Falconry: Wikis


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Flying a Saker Falcon
A Goshawk
A White Gyr

Falconry or hawking is a sport which involves the use of trained raptors (birds of prey) to hunt or pursue game for humans. There are two traditional terms used to describe a person involved in falconry: a falconer flies a falcon; an austringer flies a hawk (Accipiter and some buteonines and similar) or an eagle (Aquila or similar). In modern falconry the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and the Harris hawk are often used. The words "hawking" and "hawker" have become used so much to mean petty traveling traders, that the terms "falconer" and "falconry" now apply to all use of trained birds of prey to catch game.



Three panels depicting Hawking in England from various time periods, as reprinted in Joseph Strutt's 1801 book, The sports and pastimes of the people of England from the earliest period. The middle panel is from a Saxon manuscript dated to late 900s - early 1000s, as of 1801 held in the "Cotton Library", showing a Saxon nobleman and his falconer. The top and bottom panels are drawings from a manuscript held, as of 1801, in the "Royal Library" dating from early 1300s showing parties of both sexes hawking by the waterside; the falconer is frightening the fowl to make them rise and the hawk is in the act of seizing upon one of them.[1]

Some views of falconry state that the art started in Mesopotamia, but some say that it started in the Far East. The earliest evidence comes from around the reign of Sargon II (722-705 BC). Falconry was probably introduced to Europe around AD 400, when the Huns and Alans invaded from the East. Frederick II of Hohenstaufen has been noted as one of the early European noblemen to take an interest in falconry. He is believed to have obtained firsthand knowledge of Arabic falconry during wars in the region (between June 1228–June 1229). He obtained a copy of Moamyn's manual on falconry and had it translated into Latin by Theodore of Antioch. Frederick II himself made corrections to the translation in 1241 resulting in De Scientia Venandi per Aves.[2]

Historically, falconry was a popular sport and status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia; in Japan the sport is called takagari. Eggs and chicks of birds of prey were quite rare and expensive, and because the process of raising and training a hawk or falcon requires a great deal of time, money, and space, it was largely restricted to the noble classes. In Japan, there were even strict restrictions on who could hunt which sorts of animals and where, based on rank within the samurai class. In art and in other aspects of culture such as literature, falconry remained a status symbol long after it was no longer popularly practiced. Eagles and hawks displayed on the wall could represent the noble himself, metaphorically, as noble and fierce. Woodblock prints or paintings of falcons or falconry scenes could be bought by wealthy commoners, and displayed as the next best thing to partaking in the sport, again representing a certain degree of nobility.

A Hobby


  • 722-705 BC - An Assyrian bas-relief found in the ruins at Khorsabad during the excavation of the palace of Sargon II (Sargon II) has been claimed to depict falconry. In fact, it depicts an archer shooting at raptors and an attendant capturing a raptor. A. H. Layard's statement in his 1853 book Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon is "A falconer bearing a hawk on his wrist appeared to be represented in a bas-relief which I saw on my last visit to those ruins."
  • 680 BC - Chinese records describe falconry. E. W. Jameson suggests that evidence of falconry in Japan surfaces.
  • 355 AD - Nihon-shoki, a largely mythical narrative, records hawking first arriving in Japan from Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea during the reign of the 16th emperor Nintoku .
  • 2nd-4th century - the Germanic tribe of the Goths learned falconry from the Sarmatians .
  • 5th century - the son of Avitus, Roman Emperor 455-456, from the Celtic tribe of the Arverni who fought at the Battle of Châlons with the Goths against the Huns introduced falconry in Rome.
  • 500 - a Roman floor mosaic depicts a falconer and his hawk hunting ducks
  • 8th and 9th century and continuing today - Falconry flourished in the Middle East.
  • 818 - The Japanese Emperor Saga ordered someone to edit a falconry text named "Shinshuu Youkyou".
  • 875 - Western Europe and Saxon England practiced falconry widely.
  • 991 - The Battle of Maldon. A poem describing it says that before the battle, the Anglo-Saxons' leader Byrhtnoth "let his loved hawk fly from his hand to the wood".
  • c.1240s - The treatise of an Arab Falconer, Moamyn, was translated into Latin by Master Theodore of Antioch, at the court of Frederick II, it was called De Scientia Venandi per Aves and much copied.
  • 1250 - Frederick II wrote in the last years of his life a treatise on "The Art of Hunting with Birds": De arte venandi cum avibus.
  • 1390s - In his Libro de la caza de las aves, Castilian poet and chronicler Pero López de Ayala attempts to compile all the available correct knowledge concerning falconry.
  • 1486 -See the Boke of Saint Albans
  • early 16th century - Japanese warlord Asakura Norikage (1476–1555) succeeded in captive breeding of goshawks.
  • 1600s - Dutch records of falconry; the Dutch town of Valkenswaard was almost entirely dependent on falconry for its economy.
  • 1660s - Tsar Alexis of Russia writes a treatise which celebrates aesthetic pleasures derived from falconry.
  • 1801 - James Strutt of England writes, "the ladies not only accompanied the gentlemen in pursuit of the diversion [falconry], but often practiced it by themselves; and even excelled the men in knowledge and exercise of the art."
  • 1934 - The first US falconry club, The Peregrine Club, is formed; it died out during World War II
  • 1941 - Falconer's Club of America formed
  • 1961 - Falconer's Club of America defunct
  • 1961 - NAFA formed
  • 1970 - Peregrine Falcon listed as an Endangered Species in the U.S., due primarily to the use of DDT as a pesticide (35 Federal Register 8495; June 2, 1970).
  • 1970 - The Peregrine Fund is founded, mostly by falconers, to conserve raptors, and focusing on Peregrines.
  • 1972 - DDT banned in the U.S. (EPA press release - December 31, 1972) but continues to be used in Mexico and other nations.
  • 1999 - Peregrine falcon removed from the Endangered Species list in the United States, due to reports that at least 1,650 peregrine breeding pairs existed in the U.S. and Canada at that time. (64 Federal Register 46541-558, August 25, 1999)
  • 2003 - A population study by the USFWS shows peregrine falcon numbers climbing ever more rapidly, with well over 3000 pairs in North America
  • 2006 - A population study by the USFWS shows peregrine falcon numbers still climbing. (Federal Register circa September 2006)
  • 2008 - USFWS rewrites falconry regulations virtually eliminating federal involvement. {Federal Register: October 8, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 196)}

The Book of St Albans

A Lady with Peregrine Falcon on horse

The often-quoted Book of St Albans or Boke of St Albans, first printed in 1486, often attributed to Dame Julia Berners, provides this hierarchy of hawks and the social ranks for which each bird was supposedly appropriate. The line numbers are not in the original.

  1. Emperor: The Eagle, Vulture, and Merloun
  2. King: The Ger Falcon and the Tercel of the Ger Falcon
  3. Prince: The Falcon Gentle and the Tercel Gentle
  4. Duke: The Falcon of the Loch
  5. Earl: The Falcon Peregrine
  6. Baron: The Bustard
  7. Knight: The Sacre and the Sacret
  8. Esquire: The Lanere and the Laneret
  9. Lady: The Marlyon
  10. Young Man: The Hobby
  11. Yeoman: The Goshawk
  12. Poor Man: The Tercel
  13. Priest: The Sparrowhawk
  14. Holy Water Clerk: The Musket
  15. Knave or Servant: The Kestrel

This list, however, was mistaken in several respects.

  • 1) Vultures are not used for falconry.
  • 3) 4) 5) These are usually said to be different names for the Peregrine Falcon. But there is an opinion that renders 4) as "rock falcon" = a peregrine from remote rocky areas, which would be bigger and stronger than other peregrines. This could also refer to the Scottish Peregrine.
  • 6) The bustard is not a bird of prey, but a game species that was commonly hunted by falconers; this entry may have been a mistake for buzzard, or for busard which is French for "harrier"; but any of these would be a poor deal for barons; some treat this entry as "bastard hawk", possibly meaning a hawk of unknown lineage, or a hawk that couldn't be identified.
  • 7) 8) Sakers were imported from abroad and very expensive, and ordinary knights and squires would be unlikely to have them. There are contemporary records of lanners native to England.
  • 10) 15) Hobbies and kestrels are historically considered to be of little use for serious falconry. (The French name for the Hobby is faucon hobereau, hobereau meaning local/country squire. That may be the source of the confusion.), however King Edward I of England sent a falconer to catch hobbies for his use. Kestrels are coming into their own as worthy hunting birds, as modern falconers dedicate more time to their specific style of hunting. While not suitable for catching game for the falconer's table, kestrels are certainly capable of catching enough quarry that they can be fed on surplus kills through the molt.
  • 12) There is an opinion [3] that, since the previous entry is the goshawk, this entry ("Ther is a Tercell. And that is for the powere [= poor] man.") means a male goshawk and that here "poor man" means not a labourer or beggar but someone at the bottom end of the scale of landowners.

It can be seen that the relevance of the "Boke" to practical falconry past or present is extremely tenuous, and veteran British falconer Phillip Glasier dismissed it as "merely a formalised and rather fanciful listing of birds".


There are several categories of raptor that could possibly be used in falconry. They are also classed by falconers as:

Osprey (Pandion)

The Osprey is a medium-large bird with a worldwide distribution that specializes in eating fish. Generally speaking, it does not lend itself to falconry. However, the possibility of using a falcon to catch fish remains intriguing. (Some references to "ospreys" in old records mean a mechanical fish-catching device and not the bird.)

Sea eagles (Haliaëtus)

Most species of genus Haliaëtus catch and eat fish, some almost exclusively. However, in countries where they are not protected, some have been effectively used in hunting for ground quarry.

True eagles (Aquila)

Eagle huntsman in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

The Aquila genus has a nearly worldwide distribution. The more powerful types are used in falconry; for example Golden Eagles have reportedly been used to hunt wolves [4] in Kazakhstan, and are now used by the Kazakh eagle hunters to hunt foxes and other large prey, as they are in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.[5] Most are primarily ground-oriented but will occasionally take birds. Eagles are not used as widely in falconry as other birds of prey, due to the lack of versatility in the larger species (they primarily hunt over large open ground), the greater potential danger to other people if hunted in a widely populated area, and the difficulty of training and managing an eagle.

Buzzards (Buteo)

The genus Buteo, known as hawks in North America and not to be confused with vultures, has worldwide distribution but is particularly well represented in North America. The Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, and rarely, the Red-shouldered Hawk are all examples of species from this genus that are used in falconry today. The Red-tailed Hawk is hardy and versatile, taking rabbits, hares, and squirrels; given the right conditions it can catch geese, ducks, pheasants, and even wild turkeys. The Red-Tailed Hawk is also considered a good bird for beginners. The Eurasian or Common Buzzard is also used, although this species requires more perseverance if rabbits are to be hunted.

Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo)

Falconer with Harris's Hawk

Parabuteo unicinctus is the sole representative of this genus worldwide. Arguably the best rabbit or hare raptor available anywhere, the Harris' Hawk is also adept at catching birds. Often captive-bred, the Harris's Hawk is remarkably popular because of its temperament and ability. They are gregarious birds, one of the few semi-social raptors. Harris Hawks can hunt in groups, a behavior that is a trademark in the wild. This genus is native to the Americas from southern Texas and Arizona to northern South America.

True hawks (Accipiter)

The genus Accipiter is also found worldwide. The hawk expert Mike McDermott once said, "The attack of the accipiters is extremely swift, rapid and violent in every way." They are well known in falconry use both in Europe and North America. The goshawk has been trained for falconry for hundreds of years, taking a variety of birds and mammals.

Falcons (Falco)

The genus Falco is found worldwide. Much falconry is concerned with species of this group of birds. Most falcons are oriented towards birds as prey, the Peregrine Falcon almost exclusively so.

Owls (Strigidae)

Owls are not closely related to hawks or falcons. There is little written in classic falconry that discusses the use of Owls in falconry. However, there are at least two species that have successfully been used, the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Great Horned Owl. Successful training of owls is much different from the training of hawks and falcons, as they are hearing- rather than sight-oriented (owls can only see black and white, and are long-sighted). This often leads falconers to believe that they are less intelligent, as they are distracted easily by new or unnatural noises and they don't respond as readily to food cues. However, if trained successfully, owls show intelligence on the same level as that of hawks and falcons.

Training and technique

See hack (falconry) and Falconry (training)

Falconry around the world

Falconry is currently practiced in many countries around the world.

Tangent aspects, such as bird abatement and raptor rehabilitation also employ falconry techniques to accomplish their goals, but are not falconry in the proper sense of the word.

Current practices in the USA

U.S. regulations

In the United States, falconry is legal in all states except Hawaii and the District of Columbia. A falconer must have state and federal licenses to practice the sport. Acquiring a falconry license in the US requires an aspiring falconer to pass a written test, have equipment and facilities inspected, and serve a minimum of two years as an apprentice under a licensed falconer. There are three classes of the falconry license, which is a permit issued jointly by the falconer's state of residence and the federal government. The aforementioned Apprentice license matriculates to a General Class license, which allows the falconer to possess no more than two raptors at a time. After a minimum of 5 years at General level, falconers may apply for a Master Class license, which allows them to keep 3 raptors for falconry. Within the U.S., a state's regulations may be more, but not less, restrictive than the federal guidelines. Both state and federal regulations (as well as state hunting laws) must be complied with by the falconer.

Owing to the Migratory Bird Treaty, an international agreement between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) was passed into law, to codify and provide domestic law to support that international treaty. Under the Act, no one may possess, kill, or harass any bird appearing on the Migratory Bird list without specific license to do so. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the individual states both claim ownership of raptors which appear on the Migratory Bird list. They extend their claim of ownership to include captive-bred raptors (which may legally be bought, sold, traded or bartered by licensed individuals and companies.)

The Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) also has a say in matters pertaining to the import and export of certain animals. CITES assigns plants and animals to a certain Appendix, and imposes standards amongst the member nations (over 160 at this time).

A 2007 interpretation by the USFWS suggests that Commercial (as pertains to the transfer and breeding of raptors) be defined as any time anyone receives any benefit of any kind. That being the case, even groups like the Peregrine Fund could lose their scientific breeding position, since their projects gain donations and prestige. A member of a CITES approved scientific breeding coop might also be considered Commercial even if there is no profit, by this definition, as he is receiving the bird itself.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA), legislation put into effect circa 1993, prohibits importation of any CITES-listed birds into the United States. The only CITES-listed birds that may be imported for commercial purposes are those which are both captive-bred in the country of origin and on a special appendix. The only raptor so listed is the European common buzzard. This then effectively prohibits importation of all eagles, falcons, hawks, owls and most vultures.

Clubs and organisations

  • The North American Falconers Exchange- Falconry Forum. NAFEX.net is the premier falconry forum in North America. It is the only forum dedicated primarily to North American falconers. NAFEX's goal is to ensure the spread of information in a proactive manner, all the while bringing falconers together.

NAFA is the primary club in the United States and has a membership from around the world. NAFEX is the primary falconry forum for the United States and North America.

Most USA states have their own falconry clubs. Although these clubs are primarily social, they also serve to represent falconers within the state in regards to that state's wildlife regulations.

Raptor conservation

Among North American raptors, some of the most popular birds used in falconry are the Red-tailed hawk, the Peregrine Falcon, the Prairie Falcon, the Goshawk, and the Harris's Hawk. Artificial insemination techniques have allowed captive breeding projects to produce hybrids, such as Gyr/Peregrine or Gyr/Saker. This is usually done to combine the speed of one species (the Peregrine) with the size and raw strength of another (the Gyrfalcon). Such hybrids have become popular among falconers worldwide.

Until recently, nearly all Peregrines used for falconry in the U.S. were captive-bred from the progeny of falcons taken before the U. S. Endangered Species Act was enacted and from those few infusions of wild genes available from Canada and special circumstances. Peregrine Falcons were removed from the United States' endangered species list in 1999 due largely to the effort and knowledge of falconers through a technique called hacking.[citation needed] Finally, after years of close work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a limited take of wild Peregrines was allowed in 2004, the first wild Peregrines taken specifically for falconry in over 30 years.

An Environmental Impact report prepared by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service's Brian Milsap and George Allen is expected to be officially released during 2006. This report confirms that falconry has no measurable impact on wild populations.

Current practices in Great Britain

In sharp contrast to the US, falconry in Great Britain is permitted without a special license. However, a restriction exists of using only captive-bred birds. In the lengthy, record-breaking debates in Westminster during the passage of the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Bill, efforts were made by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other lobby groups to have falconry outlawed, but these were successfully resisted. After a centuries-old but informal existence in Britain, the sport of falconry was finally given formal legal status in Great Britain by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which allowed it to continue provided all captive raptors native to the UK were officially ringed and government-registered. DNA-testing was also available to verify birds' origins. Since 1982 the British government's licensing requirements have been overseen by the Chief Wildlife Act Inspector for Great Britain, who is assisted by a panel of unpaid assistant inspectors.

British falconers are entirely reliant upon captive-bred birds for their sport. The taking of raptors from the wild for falconry, although permitted by law under government licence, has not been allowed in recent decades.

Anyone is permitted to possess legally registered or captive-bred raptors, although falconers are anxious to point out that this is not synonymous with falconry, which specifically entails the hunting of live quarry with a trained bird. A raptor kept merely as a pet or possession, although the law may allow it, is not considered to be a falconer's bird. Birds may be used for breeding or kept after their hunting days are over, but falconers believe it is preferable that young, fit birds are flown at quarry.

Species used

The falconer's traditional choice of bird is the Goshawk and Peregrine Falcon. In ancient times, a person's rank could be told by the hawk he or she carried on the fist. Bird species usage in western Europe tended to follow a pattern which the Book of St.Albans is an over-specified rendering of, but far from strictly, and people often used whatever species they could get hold of.

As regards numbers of participants and quantity of quarry bagged, most practical falconry nowadays in Britain is done with the Harris's Hawk, and to a lesser extent with the Red-tailed Hawk (both native to North America).

Goshawks are excellent hunters, and were once called the "cook's hawk"; but they can be willful, unpredictable and sometimes hysterical. Rabbits are bolted from their warrens with ferrets, or approached as they lie out. The acceleration of a short-wing from a stand-still, especially the Goshawk, is astonishing and a rabbit surprised at any distance from its burrow has little hope of escape. Short-wings will dive after their quarry into cover, where the tinkling of their bells is vital for locating the bird. In many cases, modern falconers use radio telemetry to track their birds. Game birds in season and a wide range of other quarry can be taken.

A Peregrine falcon with its lure

Sparrowhawks were formerly used to take a range of small birds, but are really too delicate for serious falconry and have fallen out of favour now that American species are available.

Long-winged falcons usually fly only after birds. Classical game hawking saw a brace of peregrine falcons flown against grouse, or merlins in "ringing" flights after skylarks. Rooks and crows are classic game for the larger falcons, and the magpie, making up in cunning what it lacks in flying ability, is another common target. Short-wings can be flown in wooded country, but falcons need large open tracts where the falconer can follow the flight with ease. Medieval falconers often rode horses but this is now rare.

Captive breeding

Although it was formerly believed that raptors would not breed in captivity, events during the 1960s proved that it was possible. In western Ireland, veteran falconer Ronald Stevens and the Hon. John Morris put a male saker and a female peregrine into the same moulting mews for the spring and early summer, and were astonished to find that the two mated and produced viable hybrid offspring. The captive breeding challenge was quickly taken up in Great Britain by Phillip Glasier at his Falconry Centre in Newent, Gloucestershire, and he was successful in obtaining young from more than 20 species of captive raptors. He shared his findings and methodologies with Tom Cade of the USA, who had the funding necessary to develop an extensive raptor breeding program. By the mid-1980s, it could be said that falconers had become self-sufficient as regards sources of birds to train and fly, in addition to the immensely important conservation benefits conferred by captive breeding.

Many British and US falconers feel aggrieved that their efforts and successes in the captive breeding of raptors since the 1960s have been given scant recognition by the world's principal bird conservation organisations, many of which are publicly or tacitly opposed to falconry. Jemima Parry-Jones of the International Centre for Birds of Prey, UK, and Dr. Nick Fox, Director of International Wildlife Consultants (UK) Ltd. of Wales both began their internationally acclaimed involvement with raptor breeding and conservation via many years experience as practising falconers.

Falconry elsewhere

A Saker Falcon used for falconry in Qatar

Most of Europe practices falconry, but under differing degrees of regulation.

The falcon is also used for hunting in Arabia, and is an important part of the Arab heritage and culture. The UAE reportedly spends over 27 million dollars annually towards the protection and conservation of wild falcons, and has set up several state-of-the-art falcon hospitals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.[6] There are two breeding farms in the Emirates, as well as those in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Every year, falcon beauty contests and demonstrations take place at the ADIHEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia, the golden eagle is used, hunting game as large as foxes and wolves.[7]

South Korea allows a tiny number of people (a national total of 4 in 2005) to own raptors and practice falconry as a cultural asset.[citation needed]

Japan continues to honor its strong historical links with falconry (Takagari) while adopting some modern techniques and technologies.

In Australia, although falconry is not specifically illegal, it is illegal to keep any type of bird of prey in captivity without the appropriate permits. The only exemption is when the birds are kept for purposes of rehabilitation (for which a licence must still be held), and in such circumstances it may be possible for a competent falconer to teach a bird to hunt and kill wild quarry, as part of its regime of rehabilitation to good health and a fit state to be released into the wild.

South Africa has about 180 active falconers.[8]

Feral falconry birds

Falconers' birds are inevitably lost on occasion, though most are found again. Records of species becoming established in Britain after escaping or being released include:

  • Escaped Harris hawks reportedly breed in the wild in Britain.
  • The return of the Goshawk as a breeding bird to Britain since 1945 is due in large part to falconers' escapes: the earlier British population was wiped out by gamekeepers and egg collectors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • A pair of European Eagle Owls bred in the wild in Yorkshire for several years, feeding largely or entirely on rabbits. The pair are most likely captive escapees. It is not yet known if this will lead to a population becoming established.

After some raptors were wiped out by gamekeepers, shooters, egg collectors, and the effects of environmental toxins such as PCBs and DDT, the numbers of most British species have recovered remarkably well in recent times. The Red Kite, the Goshawk and the White Tailed Sea Eagle have all returned as breeding birds, the peregrine population has risen to around 900 breeding pairs, and the techniques perfected in breeding birds of prey for falconry have abundantly proved their worth.

Species to start with

A few years ago, most people believed the best beginner's bird was the kestrel, however, because of the weight of this bird (6-7 ounces), it is easy to kill the bird while trying to find its correct flying weight (the weight that it flies best at). Because of this, the most common bird of choice for a beginner is either Harris's Hawk or the more demanding Red-tailed Hawk. Others think that as the Harris's Hawk is the only social raptor, it is not a good education in how to deal with the alien mindset of a non-social animal [2]. This leaves people in the UK following suit with the Americans, who most often use the Red-tailed Hawk for their introductory bird. Amongst the attractions are the beauty of these birds, the ease of breeding them in captivity, and that they can be used to take quarry and can easily satisfy a falconer's demand for a capable bird in themselves. The Lanner falcon can make a good first long-wing, with a Peregrine, or a hybrid containing Peregrine or Gyr genes often being the next step up.

Falconry today

Falcons can live into their mid teens, with larger hawks living longer and eagles likely to see out middle-aged owners. Through the captive breeding of rescued birds, the last 30 years have seen a great rebirth of the sport, with a host of innovations; falconry's popularity, through lure flying displays at country houses and game fairs, has probably never been higher in the past 300 years. Ornithologist Tim Gallagher, editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird magazine, documented his experiences with modern falconry in a 2008 book, Falcon Fever[9].

Making use of the natural relationship between raptors and their prey, today, falconry is used to control pest birds and animals in urban areas, landfills, commercial buildings, and airports. Falconer Dan Frankian of Hawkeye Bird and Animal Control frequently speaks on the subject to news crews while his hawks and falcons are flying over Toronto City Hall, in an effort to control the city's gull and pigeon population.

Falconry Centres or Birds of Prey Centres house these raptors. They are responsible for many aspects of Bird of Prey Conservation (through keeping the birds for education and breeding). Many conduct regular flying demonstrations and educational talks, and are popular with visitors worldwide.

Such centres may also provide Falconry Courses, Hawk Walks, Displays and other experiences with these raptors - see links at bottom of page for details.

Hybrid falcons

Falcons are more closely related than many suspected, the heavy northern Gyrfalcon and Asiatic Saker being especially closely related, so that they may interbreed naturally to create the so called "Altay" (or Altai Saker) falcon.

Artificial hybrid falcons have been available since the late 1970s, and enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in the UK in the 1990s. Originally "created" to remove suspicions of having nest-robbed wild peregrines (by demonstrating without doubt that they were captive-bred), hybrids have assumed an important but controversial role in falconry worldwide. Some combinations appear to lend themselves to certain styles of flight, for example:

  • The gyr/peregrine is well-suited to game-hawking.
  • The peregrine/lanner has proved useful in keeping birds off airport runways to prevent birdstrikes: peregrines fly too and lanners not far enough for this job.

But hybrid falcons are not the panacea that some breeders would have customers believe. Many proponents of hybrids often cite "hybrid vigour" as the reason that these birds seem to do so well, despite the fact that crossing two non-inbred lines is more likely to lead to outbreeding depression (i.e., a negative effect), and could never prompt hybrid vigour, a phenomenon that boosts genetic integrity and heterogeneity in lines that have been too heavily inbred by judicious selection[citation needed].

Artificial selection

Some believe that no species of raptor have been in captivity long enough to have undergone successful selective breeding for desired traits. Captive breeding of raptors over several generations tends to result, either deliberately, or inevitably as a result of captivity, in selection for certain traits, including:

  • Ability to survive in captivity.
  • Ability to breed in captivity.
  • (In most cases) suitability for interactions with humans for falconry. Birds which demonstrated an unwillingness to hunt with men were most often discarded, rather than being placed in breeding projects.
  • With gyrfalcons in areas away from their natural Arctic tundra habitat, better disease resistance.
  • With gyrfalcons, feather color [3].

Literature and films

  • In the ninth novel of the fifth day of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, a medieval collection of novellas, a falcon is central to the plot: The nobleman Federigo degli Alberighi has wasted his fortune courting his unrequited love until nothing is left but his brave falcon. When his lady come to see him he gives her the falcon to eat. Knowing his case she changes her mind, takes him to husband and makes him rich.
  • In Virginia Henley's historical romance books, "The Falcon and the Flower", "The Dragon and the Jewel", "The Marriage Prize", "The Border Hostage" and "Infamous", there are numerous mentions to the art of falconry, as these books are set at dates ranging from the 1150s to the 1500s.
  • The children's novel A Kestrel for a Knave was made into the film Kes.
  • T.H. White was a falconer, as evidenced in some of his writing, including The Goshawk.
  • The main character, Sam Gribley, in the children's novel "My Side of the Mountain" is a falconer. His trained falcon is named Frightful.
  • In the book and movie The Falcon and the Snowman about two Americans who sold secrets to the Soviets, one of the two main characters, Christopher Boyce, is a falconer.
  • In The Royal Tenenbaums, Richie keeps a falcon named Mordecai on the roof of his home in Manhattan.
  • In James Clavell's Shogun, Toranaga, one of the main characters, practices falconry throughout the book, often during or immediately before or after important plot events. His thoughts also reveal analogy between his falconry and his use of other characters towards his ends.
  • The 1985 film Ladyhawke involved a medieval warrior who carried a red tail hawk as a pet, but in truth, the hawk was actually his lover who had been cursed by an evil bishop to keep the two apart.
  • In The Dark Tower series, the main character, Roland, uses a hawk named David, to win a trial by combat in order to become a Gunslinger.
  • "The Falconer" is a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live, featuring Will Forte as a falconer who constantly finds himself in mortal peril and must rely on his loyal falcon, Donald, to rescue him.
  • Gabriel García Márquez's novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold's main character, Santiago Nasar, and his father are falconers.
  • Hodgesaargh is a falconer based in Lancre Castle in Terry Pratchetts Discworld book. He is an expert and dedicated falconer who unluckily seems to only keep birds that enjoy attacking him.
  • Fantasy author Mercedes Lackey is a falconer and often adds birds of prey to her novels. Among the Tayledras or Hawkbrother race in her Chronicles of Valdemar, everyone bonds with a specially bred raptor called a bondbird which has limited powers of speech mind-to-mind and can scout and hunt for its human bondmate.
  • 2006 film The Hawk Is Dying stars Paul Giamatti as a timid character fascinated with the art of falconry as the main protagonist in a story set in Gainesville, Florida. Although the film provides understanding of someone's passion for a pastime, it closely resembles T.H. White's The Goshawk in its emphasis on neophyte errors more than a genuine attempt at the craft.
  • Crime novelist Andy Straka is a falconer and his Frank Pavlicek private eye series features a former NYPD homicide detective and falconer as protagonist. The books include A Witness Above, A Killing Sky, Cold Quarry (2001, 2002, 2003), and Kitty Hitter (2009).
  • In Irish Poet William Butler Yeats's poem, "The Second Coming", Yeats uses the image of, "The falcon cannot hear the falconer" as a metaphor for social disintegration.
  • In episode 20 of the second season of the television sitcom "The Big Bang Theory", Wolowitz says that you cannot tell a falcon when to hunt (referring to himself as the falcon and women in the bar as prey). Leonard responds with, "Yes you can. It's called falconry!"

See also


  1. ^ Strutt, Joseph (1801). J. Charles Cox. ed. The sports and pastimes of the people of England from the earliest period. Methuen & co.. p. 24. http://books.google.com/books?id=eJwSAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA24. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  2. ^ Egerton, F. 2003. A History of the Ecological Sciences, Part 8: Fredrick II of Hohenstaufen: Amateur Avian Ecologist and Behaviorist. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. 84(1):40–44. [1]
  3. ^ page 11, issue #36, Austringer periodical, published by The Welsh Hawking Club
  4. ^ The last Wolf Hawker: The Eagle Falconry of Friedrich Remmler by Martin Hollinshead, The Fernhill Press 2006
  5. ^ Kyrgyzstan by Rowan Stewart, p182, Odyssey 2002
  6. ^ http://uaeinteract.com/news/default.asp?ID=72
  7. ^ http://www.avmv20.dsl.pipex.com/Photo%20Album/Kyrgyzstan/Ishpays%20eagle.htm
  8. ^ "Recent History of Falconry in Southern Africa.". South African Falconry Association. http://www.safalconry.org.za/history.html. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  9. ^ At the moment there are about 5,000 falconers around the United states. "WildBird on the Fly: Tim Gallagher's got "Falcon Fever"". wildbirdonthefly.blogspot.com. http://wildbirdonthefly.blogspot.com/2008/05/tim-gallaghers-got-falcon-fever.html. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 

Further reading

  • Modern Apprentice: Site for North Americans interested in falconry by Lydia Ash. (Much information for this entry was due to her research)
  • Beatriz E. Candil García, Arjen E.Hartman, Ars Accipitraria: An Essential Dictionary for the Practice of Falconry and hawking"; Yarak Publishing, London, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9555607-0-5 (The excerpt on the language of falconry comes from this book)
  • Beatriz E. Candil García, The Red-tailed Hawk: The Great Unknown Yarak London, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9555607-4-3
  • F.L. Beebe, H.M. Webster, North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks; 8th edition, 2000, ISBN 0-685-66290-X,

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FALCONRY (Fr. fauconnerie, from Late Lat. falco, falcon), the art of employing falcons and hawks in the chase, often termed Hawking. Falconry was for many ages one of the principal sports of the richer classes, and, since many more efficacious methods and appliances for the capture of game undoubtedly existed, it is probable that it has always been carried on as a pure sport. The antiquity of falconry is very great. There appears to be little doubt that it was practised in Asia at a very remote period, for which we have the concurrent testimony of various Chinese and Japanese works, some of the latter being most quaintly and yet spiritedly illustrated. It appears to have been known in China some 2000 years B.C., and the records, of a king Wen Wang, who reigned over a province of that country 689 B.C., prove that the art was at that time in very high favour. In Japan it appears to have been known at least 600 years B.C., and probably at an equally early date in India, Arabia, Persia and Syria. Sir A. H. Layard, in his Nineveh and Babylon, considered that in a bas-relief found by him in the ruins of Khorsabad " there appeared to be a falconer bearing a hawk ,on his wrist," from which it would appear to have been known there some 1700 years B.C. In all the above-mentioned countries of Asia it is practised at the present day.

Little is known of the early history of falconry in Africa, but from very ancient Egyptian carvings and drawings it seems to have been known there many ages ago. It was probably also in vogue in the countries of Morocco, Oran, Algiers, Tunis and Egypt, at the same time as in Europe. The older writers on falconry, English and continental, often mention Barbary and Tunisian falcons. It is still practised in Egypt.

Perhaps the oldest records of falconry in Europe are supplied by the writings of Pliny, Aristotle and Martial. Although their notices of the sport are slight and somewhat vague, yet they are quite sufficient to show clearly that it was practised in their days - between the years 384 B.C. and A.D. 40. It was probably introduced into England from the continent about A.D. 860, and from that time down to the middle of the 17th century falconry was followed with an ardour that perhaps no English sport has ever called forth, not even fox-hunting. Stringent laws and enactments, notably in the reigns of William the Conqueror, Edward III., Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, were passed from time to time in its interest. Falcons and hawks were allotted to degrees and orders of men according to rank and station - for instance, to the emperor the eagle and vulture, to royalty the jerfalcons, to an earl the peregrine, to a yeoman the goshawk, to a priest the sparrow-hawk, and to a knave or servant the useless kestrel. The writings of Shakespeare furnish ample testimony to the high and universal estimation in which it was held in his days. About the middle of the 17th century falconry began to decline in England, to revive somewhat at the Restoration. It never, however, completely recovered its former favour, a variety of causes operating against it, such as enclosure of waste lands, agricultural improvements, and the introduction, of fire-arms into the sporting field, till it fell, as a national sport, almost into oblivion. Yet it has never been even temporarily extinct, and it is successfully practised even at the present day.

