Falconry:

Falconry is one of the world's oldest sports. Its roots can be traced back to ancient Persia nearly 4,000 years ago. Falconry has been considered the sport of kings as it was practiced primarily by royalty. The golden age of falconry happened during the middle ages on the isle of Britain, although evidence of the sport can be tracked as far east as China and Japan. Today falconry still exists, but there are a limited number of falconers (about 4,000 in the US). Modern technology has given us better equipment, but the practices and training methods of ancient times are still greatly used.

The sport of "falconry" refers to hunting with trained birds of prey (not just falcons). Although today you see many captive raised birds, traditionally falconry birds were all wild caught. Even today, in order to keep alive the traditions of the sport, an apprentice falconer's bird must be taken from the wild.
The first bird must either be a kestrel or juvenile red tail hawk. Although some people might have moral reservations about taking a bird like this from the wild, it is important to note that, like all predators, birds of prey have an exceedingly high mortality rate. Two thirds of them will not survive their first winter. Birds trapped for falconry have a MUCH higher survival rate. 

It is amazing to me that a wild animal can develop such a close working relationship with humans in such a relatively short amount of time. My first red tail hawk "Dasan" was eating food from my hand within 24 hours of being trapped. 
Within 6 weeks, Dasan was able to be released and free flown. Although he could easily head for the horizon and be gone forever, birds like this learn that they have a much better chance of getting their next meal if a particular person is around. Dasan has also learned that if he watches me closely and follows me through the woods or a field, I might  just kick up a rabbit or squirrel. At that point he can do what he does best, follow his natural hunting instincts.

Conservation and hunting may appear to be polar opposites, but here are a few interesting facts to keep in mind:

  • Hunters, as a group, put more money into conservation projects worldwide than any other group ($10 billion annualy). While many groups like to talk about conservation, no one puts in nearly as much monetary support as hunters. 
  • Much of the wild areas in this country are purchased and set aside by hunters (land that might otherwise become another strip mall).
  • Falconer's in particular are responsible for helping bring back species from near extinction. Both the peregrine falcon and the American bald eagle were taken off the endangered species list as the result of captive breeding and release by falconers.

To be a falconer in the United States you must 
attain both state and federal licensure and 
apprentice under either a general or master
class falconer for a minimum of two years.
 

 


Slow-motion video of Dasan the red-tail hawk flying.



Red tail hawk flying through the woods.


African Martial Eagle (bird of war).


Tawny eagle.


Dasan's first experience in snow.


Dasan sitting in the tree above me waiting to see if I kick up a rabbit.

4th of July
Celebrating the 4th of July.

Hawk and Fox 1
Redtail hawks are not only relentless hunters, they quickly learn that whatever they can catch, you will dispatch.
This incredible relationship made Storm confident enough to catch a full grown fox!

Hawk and Fox 2
After taking a few photos of the epic capture, we were able to release the fox unharmed, save for a newly gained fear of birds.

Cheyenne

Dasan

Crested Eagle
African Crested Eagle.

Horus
This is an egyptian sarcophagus containing the remains of a mummified of a falcon. This amazing artifact is
approximately 2500 years old and belongs in the private collection of a gentleman I met in Tennessee.


Dasan the RedTail Hawk with 
His First Squirrel


 
 


 
 


 
"Dasan" is a red tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis. His name, pronounced "DAH-shan", comes from the Pomo native American tribe in California. The name means "ruler of the bird clan".


This is the squirrel he didnt' mess with.