The wooden Papingo bird is ‘perched’ on a pole extended from the top of the Kilwinning Abbey Tower. Archers shoot from the base of the tower, with one foot on the step. Only one archer may shoot at a time, with the shooting order defined at the start of the competition. Only low powered longbows may be used and the arrows must be ‘blunts’.
The competition proceeds until the bird has been properly struck three times, or two hours have passed. The archer gaining the first strike is awarded the main trophy and a green and gold rosette. After the first strike the archers compete for the two wings, for which a red and green rosette is awarded. If the bird has not been struck, and two hours have passed, the competition proceeds until everyone in the current ‘round’ has shot; or the required number of strikes is achieved.
Only arrows that strike the bird on the way up are counted as hits. Descending arrows, and arrows that strike the pole, are not counted.
In the event of bad weather, the competition may be postponed to a later date. If shooting does proceed, then the following rules apply, in accordance with the prevalent weather conditions:
- Shooting in Calm Weather
In calm weather, the ‘solid’ bird is initially seated on the pole’s mounting block. It should not be secured (pinned) and the archer’s arrow must knock the bird off its mounting, for the hit to count.
After the first valid hit, the archers compete for the two wings.
The solid bird is then replaced with one that has removable wings. This bird should be secured (pinned) to the mounting.
The first ‘wing’ is awarded to the archer who hits the bird and dislodges an actual wing. If both wings are dislodged, then the successful archer selects a wing (left or right).
The bird is, once more, securely mounted (pinned) with the selected wing being detached.
The second ‘wing’ is awarded to the archer who dislodges the remaining wing.
- Shooting in Windy Weather
The wind may be strong enough to repeatedly blow the bird off its mounting. In this case, the ‘solid’ bird should be pinned to the mounting, and used for the whole competition (including wings).
As it is impossible to dislodge the bird, confirmation of a hit relies heavily on spotters at the base, and top, of the tower. Arrows must be seen to make a solid strike, and this relies on keen observation of each shot. The final decision is made by the field captain.