In Europe the game or " quarry " at which hawks are flown consists of grouse (confined to the British Isles), black-game, pheasants, partridges, quails, landrails, ducks, teal, woodcocks, snipes, herons, rooks, crows, gulls, magpies, jays, blackbirds, thrushes, larks, hares and rabbits. In former days geese, cranes, kites, ravens and bustards were also flown at. Old German works make much mention of the use of the Iceland falcon for taking the great bustard, a flight scarcely alluded to by English writers. In Asia the list of quarry is longer, and, in addition to all the foregoing, or their Asiatic representatives, various kinds of bustards, sand grouse, storks, ibises, spoonbills, pea-fowl, jungle-fowl, kites, vultures and gazelles are captured by trained hawks. In Mongolia and Chinese Tartary, and among the nomad tribes of central Asia, the sport still flourishes; and though some late accounts are not satisfactory either to the falconer or the naturalist, yet they leave no doubt that a species of eagle is still trained in those regions to take large game, as antelopes and wolves. Mr Atkinson, in his account of his travels in the country of the Amur, makes particular mention of the sport, as does also Mr Shaw in his work on Yarkand; and in a letter from the Yarkand embassy, under Mr Forsyth, C.B., dated Camp near Yarkand, Nov. 27, 1873, the following passage occurs:- " Hawking appears also to be a favourite amusement, the golden eagle taking the place of the falcon or hawk. This novel sport seemed very successful." It is questionable whether the bird here spoken of is the golden eagle. In Africa gazelles are taken, and also partridges and wildfowl.

The hawks used in England are the three great northern falcons, viz. the Greenland, Iceland and Norway falcons, the peregrine falcon, the hobby, the merlin, the goshawk and the sparrow-hawk. In former days the saker, the lanner and the Barbary or Tunisian falcon were also employed. (See Falcon.) Of the foregoing the easiest to keep, most efficient in the field, and most suitable for general use are the peregrine falcon and the goshawk.

In all hawks, the female is larger and more powerful than the male.

Hawks are divided by falconers all over the world into two great classes. The first class comprises " falcons," i.e. " longwinged hawks," or " hawks of the lure," distinguished by Eastern falconers as " dark-eyed hawks." In these the wings are pointed, the second feather in the wing is the longest, and the iris is of a deep, dark-brown hue. Merlins must, however, be excepted; and here it would seem that the Eastern distinction is the better, for though merlins are much more falcons than they are hawks, they differ from falcons in having the third feather in the wing the longest, while they are certainly " dark-eyed hawks." The second class is that of " hawks," i.e. " short-winged hawks," or " hawks of the fist," called by Eastern falconers " yellow (or rose) eyed hawks." In these the wings are rounded, the fourth feather is the longest in the wing, and the iris is yellow, orange or deep-orange.

The following glossary of the principal terms used in falconry may assist the reader in perusing this notice of the practice of the art. Useless or obsolete terms are omitted: Austringan. - A falconer.

Table of contents


A hawk is said to " bate " when she flutters off from the fist, perch or block, whether from wildness, or for exercise, or in the attempt to chase.


Straps of leather by which the bells are fastened to a hawk's legs.


A hawk is said to " bind " when she seizes a bird in the air and clings to it.


The conical piece of wood, of the form of an inverted flowerpot, used for hawks to sit upon; for a peregrine it should be about io to 12 in. high, 5 to 6 in diameter at top, and 8 to 9 in diameter at base.


A thong of soft leather used to secure, when desirable, the wing of a hawk. It has a slit to admit the pinion joint, and the ends are tied together.


The wooden frame on which hawks, when numerous, are carried to the field.


The person who carries the cadge.

Calling off. - Luring a hawk (see Lure) from the hand of an assistant.


A hawk is said to " carry " when she flies away with the quarry on the approach of the falconer.


Two hawks which may be used for flying together are called a " cast," not necessarily a pair.


The oblong or egg-shaped ball, consisting of feathers, bones, &c., which all hawks (and insectivorous birds) throw up after the nutritious part of their food has been digested. Also the fur or feathers' given them to assist the process.


The naked wax-like skin above the beak.


A hawk is said to fly at " check " when she flies at a bird other than the intended object of pursuit.


Taking the quarry in the feet as the short-winged hawks do. Falcons occasionally " clutch." Come to. - A hawk is said to " come to " when she begins to get tame.


Cutting the beak or talons of a hawk.


To fight.


A long line or string.

Crop, to put away. - A hawk is said to " put away her crop " when the food passes out of the crop into the stomach.

Deck feathers

The two centre tail-feathers.


A hawk which has been brought up from the nest (nyas, from Fr. niais). Eyry. - The nest of a hawk.


A hawk is said to " foot " well or to be a " good footer " when she is successful in killing. Many hawks are very fine fliers without being " good footers." Frounce. - A disease in the mouth and throat of hawks.

Get in

To go up to a hawk when she has killed her quarry. Hack. - The state of partial liberty in which young hawks must always at first be kept.


A wild-caught hawk in the adult plumage.


(See fig.) Hoodshy. - A hawk is said to be " hoodshy " when she is afraid of, or resists, having her hood put on.

Hunger trace

A mark, and a defect, in the tail feathers, denoting a weak point; generally due to temporary starvation as a nestling.


The process of mending broken feathers is called" imping." (See fig.) Imping needle. - A piece of tough soft iron wire from about i z to 22 in. long, rough filed so as to be three-sided and tapering from the middle to the ends. (See fig.) Intermewed. - A hawk moulted in confinement is said to be " intermewed." Jack. - Mate of the merlin.


Mate of the jerfalcon.


Strips of light but very tough leather, some 6 to 8 in. long, which always remain on a hawk's legs - one on each leg. (See fig.) Jonk. - To sleep.


A strong leathern thong, some 22 or 3 ft. long, with a knot or button at one end, used to secure a hawk. (See fig.) Lure. - The instrument used for calling long-winged hawks - a dead pigeon, or an artificial lure made of leather and feathers or wings of birds, tied to a string, with meat attached to it.


The breast feathers.

Make hawk

A hawk is called a " make hawk " when, as a thoroughly trained and steady hawk, she is flown with young. ones to teach them their work.

Man a hawk

To tame a hawk and accustom her to strangers.

I. Hood. Implements used in Falconry.

the upper ring of swivel is, attached.

2. Back view of hood, showing Hawk's leg with bell a, bewit braces a, a, b, b; by drawing 6. b, jess c. the braces b, b, the hood, Jesses, swivel and leash.

now open, is closed. 7. Portion of first wing-feather 3. Rufter hood. 8. of male peregrine falcon,.

4. Imping-needle. " tiercel," half natural size,.

5. Jess; d is the space for the in process of imping; a, hawk's leg; the point and the living hawk's feather; slit a, a are brought round b, piece supplied from an the leg, and passed through other tiercel, with the imp slit jb, after which the point ing needle c pushed half its. c and slit c, and also the length into it and ready to whole remaining length of be pushed home into the jess, are pulled through slits living bird's feather. a and b; c is the slit to which Mantle. - A hawk is said to " mantle " when she stretches out a leg and a wing simultaneously, a common action of hawks when at ease; also when she spreads out her wings and feathers to hide any quarry or food she may have seized from another hawk, or from man. In the last case it is a fault.


A hawk is said to " mew " when she moults. The place where a hawk was kept to moult was in olden times called her " mew." Buildings where establishments of hawks were kept were called " mews." Musket. - Male of the sparrow-hawk.

Mutes (mutings). - Excrement of hawk.


The stomach of a hawk, corresponding with the gizzar a fowl, is called her pannel. In it the casting is formed. Passage. - The line herons take over a tract of country on their way to and from the heronry when procuring food in the breeding season.

Passage hawks

Hawks captured when on their passage or migration.


The dead body of any quarry the hawk has killed. Pitch. - The height to which a hawk, when waiting for game to beflushed, rises in the air.


A hawk is said to " plume " a bird when she pulls off the feathers.


A hawk " makes her point " when she rises in the air over the spot where quarry has saved itself from capture by dashing into a hedge, or has otherwise secreted itself.


A hawk's claws.

Pull through the hood

A hawk is said to pull through the hood when she eats with it on.

Put in

A bird is said to " put in " when it saves itself from the hawk by dashing into covert or other place of security. Quarry. - The bird or beast flown at.

Rake out

A hawk is said to " rake out " when she flies, while " waiting on " (see Wait on), too far and wide from her master. Ramage. - Wild. Red hawk. - Hawks of the first year, in the young plumage, are called " red hawks." Ringing. - A bird is said to " ring " when it rises spirally in the air. Rufter hood. - An easy fitting hood, not, however, convenient for hooding and unhooding - used only for hawks when first captured. (See fig.) .Sails. - The wings of a hawk.


Closing the eyes by a fine thread drawn through the lid of each eye, the threads being then twisted together above the head - a practice long disused in England.

,Serving a hawk. - Driving out quarry which has taken refuge, or has " put in." Stoop. - The hawk's rapid plunge upon the quarry.

Take the air

A bird is said to " take the air " when it seeks to escape by trying to rise higher than the falcon.


The male of various falcons, particularly of the peregrine, also tarcell, tassell or tercel; the term is also applied to the male of the goshawk.


A hawk is said to " truss " a bird when she catches it in the air, and comes to the ground with it in her talons: this term is not applied to large quarry. (See Bind.) Varvels. - Small rings, generally of silver, fastened to the end of the jesses, and engraved with the owner's name.

Wait on

A hawk is said to " wait on " when she flies above her master waiting till game is sprung.


Hawks are " weathered " by being placed unhooded in the open air. Passage hawks which are not sufficiently reclaimed to be left out by themselves unhooded on blocks are " weathered " by being put out for an hour or two under the falconer's eye.


