed to gradual climbing by flying in circles or zig zagging upwards.

After experience with over 300 breeds, I am prepared to say it; no breed in this world is remotely capable of matching the Tutchereti class for high flying or endurance and 4 am prepared to prove this. In the future, I will accept any reasonable flying challenge from any team of Tipplers, Budapest's,  Viennas,  Swifts, Srebrniaks, Szegedins or others on this continent and for any rate of wager. This is being done for the much needed serious promotion of the flying sports on the North American continent and also to once and for all rid this country of the "bull" that is being slung about by dealers of so called flying pigeons, when in fact; the glowing accounts of these reports are the invention of a few non scrupulous merchants for the sake of hype and the all mighty dollar. Keep in mind, I am definitely not against the active commercialization of breeds of pigeons - But, there are some fanciers in this country charging hundreds of dollars for a pair of so called high caliber flying pigeons and for their money people are receiving garbage in the form of "roof warmers".

Unfortunately, the Tutcheresi are not the easiest pigeons to train to meet their full potential. Some breeds, such as the Budapest Highfliers are natural fliers who require limited amount of work for good results; but others require extra time. The Orliks are stubborn pigeons and if the fancier is not in control of them, the Orliks will be in control of the fancier himself. The breed is best flown in a selected kit of three proven birds and they must be disciplined strictly as to feed, type of feed and where to land after. If one does not put forth the effort, he will not, and should not expect to receive good results. When the birds are at their best, there is nothing that they cannot do. Fanciers in the USA will never come close to matching the 28 hour record put up at Petrograd in NW Russia because there are many environmental barriers that we cannot overcome Particularly, in No. Russia; all flying contests are held during the summer months and especially during the "White Nights" when there is only at best 20 minutes of dusk. With 24 hours of day like light the teams can fly to their utmost physical limit. In this country, we do not have such a thing and even in order to exceed 15 or so hours we must use high power spotlights and leg bells to try to track the kit. The birds can fly in darkness and I generally fly mine at about 3 AM, but without the spotlights and bells they are virtually impossible to track in the darkness. Even at that, no national club permits night time contests even with such devices.

Back To Orliks

Search For: