At-Risk Kids Soar with "Roller Pigeons"

First thing Bobby Wilson tells visitors is please, do not pre-judge his pigeons.

"These are not rats with wings," Wilson said. "That's why I want you guys to see 'em perform."

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports they're called Roller Pigeons - because once airborne, they roll like gymnasts in the Cirque du Poulet.

No one knows why they do it. They just do it. Roller Pigeon buffs like Wilson breed them to roll better and longer. They even have competitions. But that's a story for another day. Today we're focusing on how these birds are getting people to turn over - a new leaf.

"Once you get into these pigeons, man, it can save you," Wilson said. "I think it's better than religion."

Web Extra: Pricey Pigeon

He speaks from experience. He's now a Los Angeles music producer but once he was a gang member. He spent five years in prison and when he got out in 2007, he had two goals in mind - find something that would keep him out of trouble, and do something to make up for his crimes: two goals and one solution.

Bobby's Roller Pigeon Magazine

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"I just love helping kids and with the pigeons I can get through to little young guys like him," Wilson said.

Before Wilson got him into pigeons, young Taisean was in freefall himself -- rolling headlong into the gang lifestyle.

"I was getting close to it, but with the help of Bobby, I avoided it," Taisean said.

Now he's planning on college instead.

How can a pigeon save a kid?

"Once you get in with these pigeons, feeding, watering and seeing to them, it's going to be too late to get into some trouble," Wilson said.

It just may be the most unconventional gang-prevention program in the country. Using donations and the some of the money he makes from selling his pigeon magazine, Wilson provides kids with the food, the pens, even the birds.

Each starter set comes with lessons and lifetime 24 hour assistance.

So far Wilson, now a music producer, has taken about 20 kids under his proverbial wing.

"Twenty kids that would be doing something else," Wilson said.

Wilson really thinks his pigeons have that much potential for change. Of course, what he doesn't realize is that the birds are inconsequential. It could be snakes or stamps and kids would still respond to the real catalyst for change here - a human being who's been there and cares.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.