An Eastern term, generally applied to short-winged hawks. When a hawk is keen, and in hunting condition, she is said to be " in yarak." The training of hawks affords much scope for judgment, experience and skill on the part of the falconer, who must carefully observe the temper and disposition as well as the constitution of each bird. It is through the appetite principally that hawks, like most wild animals, are tamed; but to fit them for use in the field much patience, gentleness and care must be used. Slovenly taming necessitates starving, and low condition and weakness are the result. The aim of the falconer must be to have his hawks always keen, and the appetite when they are brought into the field should be such as would induce the bird in a state of nature to put forth its full powers to obtain its food, with, as near as possible, a corresponding condition as to flesh. The following is an outline of the process of training hawks, beginning with the management of a wild-caught peregrine falcon. When first taken, a rufter hood should be put on her head, and she must be furnished with jesses, swivel, leash and bell. A thick glove or rather gauntlet must be worn on the left hand (Eastern falconers always carry a hawk on the right),. and she must be carried about as much as possible, late into the night, every day, being constantly stroked with a bird's wing or feather, very lightly at first. At night she should be tied to a perch in a room with the window darkened, so that no light can enter in the morning. The perch should be a padded pole placed across the room, about 42 ft. from the ground, with a canvas screen underneath. She will easily be induced to feed in most cases by drawing a piece of beefsteak over her feet, brushing her legs at the time with a wing, and now and then, as she snaps, slipping a morsel into her mouth. Care must be taken to make a peculiar sound with the lips or tongue, or to use a low whistle as she is in the act of swallowing; she will very :soon learn to associate this sound with feeding, and it will be found that directly she hears it, she will gripe with her talons, and bend down to feel for food. When the falconer perceives :this and other signs of her " coming to," that she no longer starts at the voice or touch, and steps quietly up from the perch when the hand is placed under her feet, it will be time to change her rufter hood for the ordinary hood. This latter should be very carefully chosen - an easy fitting one, in which the braces draw closely and yet easily and without jerking. An old one previously worn is to be recommended. The hawk should be taken into a very dark room - one absolutely dark is best - and the change should be made if possible in total darkness. After this she must be brought to feed with her hood off; at first she must be fed every day in a darkened room, a gleam of light being admitted. The first day, the hawk having seized the food and begun to pull at it freely, the hood must be gently slipped off, and after she has eaten a moderate quantity, it must be replaced as slowly and gently as possible, and she should be allowed to finish her meal through the hood. Next day the hood may be twice removed, and so on; day by day the practice should be continued, and more light gradually admitted, until the hawk will feed freely in broad daylight, and suffer the hood to be taken off and replaced without opposition. Next she must be accustomed to see and feed in the presence of strangers and dogs, &c. A good plan is to carry her in the streets of a town at night, at first where the gas-light is not strong, and where persons passing by are few, unhooding and hooding her from time to time, but not letting her get frightened. Up to this time she should be fed on lean beefsteak with no castings, but as soon as she is tolerably tame and submits well to the hood, she must occasionally be fed with pigeons and other birds. This should be done not later than 3 or 4 P.M., and when she is placed on her perch for the night in the dark room, she must be unhooded and left so, of course being carefully tied up. The falconer should enter the room about 7 or 8 A.M. next day, admitting as little light as possible, or using a candle. He should first observe if she has thrown her casting; if so, he will at once take her to the fist, giving her a bite of food, and re-hood her. If her casting is not thrown it is better for him to retire, leaving the room quite dark, and come in again later. She must now be taught to know the voice - the shout that is used to call her in the field - and to jump to the fist for food, the voice being used every time she is fed. When she comes freely to the fist she must be made acquainted with the lure. Kneeling down with the hawk on his fist, and gently unhooding her, the falconer casts out a lure, which may be either a dead pigeon or an artificial lure garnished with beefsteak tied to a string, to a distance of a couple or three feet in front of her. When she jumps down to it, she should be allowed to eat a little on it - the voice being used - the while receiving morsels from the falconer's hand; and before her meal is finished she must be taken off to the hand, being induced to forsake the lure for the hand by a tempting piece of meat. This treatment will help to check her inclination hereafter to carry her quarry. This lesson is to be continued till the falcon feeds very boldly on the lure on the ground, in the falconer's presence - till she will suffer him to walk round her while she is feeding. All this time she will have been held by the leash only, but in the next step a strong, but light creance must be made fast to the leash, and an assistant holding the hawk should unhood her, as the falconer, standing at a distance of 5 to io yds., calls her by shouting and casting out the lure. Gradually day after day the distance is increased, till the hawk will come 30 yds. or so without hesitation; then she may be trusted to fly to the lure at liberty, and by degrees from any distance, say r000 yds. This accomplished, she should learn to stoop at the lure. Instead of allowing the hawk to seize upon it as she comes up, the falconer should snatch the lure away and let her pass by, and immediately put it out that she may readily seize it when she turns round to look for it. This should be done at first only once, and then progressively until she will stoop backwards and forwards at the lure as often as desired. Next she should be entered at her quarry. Should she be intended for rooks or herons, two or three of these birds should be procured. One should be given her from the hand, then one should be released close to her, and a third at a considerable distance. If she take these keenly, she may be flown at a wild bird. Care must, however, be taken to let her have every possible advantage in her first flights - wind and weather, and the position of the quarry with regard to the surrounding country, must be considered.

Young hawks, on being received by the falconer before they can fly, must be put into a sheltered place, such as an outhouse or shed. Their basket or hamper should be filled with straw. A hamper is best, with the lid so placed as to form a platform for the young hawks to come out upon to feed. This should be fastened to a beam or prop a few feet from the ground. The young hawks must be most plentifully fed on the best fresh food obtainable - good beefsteak and fresh-killed birds; the falconer when feeding them should use his voice as in luring. As they grow old enough they will come out, and perch about the roof of their shed, by degrees extending their flights to neighbouring buildings or trees, never failing to come at feeding time to the place where they are fed. Soon they will be continually on the wing, playing or fighting with one another, and later the falconer will observe them chasing other birds, as pigeons and rooks, which may be passing by. As soon as one fails to come for a meal, it must be at once caught with a bow net or a snare the first time it comes back, or it will be lost. It must be borne in mind that the longer hawks can be left at hack the better they are likely to be for use in the field - those hawks being always the best which have preyed a few times for themselves before being caught. Of course there is great risk of losing hawks when they begin to prey for themselves. When a hawk is so caught she is said to be " taken up " from hack. She will not require a rufter hood, but a good deal of the management described for the passage falcon will be necessary. She must be carefully tamed and broken to the hood in the same manner, and so taught to know the lure; but, as might be expected, very much less difficulty will be experienced. As soon as the eyas knows the lure sufficiently well to come to it sharp and straight from a distance, she must be taught to " wait on." This is effected by letting the hawk loose in an open place, such as a down. It will be found that she will circle round the falconer looking for the lure she has been accustomed to see - perhaps mount a little in the air, and advantage must be taken of a favourable moment when the hawk is at a little height, her head being turned in towards the falconer, to let go a pigeon which she can easily catch. When the hawk has taken two or three pigeons in this way, and mounts immediately in expectation, in short, begins to wait on, she should see no more pigeons, but be tried at game as soon as possible. Young peregrines should be flown at grouse first in preference to partridges, not only because the season commences earlier, but because, grouse being the heavier birds, they are not so much tempted to " carry " as with partridges.

The training of the great northern falcons, as well as that of merlins and hobbies, is conducted much on the above principles, but the jerfalcons (gerfalcons or gyrfalcons) will seldom wait on well, and merlins will not do it at all.

The training of short-winged hawks is a simpler process. They must, like falcons, be provided with jesses, swivel, leash and bell. In these hawks a bell is sometimes fastened to the tail. Sparrow-hawks can, however, scarcely carry a bell big enough to be of any service. The hood is seldom used for short-winged hawks - never in the field. They must be made as tame as possible by carriage on the fist and the society of man, and taught to come to the fist freely when required - at first to jump to it in a room, and then out of doors. When the goshawk comes freely and without hesitation from short distances, she ought to be called from long distances from the hand of an assistant, but not oftener than twice in each meal, until she will come at least loco yds., on each occasion being well rewarded with some food she likes very much, as a fresh-killed bird, warm. When she does this freely, and endures the presence of strangers, dogs, &c., a few bagged rabbits should be given to her, and she will be ready to take the field. Some accustom the goshawk to the use of the lure, for the purpose of taking her if she will not come to the fist in the field when she has taken stand in a tree after being baulked of her quarry, but it ought not to be necessary to use it.

Falcons or long-winged hawks are either " flown out of the hood," i.e. unhooded and slipped when the quarry is in sight, or they are made to " wait on " till game is flushed. Herons and rooks are always taken by the former method. Passage hawks are generally employed for flying at these birds, though sometimes good eyases are quite equal to the work. For heronhawking a well-stocked heronry is in the first place necessary. Next an open country which can be ridden over - over which herons are in the constant habit of passing to and from their heronry on their fishing excursions, or making their " passage." A heron found at his feeding-place at a brook or pond affords no sport whatever. If there be little water any peregrine falcon that will go straight at him will seize him soon after he rises. It is sometimes advisable to fly a young falcon at a heron so found, but it should not be repeated. If there be much water the heron will neither show sport nor be captured. It is quite a different affair when he is sighted winging his way at a height in the air over an open tract of country free from water. Though he has no chance whatever of competing with a falcon in straightforward flight, the heron has large concave wings, a very light body proportionately, and air-cells in his bones, and can rise with astonishing rapidity, more perpendicularly, or, in other words, in smaller rings, than the falcon can, with very little effort. As soon as he sees the approach of the falcon, which he usually does almost directly she is cast off, he makes play for the upper regions. Then the falcon commences to climb too to get above him, but in a very different style. She makes very large circles or rings, travelling at a high rate of speed, due to her strength and weight and power of flying, till she rises above the heron. Then she makes her attack by stooping with great force at the quarry, sometimes falling so far below it as the blow is evaded that she cannot spring up to the proper pitch for the next stoop, and has to make another ring to regain her lost command over the heron, which is ever rising, and so on - the " field " meanwhile galloping down wind in the direction the flight is taking till she seizes the heron aloft, " binds " to him, and both come down together. Absurd stories have been told and pictures drawn of the heron receiving the falcon on its beak in the air. It is, however, well known to all practical falconers that the heron has no power or inclination to fight with a falcon in the air; so long as he is flying he seeks safety solely from his wings. When on the ground, however, should the falcon be deficient in skill or strength, or have been mutilated by the coping of her beak and talons, as was sometimes formerly done in Holland with a view to saving the heron's life, the heron may use his dagger-like bill with dangerous effect, though it is very rare for a falcon to be injured. It is never safe to fly the goshawk at a heron of any description. Short-winged hawks do not immediately kill their quarry as falcons do, nor do they seem to know where the life lies, and seldom shift their hold once taken even to defend themselves; and they are therefore easily stabbed by a heron. Rooks are flown in the same manner as herons, but the flight is generally inferior. Although rooks fly very well, they seek shelter in trees or bushes as soon as possible.

For game-hawking eyases are generally used, though undoubtedly passage or wild-caught hawks are to be preferred. The best game hawks we have seen have been passage hawks, but there are difficulties attending the use of them. It may perhaps be fairly said that it is easy to make all passage hawks " wait on " in grand style, but until they have got over a season or two they are very liable to be lost. Among the advantages attending the use of eyases are the following: they are easier to obtain and to train and keep; they also moult far better and quicker than passage hawks, while if lost in the field they will often go home by themselves, or remain about the spot where they were liberated. Experience, and, we must add, some good fortune also, are requisite to make eyases good for waiting on for game. Slight mistakes on the part of the falconer, false points from dogs, or bad luck in serving, will cause a young hawk to acquire bad habits, such as sitting down on the ground, taking stand in a tree, raking out wide, skimming the ground, or lazily flying about at no height. A good game hawk in proper flying order goes up at once to a good pitch in the air - the higher she flies the better - and follows her master from field to field, always ready for a stoop when the quarry is sprung. Hawks that have been successfully broken and judiciously worked become wonderfully clever, and soon learn to regulate their flight by the movements of their master. Eyases were not held in esteem by the old falconers, and it is evident from their writings that these hawks have been very much better understood and managed in the 19th century than in the middle ages. It is probable that the old falconers procured their passage and wild-caught hawks with such facility, having at the same time more scope for their use in days when quarry was more abundant and there was more waste land than there now is, that they did not find it necessary to trouble themselves about eyases. Here may be quoted a few lines from one of the best of the old writers, which may be taken as giving a fair account of the estimation in which eyases were generally held, and from which it is evident that the old falconers did not understand flying hawks at hack. Simon Latham, writing in 1633, says of eyases: They will be verie easily brought to familiaritie with the man, not in the house only, but also abroad, hooded or unhooded; nay, many of them will be more gentle and quiet when unhooded than when hooded, for if a man doe but stirre or speake in their hearing, they will crie and bate as though they did desire to see the man. Likewise some of them being unhooded, when they see the man will cowre and crie, shewing thereby their exceeding fondness and fawning love towards him. .

