The Art of Falconry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jennifer Smith   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 20:03

Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Michigan Hawking Club meet. Hawking is another word for falconry, the art of hunting wild game with trained birds of prey. The meet was in Grand Rapids at the Boy Scouts of America Camp. There was a very in-depth presentation about raptors, as well as a hunting demonstration for the Boy Scouts. There were lots of birds, including several species I have never seen in real life before—an Aplomado Falcon, a Eurasian Eagle Owl (not really used for falconry, but still a really cool bird!) and a white Gyrfalcon.

Aplomado Falcon

This is an Aplomado Falcon, a small falcon of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.

IMG_0088

This is a Eurasian Eagle Owl. They are related to Great Horned Owls, but are much larger.

White Gyrfalcon

This is a female white Gyrfalcon.

Aside from being a chance to get together with other bird people, the meet was a chance for falconers to hunt together. I was able to go watch a Peregrine Falcon hunt, and also tagged along with two men who flew Red-tailed Hawks. It was amazing to watch the birds in action! I am so used to working with permanently injured education birds that seeing perfectly healthy birds doing natural behaviors was a real treat.

Peregrine Ready for the Hunt

This is a female Peregrine Falcon. She is wearing a hood to keep her calm until the falconer is ready for her to fly.

Records of falconry date back to over 4000 years ago. It originated in the Middle East, and remains an important part of the cultures of some Middle Eastern countries. Falconry became popular in Europe in the Middle Ages as a sport for the nobility to practice. It is relatively new to the United States, having only become popular in the early 20th century. It is currently legal in every state except Hawaii.

Those who become falconers pretty much commit their lives to the sport. Becoming a falconer is a lengthy process, and includes a written test and utilizes a mentor/apprentice method for training.  The ranks of falconers are Apprentice, General, and Master. The apprenticeship phase lasts two years, and the Apprentice can have one bird (either a Red-tailed Hawk or an American Kestrel). General falconers can have two hunting birds, and are not limited to Red-tails and Kestrels. To become a Master falconer, and be able to have three hunting birds, you have to be a General falconer for at least 5 years. Falconry is not a hobby to be undertaken lightly, but it is a great activity for those with the time and money to invest.

I learned quite a bit at the meet, and really enjoyed it! If you are interested in learning more about falconry, check out these websites:

Michigan Hawking Club

North American Falconry Association