Bill’s Lofts" are tucked into a narrow courtyard
alongside Lou and Dona Coletta’s handsome home on Garrow Drive
in Antioch, California. The average person would never guess
that behind the cedar fences lining the back yard are four lofts
of racing pigeons. Not just any racing pigeons, but birds that
have made Lou Coletta’s name well known among racing pigeon
enthusiasts due to the extraordinary success of their progeny in
major futurities around the world. At any given time, these
lofts have approximately 60 racers placed in futurities around
the United States and other parts of the world, such as China
and South Africa. Anyone paying attention to the top spots on
the race sheets for these special races has seen Lou Coletta’s
name appear time and time again.
Lou grew up in a close-knit neighborhood in Brooklyn NY, and
became interested in pigeons when he was eight years old. Lou
was encouraged in the early years by a fancier who lived down
the block by the name of Mike Langella who flew under the loft
name, "Sunrise Loft."
Lou flew pigeons in Brooklyn as a young boy until he went into
military service. While he was stationed in Germany, his mother
took care of his birds. One weekend in 1957 Lou and couple of
his buddies decided that they would take a few days leave and
decided to travel to Belgium. Little did Lou realize the impact
that this short trip to Belgium would have on his racing pigeon
career. By a stroke of luck, or divine intervention, Lou and his
buddies stumbled upon a pigeon auction, but not just any pigeon
auction. Lady Luck had brought Lou to the final sale of one of
the world’s most famous lofts, that of Huyskens and Van Riel.
Lou had heard of Huyskens and Van Riel but he had not realized
how fantastic their pigeons were until he found himself in the
thick of a mob of fanciers bidding like crazy on a group of
slick looking dark checker pigeons. It didn’t take Lou long to
figure out that if he wanted to rise to the top when he was able
to resume his racing career, he’d better not pass up this
golden opportunity, so he bought three birds. Only after the
auction was over and he had refused several offers to buy the
birds he had just obtained did he find out that his birds were
direct descendants of the world-famous "Blisken" and
Lou sent the birds to his mother, and when he returned home
began his racing career anew. The progeny of those three birds
founded Lou’s loft. They were easily better than anything he
had ever flown before. In fact, they were so good that Lou
decided that he needed no other bloodlines. They won at short
and fast and long and hard. From those early years, Lou has
progressed with these birds, keeping them extremely inbred, a
practice he continues to this day.
About Jeff Van Riel, Coletta says, " He was a master
breeder. I follow his breeding techniques completely."
Coletta has kept the birds so intensely inbred that an unusual
feature is now showing up after sixty years--a rare bronze
coloration, whose source is a 1938 hen called "The Bronze
Hen." She was given this name, Lou says, by Huyskens and
Van Riel themselves, since it shows up in the pedigrees of some
of his birds.
"When I flew in New York, I earned All American honors and
Combine Hall of Fame awards. I also won lots of races and
futurities, all with this same family of birds. They were as
good as any pigeons on Long Island in those days and they did
all that I asked them to do. I got out of the sport in
1978-1979," Lou says, "and at the time of my final
sale, I gave my dear old friend Mike Langella my two Hall of
"When I came back into pigeon racing 14 years later and
3,000 miles from New York, I immediately tried to get my old
blood back. I got descendants of my Hall of Fame winners from
Mike to restock the loft, and I got birds back from other
friends in the sport who had acquired birds at my final sale,
guys such as Dick Lisicki and Fred Calderone in New Jersey. Fred
had bought my foundation pair, and from them he had bred
‘329’ in 1979. Ralph Leggio had purchased ‘329’ from
Fred Calderone’s final sale. That foundation pair had bred 51
winners, and they’re responsible for hundreds of winners
through their grandchildren. Ralph was good enough to send me
‘329’ and ‘239’ (his daughter) and ‘1770’ (his son).
With those three pigeons, I told my wife Dona in 1993 that
we’d be on top again in two years.
"I had Don Hart breed me six young birds. One of them is my
best foundation hen, ‘Judy Hart.’ Another is my ‘453’
cock, a great pigeon who produced ‘Dream Girl.’ Another was
the mother to my China winner, which was ‘0789’ and was sold
last year. These bloodlines went back to George Shilton’s
‘523,’ a son of ‘Blisken.’ With this handful of birds, I
started inbreeding and re-creating my HVR family.
I’ve only done new introductions in 1996 with ‘Super 73’
blood from Campbell Strange, so that now I basically have two
distinct families. I’ve kept the families intact. I will build
around the ‘73’ bloodlines as a separate entity, and I’ve
done some successful crossings between the Huyskens-Van Riels
and the ‘Super 73s’, but I would not destroy either distinct
family. For race purposes, I’ll send them out as crosses. But
the birds are kept in separate lofts as separate families."
Lou’s preferred breeding method? Brother to sister, father to
daughter, and mother to son. His birds are basically bred for
futurities, especially the 400-mile young bird races, where he
scores extremely high. In old bird races, though, his birds are
doing well on 400’s, 500’s and 600’s, even as yearlings.
"1180" is one of Coletta’s foundation cocks. He came
from Dick Lisicki and when blended with the ‘Judy Hart,’ (Shilton
901-523) blood this pair became one of Lou’s foundation pairs.
"I have a bird that Gayle Renfroe flew well with, a
straight ‘Super 73.’ The mother is ‘6812’—a wonderful
daughter of ‘2778.’ I’ve had a couple of offers for her,
but I doubt I’ll sell her. She has bred a lot of tremendous
pigeons, and there are some excellent breeders down from her.
Johnny Matthews in Louisiana has a son—‘1007’-- that has
bred lots of winners for him crossed with Van Riels and produced
a champion racer in the Texas Center. He won Kenneth Smith’s
one-loft race in Louisiana with one. When Johnny first bought
the birds from me, he won 11 of 11 young bird races and has won
6 or 7 races in 2000. He purchased both families from me, and I
told him how to mate them. He’s happy with them."