These kind of hawks be all (for the most part) taken out of the nest while verie young, even in the downe, from whence they are put into a close house, whereas they be alwaies fed and familiarly brought up by the man, untill they bee able to flie, when as the summer approaching verie suddenly they are continued and trained up in the same, the weather being alwaies warm and temperate; thus they are still inured to familiaritie with the man, not knowing from whence besides to fetch their relief or sustenance. When the summer is ended they bee commonly put up into a house again, or else kept in some warm place, for they cannot endure the cold wind to blow upon them.. But leaving to speak of these kind of scratching hawks that I never did love should come too neere my fingers, and to return unto the faire conditioned haggard faulcon... .

The author here describes with accuracy the condition of unhacked eyases, which no modern falconer would trouble himself to keep. Many English falconers in modern times have had eyases which have killed grouse, ducks and other quarry in a style almost equalling that of passage hawks. Rooks also have been most successfully flown, and some herons on passage have been taken by eyases. No sport is to be had at game without hawks that wait on well. Moors, downs, open country where the hedges are low and weak are best suited to game hawking. Pointers or setters may be used to find game, or the hawk may be let go on coming to the ground where game is known to lie, and suffered, if an experienced one, to " wait on " till game is flushed. However, the best plan with most hawks, young ones especially, is to use a dog, and to let the hawk go when the dog points, and to flush the birds as soon as the hawk is at her pitch. It is not by any means necessary that the hawk should be near the birds when they rise, provided she is at a good height, and that she is watching; she will come at once with a rush out of the air at great speed, and either cut one down with the stoop, or the bird will save itself by putting in, when every exertion must be made, especially if the hawk be young and inexperienced, to " serve " her as soon as possible by driving out the bird again while she waits overhead. If this be successfully done she is nearly certain to kill it at the second flight. Perhaps falcons are best for grouse and tiercels for partridges.

Magpies afford much sport. Only tiercels should be used for hunting magpies. A field is necessary - at the very least 4 or 5 runners to beat the magpie out, and perhaps the presence of a horseman is an advantage. Of course in open flight a magpie would be almost immediately caught by a tiercel peregrine, and there would be no sport, but the magpie makes up for his want of power of wing by his cunning and shiftiness; and he is, moreover, never to be found except where he has shelter under his lee for security from a passing peregrine. Once in a hedge or tree he is perfectly safe from the wild falcon, but the case is otherwise when the falconer approaches with his trained tiercel, perhaps a cast of tiercels, waiting on in the air, with some active runners in his field. Then driven from hedge to hedge, from one kind of shelter to another, stooped at every instant when he shows himself ever so little away from cover by the watchful tiercels overhead, his egg-stealing days are brought to an end by a fatal stroke - sometimes not before the field is pretty well exhausted with running and shouting. The magpie always manoeuvres towards some thick wood, from which it is the aim of the field to cut him off. At first hawks must be flown in easy country, but when they understand their work well they will kill magpies in very enclosed country - with a smart active field a magpie may even be pushed through a small wood. Magpie hawking affords excellent exercise, not only for those who run to serve the hawks, but for the hawks also; they get a great deal of flying, and learn to hunt in company with men - any number of people may be present. Blackbirds may be hunted with tiercels in the same way. Woodcock afford capital sport where the country is tolerably open. It will generally be found that after a hawk has made one stoop at a woodcock, the cock will at first try to escape by taking the air, and will show a very fine flight. When beaten in the air it will try to get back to covert again, but when once a hawk has outflown a woodcock, he is pretty sure to kill it. Hawks seem to pursue woodcock with great keenness; something in the flight of the cock tempts them to exertion. The laziest and most useless hawks - hawks that will scarcely follow a slow pigeon - will do their best at woodcock, and will very soon, if the sport is continued, be improved in their style of flying. Snipe may be killed by first-class tiercels in favourable localities. Wild duck and teal are only to be flown at when they can be found in small pools or brooks at a distance from much water - where the fowl can be suddenly flushed by men or dogs while the falcon is flying at her pitch overhead. For duck, falcons should be used; tiercels will kill teal well.

The merlin is used for flying at larks, and there does not seem to be any other use to which this pretty little falcon may fairly be put. It is very active, but far from being, as some authors have stated, the swiftest of all hawks. Its flight is greatly inferior in speed and power to that of the peregrine. Perhaps its diminutive size, causing it to be soon lost to view, and a limited acquaintance with the flight of the wild peregrine falcon, have led to the mistake.

The hobby is far swifter than the merlin, but cannot be said to be efficient in the field; it may be trained to wait on beautifully, and will sometimes take larks; it is very much given to the fault of " carrying." The three great northern falcons are not easy to procure in proper condition for training. They are very difficult to break to the hood and to manage in the field. They are flown, like the peregrine, at herons and rooks, and in former days were used for kites and hares. Their style of flight is magnificent; they are considerably swifter than the peregrine, and are a most deadly " footers." They seem, however, to lack somewhat of the spirit and dash of the peregrine.

For the short-winged hawks an open country is not required; indeed they may be flown in a wood. Goshawks are flown at hares, rabbits, pheasants, partridges and wild-fowl. Only very strong females are able to take hares; rabbits are easy quarry for any female goshawk, and a little too strong for the male. A good female goshawk may kill from 10 to 15 rabbits in a day, or more. For pheasants the male is to be preferred, certainly for partridges; either sex will take duck and teal, but the falconer must get close to them before they are flushed, or the goshawk will stand a poor chance of killing. Rabbit hawking may be practised by ferreting, and flying the hawk as the rabbits bolt, but care must be taken or the hawk will kill the ferret. Where rabbits sit out on grass or in turnip fields, a goshawk may be used with success, even in a wood when the holes are not too near. From various causes it is impossible, or nearly so, to have goshawks in England in the perfection to which they are brought in the East. In India, for instance, there is a far greater variety of quarry suited to them, and wild birds are much more approachable; moreover, there are advantages for training which do not exist in England. Unmolested - and scarcely noticed except perhaps by others of his calling or tastes - the Eastern falconer carries his hawk by day and night in the crowded bazaars, till the bird becomes perfectly indifferent to men, horses, dogs, carriages, and, in short, becomes as tame as the domestic animals.

The management of sparrow-hawks is much the same as that of goshawks, but they are far more delicate than the latter. They are flown in England at blackbirds, thrushes and other small birds; good ones will take partridges well till the birds get too wild and strong with the advancing season. In the East large numbers of quail are taken with sparrow-hawks.

It is of course important that hawks from which work in the field is expected should be kept in the highest health, and they must be carefully fed; no bad or tainted meat must on any account be given to them - at any rate to hawks of the species used in England. Peregrines and the great northern falcons are best kept on beefsteak, with a frequent change in the shape of fresh-killed pigeons and other birds. The smaller falcons, the merlin and the hobby, require a great number of small birds to keep them in good health for any length of time. Goshawks should be fed like peregrines, but rats and rabbits are very good as change of food for them. The sparrow-hawk, like the small falcons, requires small birds. All hawks require castings frequently. It is true that hawks will exist, and often appear to thrive, on good food without castings, but the seeds of probable injury to their health are being sown the whole time they are so kept. If there is difficulty in procuring birds, and it is more convenient to feed the hawks on beefsteak, they should frequently get the wings and heads and necks of game and poultry. In addition to the castings which they swallow, tearing these is good exercise for them, and biting the bones prevents the. beaks from overgrowing. Most hawks, peregrines especially, require the bath. The end of a cask, sawn off to give a depth of about 6 in., makes a very good bath. Peregrines which are used for waiting on require a bath at least twice a week. If this be neglected, they will not wait long before going off in search of water to bathe, however hungry they may be.

The most agreeable and the best way, where practicable, of keeping hawks is to have them on blocks on the lawn. Each hawk's block should stand in a circular bed of sand - about 8 ft. in diameter; this will be found very convenient for keeping them clean. Goshawks are generally placed on bow perches, which ought not to be more than 8 or 9 in. high at the highest part of the arc. It will be several months before passage or wildcaught falcons can be kept out of doors; they must be fastened to a perch in a darkened room, hooded, but by degrees as they get thoroughly tame may be brought to sit on the lawn. In England (especially in the south) peregrines, the northern falcons and goshawks may be kept out of doors all day and night in a sheltered situation. In very wild boisterous weather, or in snow or sharp frost, it will be advisable to move them to the shelter of a shed, the floor of which should be laid with sand to a depth of 3 or 4 in. Merlins and hobbies are too tender to be kept much out of doors. An eastern aspect is to be preferred - all birds enjoy the morning sun, and it is very beneficial to them. The more hawks confined to blocks out of doors see of persons, dogs, horses, &c., moving about the better, but of course only when there is no danger of their being frightened or molested, or of food being given to them by strangers. Those who have only seen wretched ill-fed hawks in cages as in zoological gardens or menageries, pining for exercise, with battered plumage, torn shoulders and bleeding ceres, from dashing against their prison bars, and overgrown beaks from never getting bones to break, can have little idea of the beautiful and striking-looking birds to be seen pluming their feathers and stretching their wings at their ease at their blocks on the falconer's lawn, watching with their large bright keen eyes everything that moves in the sky and everywhere else within the limits of their view. Contrary to the prevailing notion, hawks show a good deal of attachment when they have been properly handled. It is true that by hunger they are in a great measure tamed and controlled, and the same may be said of all undomesticated and many domesticated animals. And instinct prompts all wild creatures when away from man's control to return to their former shyness, but hawks certainly retain their tameness for a long time, and their memory is remarkably retentive. Wild-caught hawks have been retaken, either by their coming to the lure or upon quarry, from 2 to 7 days after they had been lost, and eyases after 3 weeks. As one instance of retentiveness of memory displayed by hawks we may mention the case of a wild-caught falcon which was recaptured after being at liberty more than 3 years, still bearing the jesses which were cut short close to the leg at the time she was released; in five days she was flying at the lure again at liberty, and was found to retain the peculiar ways and habits she was observed to have in her former existence as a trained hawk. It is useless to bring a hawk into the field unless she has a keen appetite; if she has not, she will neither hunt effectually nor follow her master. Even wild-caught falcons, however, may sometimes be seen so attached to their owner that, when sitting on their blocks on a lawn with food in their crops, they will on his coming out of the house bate hard to get to him, till he either go up to them and allow them to jump up to his hand or withdraw from their sight. Goshawks are also known to evince attachment to their owner. Another prevailing error regarding hawks is that they are supposed to be lazy birds, requiring the stimulus of hunger to stir them to action. The reverse is the truth; they are birds of very active habits, and exceedingly restless, and the notion of their being lazy has been propagated by those who have seen little or nothing of hawks in their wild state. The wild falcon requires an immense deal of exercise, and to be in wind, in order to exert the speed and power of flight necessary to capture her prey when hungry; and to this end instinct prompts her to spend hours daily on the wing, soaring and playing about in the air in all weathers, often chasing birds merely for play or exercise. Sometimes she takes a siesta when much gorged, but unless she fills her crop late in the evening she is soon moving again - before half her crop is put over. Goshawks and sparrow-hawks, too, habitually soar in the air at about 9 or Io A.M., and remain aloft a considerable time, but these birds are not of such active habits as the falcons. The frequent bating of thoroughly tame hawks from their blocks, even when not hungry or frightened, proves their restlessness and impatience of repose. So does the wretched condition of the caged falcon (before alluded to), while the really lazy buzzards and kites, which do not in a wild state depend on activity or power of wing for their sustenance, maintain themselves for years, even during confinement if properly fed, in good case and plumage. Such being the habits of the falcon in a state of nature, the falconer should endeavour to give the hawks under his care as much flying as possible, and he should avoid the very common mistake of keeping too many hawks. In this case a favoured few are sure to get all the work, and the others, possibly equally good if they had fair play, are spoiled for want of exercise.

The larger hawks may be kept in health and working order for several years-15 or 20 - barring accidents. The writer has known peregrines, shaheens and goshawks to reach ages between 15 and 20 years. Goshawks, however, never fly well after 4 or 5 seasons, when they will no longer take difficult quarry; they may be used at rabbits as long as they live. Shaheens may be seen in the East at an advanced age, killing wild-fowl beautifully. The shaheen is a falcon of the peregrine type, which does not travel, like the peregrine, all over the world. It appears that the jerfalcons also may be worked to a good age. Old Simon Latham tells us of these birds - " I myself have known one of them an excellent Hearnor (killer of herons), and to continue her goodnesse very near twentie yeeres, or full out that time."/n==Authorities== - Schlegel's Traite de fauconnerie contains a very large list of works on falconry in the languages of all the principal countries of the Old World. Bibliotheca accipitraria, by J. E.

Harting (1891), gives a complete bibliography. See Coursing and Falconry in the Badminton Library; and The Art and Practice of Hawking, by E. B. Michell (1900), the best modern book on the subject. Perhaps the most useful of the old works are The Booke of Faulconrie or Hawking, by George Turberville (1575), and The Faulcon's Lure and Cure, by Simon Latham (1633). (E. D. R.)

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Training raptors (birds of prey) is a complex undertaking. Books containing hundreds of pages of information and advice by experienced falconers are still rudimentary at best. Many important details vary between individual raptors, species of raptors and between places and times. Unfortunately, without mentoring by an experienced falconer, raptors may be illegally taken and kept, and can be harmed by uneducated pseudo-falconers. Rather than attempt to train a raptor using only internet resources and books, it is wise to find experienced falconers and volunteer or apprentice with them.

Peregrine tiercel at a falconry display in England



The bird wears a bell, or pair of bells, on its legs (attached via small leather strips called bewits,) which can be heard from a surprising distance. An identity band is worn on the leg as well in most countries, and the bird sports strips of strong leather (nowadays often kangaroo) called jesses on both legs. Very often, the bird also wears a telemetry transmitter, so that it may be recovered if lost during free flight. Falcons (the long-wing family of raptors) are tethered perched on a block, while large owls (during training only), short-winged and broad-winged hawks are tethered to a bow perch or round perch, when not allowed to fly free in their mews, an Old English word for a raptor's chamber. (The term is "mews" whether singular or plural.)

There are two styles of jesses: traditional, which is a single strap specially knotted onto the bird; and Aylmeri, a two part restraint featuring an anklet that is grommeted on, and a removable jess strap. Some Aylmeri jess straps have dental rubberbands on them to make it more difficult for the bird to pull out the jess, but they are still removable should the bird get caught up outdoors. A good reference on these jesses is "Care And Management of Captive Raptors" by Lori Arent & Mark Martell. Published by the University of Minnesota this guide is very popular with zoos and wildlife center, though it is not a traditional falconry book.

The singular of "jesses" is correctly "jess", but one jess is often mistakenly called a "jessie", by wrong back-formation from "jesses" treated as "jessies", which would be pronounced the same.

Nylon Aylmeri jesses have recently grown in popularity. Thinner, lighter, and stronger, they do not rot or require oiling to remain supple. The anklets are grommetted on, like their leather counterparts, but instead of a folded button keeping the straps from falling through the anklets, a knot is used. The end of the knot is melted with a lighter to keep it from fraying. In order to form the loops the swivel or clips will attach to, a nylon parachute cord is hollowed out, threaded up through itself using an awl, and knotted.

The purpose of the swivel is to prevent tangling and twisting of the leash or tether when the bird is active but not hunting. The swivel consists of two parts that twist freely, each with a metal hoop on the end. The swivel may be traditional, or modified. The modified swivel has much larger metal hoops than the traditional. While swivels have been made of cloth or other materials in the past, most modern falconers use metal swivels.

When using Alymeri jesses, there are usually two sets of straps: the mew straps, for manning and tethering the bird, and flying straps. The flying straps are lighter and smaller for hunting, while the mews straps are heavy and less likely to break with stress.

Most importantly, hunting/flying jesses are absent of the slit which can often get caught up on a branch or bush, leaving the bird hanging too far in the air to be retrieved. Since using mews jesses in the field is dangerous to the bird, educated falconers no longer risk them. Instead, they are changed out before the bird is released to free-flight, and the mews jesses returned into the grommets after the free-flight is over and the bird is safely in hand.

Jesses and anklets need to be replaced periodically, and checked for fit if they are causing injury.

A scale is used to weigh the bird and its food. The scale must be reliable. This is especially important when dealing with small birds, as they may endangered by even small differences when at flying weight. The successful hunting weight of the bird may vary, usually increasing as the bird is flown and develops more muscle (which weighs more than fat,) but there is a relatively narrow range which the falconer seeks. Below that weight, the bird will be unnecessarily (and perhaps even dangerously) low and weak. Above that range of weight, and the bird will be unresponsive in the field, lacking in motivation to hunt or return to the falconer in timely fashion.

Gauntlets or gloves are used by the falconer to turn the arm into a suitable perching surface. Falconry gloves may only cover the fist and wrist, while hawking guantlets extend to the elbow. An eagle glove may cover the entire arm and a portion of the chest, or it may be a heavy sheath worn over a standard hawking glove. The glove will have to be replaced with wear.

A creance is a long, light line which is tied to the swivel or jesses. This is used only when training the bird to fly between a perch and the fist, as an assurance that the bird will not be lost in these early stages. The "bitter" end is most often wound around the spindle like a kite string, and can be wound or unwound with a single hand. This provides a means of storing the creance, and also provides a drag weight should the bird decide to fly off.


A falconry bird is usually housed in a mews. Mews in the US have to be inspected for compliance with federal and state laws. These laws ensure the that the facilities meet what is required to safely and humanely house a bird of prey. In the UK the only law concerned requires the bird to be able to spread its wings in all directions, however in practice a much greater space is needed to avoid conditions such as bumblefoot and depression. This lack of laws in the UK is the source of much concern among raptor keepers.


There are different schools of thought when it comes to feeding falconry birds. Some Europeans feed meat based on its nutritional value to control how hungry the bird is. They feed additional roughage, such as fur, so the bird can digest properly. Some Americans feed their birds whole food such as mouse or quail, reducing the need for supplements and additional roughage. All birds of prey used in falconry eat a strictly carnivorous diet.

In all cases, a bird's diet is carefully measured to control its weight. Weight determines how hungry the bird is and how lazy it will act. A bird that is "fat," or has a higher weight, will be more likely to fly away or not hunt. A bird that is somewhat underweight will act aggressively, and a bird that is severely underweight will have health problems.


Raptors are not "tamed" in training, they are manned. Even birds bred for several generations in captivity are not "tame" in the way that selectively bred domestic animals are. Hawks are manned - acclimated to the world of man - by being exposed to different things in a controlled manner. See below in the section The Training of Hawks for a detailed explanation of manning and training.

Relationship Between Falconer and Bird

In falconry, a young, but fully-grown, raptor is trained through operant conditioning using the reward of food as a positive reinforcement. Unlike pets, raptors are non-affectionate animals, having no ability to deal with dominant or submissive roles (with the exception of the Harris' Hawk). They do not "love" the falconer, they will not aim to please him; they're simply opportunistic and learn that life with the falconer affords the easiest and most reliable source of food and protection. Continuing the relationship, then, is a matter of convenience for the raptor. However, it is often thought there is a bond between bird and falconer, through which each trusts the other. The bird trusts the falconer not to steal its food and provide protection, and the falconer trusts the bird to come back.

Wild Caught Birds

A wild caught bird caught in juvenile plumage is called a passager, meaning it is under a year old. Since many of these birds would otherwise die (estimates run from 30-70 percent) within their first year, the taking of juvenile hawks by falconers has no noticeable effect on raptor populations. These passager birds are often caught using traps that catch their feet in nooses when they try to take the bait.

Birds that are in adult plumage at the time of trapping are called haggards and are no longer commonly used in falconry. The reason for this is two-fold: first, birds that have matured in the wild are considerably harder to train for return (when released for hunting haggards have a tendency to go off hunting on their own and are easily lost); second, the capture of an adult bird removes a breeding age bird from the local pool of viable adults.

Taking a bird from the wild is illegal in the UK, as is releasing a captive bred bird.

Imprinted Vs. Non-Imprinted Captive Bred Birds

Birds taken from the nest as a downy bird still unable to fly (fledgling) are called 'eyas', or the plural, 'eyasses'. In addition to wild-taken eyas hawks, all captive bred hawks taken at this same stage are properly referred to as 'captive-bred eyas' hawks. Eyas hawks can be the best or the worst of the hawks - they will never learn to fear man as the passage or the haggard bird has and are therefore difficult to lose; but likewise from this very lack of fear they may never learn 'respect' for the falconer. This results in eyas hawks sometimes becoming 'food-aggressive', constantly screaming for food or attention or being unnecessarily 'footy' (to grab aggressively at the falconer). Vigilant care regimes must be followed to prevent these bad behaviours in the eyas hawk.

Today experienced falconers know how to rear an imprint so that it has few or none of these undesirable behaviors, but it is time-consuming and requires unswerving dedication for a period of about three months. During that time, the eyass is not allowed to ever become truly hungry, and in nearly constant company and visual range of human beings, so that the arrival of food is not specifically associated with the arrival of humans. This bird is still very much imprinted on humans, but not Food-imprinted, so the human is not considered something to be screamed at or attacked when hungry. In order to further assure that such correlations are not made, when it becomes ambulatory, some will take the bird to a separate room/area and allow it to "find" a plate of food, rather than having that food delivered to its face for it, as a parent bird would do. Finally, the young eyass is allowed to wander about at Tame Hack and enjoy more autonomy than would be possible with a chamber or parent-reared bird (owing to that the bird's affinity towards humans will keep it relatively close by, an affinity lacking in the chamber/parent reared eyass.) This provides the imprint eyass with an opportunity to learn to use its wings and develop musculature as well as the ability to fly in adverse conditions -- advantages that the chamber-raised bird does not have.

In the United States, the law requires that all hybrid raptors must be either imprinted or sterilized before they can be free-flown.

The Training of Hawks

This extremely detailed treatise on the training of hawks is intended for a legally operating falconer who has just acquired his or her first new hawk. Please follow all applicable rules and regulations when dealing with raptors. Although this is intended to help advise the legally operating novice falconer through from every step leading up to free-flight, please consult an experienced falconer for assistance and for making judgment calls with any particular bird, since every one is an individual with its own set of rules.

The training of the passage, the captive bred juvenile and the haggard bird are the same; the eyas requires a different approach, mostly conditioning the food-provider image away from that of the falconer and towards appropriate prey items and/or the lure. Also the training of falcons from the point of creance training is different from the training of the short and broad-winged hawks (redtails, Harris', goshawks, etc.) because of the importance of the lure.

The training of hawks is not as difficult nor as mystical as some books say. It is a mutual bond based on respect, forged in food, patience and trust. One must never hit nor starve their hawk in their attempt to achieve this delicate bond. To do either shows that you do not possess the respect that your bird demands. A hawk cannot be dominated into compliance and starvation. This approach is simply heavy handed and cruel.

The passage or haggard bird will be fearful; this fear must be overcome to achieve trust. Once the new hawk is jessed and tethered to the glove, she should be offered small pieces of food. Most likely her hunger will not be great enough to overcome her fear of man at first, in this case she should be hooded up or placed within a darkened mew, tethered to her perch for one night. A hooded hawk or one in the dark can be offered water during this time by means of a squirt or misting bottle, and as the liquid collects on her beak she will drink it. The next day, take her up on the fist and again gently offer her small, bright red tidbits of meat with your fingertips. If she bites at your fingers, use blunt nosed tongs to hold the meat to her face. If she still does not eat, repeat the process the next day. Within one to perhaps three days she will come around - do not worry unless she does not eat within five days for a large hawk (700g+). Smaller hawks and falcons need to eat within one to two days from capture. Consult a vet at this point as the bird may be ill.

A trick that works well for getting a recalcitrant hawk to eat is to wait for her mouth to be open (most fearful hawks "gape", that is, hold their mouths open in threat) and then pop a small piece of meat into her mouth with the fingers or the tongs. Mist a fine mist of water onto her beak and she will swallow. The taste of the meat will trigger a feeding response in her.

Once the hawk does snap at the meat and swallow, allow her to eat the thumbnail sized piece. Offer her another one, and see if she refocuses her eyes from your face to the meat when she does. At this moment you will see her desire for the food begin to override her fear of man. If she becomes full or begins refusing the food, put her away and begin later. If she is still hungry and eager to participate, allow her to eat a few more pieces, and watch for her head to start reaching forward in anticipation of the food. Now you can begin to move the tidbits down a bit lower down her body, ever coming closer to your glove. Repeat this process of offering a tidbit, her eating it, and you lowering the height of the tidbit until she is eagerly snapping them up from the level of her own feet on the glove.

Begin putting tidbits on the glove only and cease finger or tongs feeding at this point. The hawk should at this point (please be sure she is still tethered to either the glove or her perch!) allow you to 'wipe' her off onto the back of a chair, her perch, or any other similar stationary object. Do this, and place a piece of meat onto your glove. Offer this to her at the level of her beak. She will most likely hesitate for a moment, pause, and then eat the meat like you have conditioned her to do. Repeat the process of offering a tidbit and lowering the glove until she is standing on the perch and feeding from the glove at the height of her feet.

Now once she is eagerly eating from the foot-height garnished (with a tidbit) glove, back off a bit. She will reach to get the food. Repeat this process after she eats the food, and move back a bit farther. She will contort herself into odd positions as she tries to get at the food without jumping or flying... but eventually she will give into her greedy nature and hop to the glove for the meat. Repeat this same action, every time moving a bit farther back in response to each successful feeding.

At this point, two things should be done - one, begin getting your new hawk accustomed to the world and its oddities; barking dogs, cars, the househould, and bring her outside. Also, she should not be perched outside until she has begun flying to you on the creance. If she is, she may bate repeatedly and injure herself as she has not fully come to understand the life of a captive hawk.

Once she has begun hopping the length of the leash, now comes the time for the use of the creance - a long, thin line (suggested creances are 30 to 100 feet of braided nylon twine or very thin parachute cord in a similar length - do not use twisted twine or fishing-line monofilament for this). Take her to a short length lawn (football fields, large backyards, pastureland with short grass) and bring a perch. Place her on the perch and holding onto the creance in one hand, offer her a tidbit on the glove with the other. She should hop to it as eagerly as she had done indoors. Repeat the process, and back up a few feet. She should fly immediately to you without delay. If she turns round on the perch, flies in any other direction other than towards you or tucks a foot up, then she is not yet hungry or well manned enough to begin this stage. Man her or put her up for the night and begin the next day if she does this.

If she does fly to you with eagerness, then fly her as far as the creance will allow. A length of 50-100 feet is acceptable. She should be so eager to fly for her food that she should be coming to you BEFORE YOU CALL FOR HER. Most likely you will not even be able to get to 75 feet before she takes off after you. If you must wait longer than one minute, flap your arms, shout, or put up with any other such nonsense then she is not ready for the ultimate stage of training - free flight.

Before beginning free-flight, there is one more thing that should be addressed; the falconer's insurance policy - the lure. Even if you never again use the lure, train her for it now. Fat hawks with no intention of returning to the glove will happily nail the lure out of greed. Tie a full crop's worth of meat onto the lure after calling her to the glove on the creance a few times. You should do this a time or two to cement the concept of 'lure = a full belly' to the hawk. Once she is done with the food on the lure, offer the garnished glove and hold onto the tidbit hard to prevent her from bolting it down or taking it to the ground. Eventually she will tug and be forced to step to the glove to eat. Hide the lure as she does. Out of sight, out of mind or possession for a hawk.

If she is a falcon, the lure will increase in importance from here. The next major step in training a falcon is to take the lure away from it just as it is about to lay foot upon it, making the bird wheel round, and attack the lure again. Once this is achieved the lure will be swung around artfully by the falconer in wide circles, encouraging the bird to make more 'passes' at the lure, to attempt to catch it. This becomes a game of "keep away" between the bird and the falconer, a game which challenges both of their skills and dexterity. The falconer's job is to keep the lure enticing, yet pull it away at the last moment, while the bird tries coming in faster, turning more sharply, and even anticipating the falconer's actions. A bird may make upwards of forty passes at the lure once fit. If the bird should catch the lure, the falcon is rewarded with the small piece of meat tied securely to the lure. At the end of the game, the bird is generally fed a goodly portion of food as reward for the entire exercise.

Another useful thing to do before free-flight is to call the hawk still on the creance down from a height. For some reason, a new hawk who finds itself high up in a tree can develop a habit of being 'blind' to the falconer. This can mean she is too fat, not manned (acclimated to humans and the human world) well enough or perhaps being up high is simply more enjoyable than being down near the ground. Either way, she can be trained to avoid this hawkish inclination of being up high and not coming down. Throw her to a rooftop or other similar object that is at least twelve to thirty feet up. DO NOT choose a tree as the creance tends to get tangled up in the branches. Allowing your hawk to get hung up by the creance is an insult to her... and it sets back her training so it must be avoided at all costs.

After being trained to the lure, she will be prepared for free-flight. Experienced falconers have seen the highly attentive 'look' of a hawk who is ready for free-flight... she is focused only on the lifting of the glove, the blow of the whistle, even the reaching of the falconer for the food in the food bag. These are the same actions that a novice should look for. Once she is at this stage, remove the creance in the flying field and call her. Most likely she is already on her way. If she does swing up into a tree, try calling her to the glove once more - then offer the lure with its full ration of food attached. She should plummet from the trees to either the glove or the lure.

All that must be done from this point is to take your hawk down, make sure she is at proper weight and that the wind is not too great for her (passage or new young birds especially can be lured off by the prospect of a thermal) and to bring her to a field where prey is known to be.

Once the relationship is established and trustworthy, the pair go out into the field. The bird is unhooded and, in the case of a falcon, quickly takes to the air. Hawks either hunt from the air, from a soar, from a nearby perch, or from the glove itself. Once the bird is untethered, the falconer becomes the bird's servant, dutifully seeking out the quarry and flushing it for the raptor. The raptor then takes chase, providing stunning aerial maneuvers. Hawks can seem to defy physics, and the falcon's stoop (dive) is recorded at speeds up to 240 miles per hour, and her turns have exceeded 29 Gs! To many falconers, this aerial display is the greatest reward, this close witness to nature at its most impressive gaining him a front row seat to what is inarguably the greatest airshow on earth.

Hawks are not exercised by chasing the lure, but instead encouraged to fly from tree to tree as the falconer walks along by occasionally offering the tidbit-garnished glove. Some falconers employ a method called "jump training" in which the hawk is required to fly nearly straight upwards to a height of 10-12 feet for a tidbit of meat. This can be performed many times, the reward being given intermittently (as psychology principles have taught that the intermittent reward is a stronger reinforcement,) to gain strength and stamina.


In order to track a raptor who has flown away, many falconer use radio telemetry. Typically a transmitter is temporarily attached to the leg at the jess or on a bewit. Sometimes a mount for it may be attached to one of the center tail feathers by very careful application of a small drop of Superglue. Recently, a lightweight harness made of Teflon tape has also been employed as a means of hanging the transmitter off the middle of the bird's back (out of the way of the bird's flight and footing, so as to minimize interference with the hunt.) The transmitter emits a radio Beep, which the falconer can track with a portable receiver. By listening to how the signal gains or loses strength a practised person can gauge if the bird is sitting still, if it is flying, and what direction it is going in. Practice with telemetry is very important, as there is no time for learning when a falcon is flying away!


most people who have not trained under a truly qualified master falconer have the impression that falconry is easy, simply fun and is an excuse to live with wild animals. The hunting partnership between a falconer and his bird is not at all like keeping a pet or a wild animal collection. Most falconers only have one or two birds, as they each require much effort. Websites or blogs featuring uniformed individuals buying several newly fledged captive bred hawks and then turning them outside to "hunt" are as far from the sport of falconry as can be imagined.

Weight is key, especially in small species. Some falconers recommend beginners start with a kestrel, a tiny species of falcon. They are ready sparrow hunters, and as they are so small one must pay close attention to their weight and training to avoid hurting them. Similarly, some falconers detest the use of Harris' Hawks by beginners as the birds are so forgiving the novice falconer can make constant mistakes in the bird's care and still hunt successfully. If the bird is a non-imprinted captive-bred, it is very important to establish in the bird's mind that food comes from the falconer. The bird will be getting accustomed to its new 'furniture' (equipment) as well as its new owner.

Since the success of the Harry Potter series, some novices are desperate to keep (or hunt with) an owl. Seldom does this lead to success. Many states in the F.S.P. provide for keeping a great horned owl for hunting, but it is a difficult venture. Owls can be a horror to hunt with, as they find prey more by hearing than their diurnal(daytime) counterparts. Even the Great Horned Owls and Eagle Owls, which can see well enough during the day, will still prefer hunting at night.

There's also greater risk to the owl when it is out during the daytime. All of the diurnal raptors see owls as mortal enemies in competition with them for food and territory. Accordingly, wild birds of prey will attack an owl mercilessly if given the opportunity, even killing it if they're able to do so.

Laws also carefully regulate falconry in many areas. Throughout the United States, for example, you will be required to pass a written exam, build facilities, have them inspected, serve a two-year apprenticeship, and keep diligent records on your birds. In order to catch a wild bird, you may need additional licensing and permission.

Contacting a local falconry club or association is usually the first step to learning.

Suggested reading and sources

  • "North American Falconry And Hunting Hawks" by Hal Webster and Frank Beebe
  • Care And Management Of Captive Raptors, Arent & Martell, University of Minnesota's Raptor Center
  • History of Falconry
  • Understanding the Bird of Prey, Nick Fox, Hancock House (ISBN 0-88839-317-2)
  • Falconry and Halking, Phillip Glasier, Bastford, (ISBN 0-7134-8407-1)

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