Falconry is a form of hunting that uses a hawk, falcon, eagle, or owl to catch prey. Birds of prey that are commonly trained are: Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, Harris Hawks, Golden Eagles, and Great Horned Owls. Commonly hunted species are: Rabbits, Ducks, Pheasants, Partridge, and Crows.
You must learn how to train a hunting bird from an experienced falconer. This is only brief summary.
First a bird has to be trained to accept and trust the falconer. This is done by using food. The bird is always fed while perched on the falconer’s glove. At first the bird will be hesitant, but after a few attempts and the bird’s appetite increases, it will will take a very cautious bite. Usually, after the first bite, the bird’s hunger overcomes its fear of the falconer. After a couple of feeding sessions, the bird looks forward to the presence of the falconer, as it knows it will be fed.
After trust has been established, the bird will be trained to come to the falconer for food. This is done using a creance: a long line of string that is tied to the bird, with a weight on the other end, in case the bird tries to take off. (An untrained young bird has very little chance of survival in the wild, so making sure it does not escape is very important to the safety of the bird.) At first, it will only have to jump to the glove for food. The distance will then gradually be increased, until the bird is flying a few hundred feet to the falconer. Once the bird has been trained to reliably come to the falconer, it will be flown free.
Once the bird is flying free, it is time to train it to hunt. This is done by training the bird to position itself, usually flying directly above the falconer or perched high up in a nearby tree. When the bird is in position, the falconer, or his dog, flushes the quarry (the animal they are hunting). Over time, the hunting bird gains experience and learns how to best position itself, and how to approach its quarry and counter the quarry’s escape methods. The end result is an exciting glimpse into how the predator and prey relationship plays out in nature.
Generally, it takes two weeks to get a bird flying free and ready to go hunting. It takes a full hunting season for the bird to become an experienced hunter.
If you are a California resident, go to the California Hawking Club’s Apprentice Page. If you are a resident of another state, then go to the North American Falconers Association’s What is Falconry? page.
No. Birds of Prey are specially protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To own one requires State and Federal permits. To hold the permits, special care is required for the raptor, particularly, making sure that it does not get lost or released into the wild.
From a bird control standpoint, just having a free flying hawk or falcon will not get rid of your nuisance birds. A raptor only hunts when it is hungry, and there is no guarantee that it will only hunt the birds that are giving you trouble. When the raptor is not hungry, it will simply ignore your problem birds.
There is also no guarantee that the raptor would even stay on your property, it would very likely leave to find a territory that is best suited to its own needs.
The answer is determined by the property in question and the surrounding area. If the birds have somewhere else to go, and consistent pressure is maintained on birds that try to move back to the property, then the majority of the birds will stay away for a long time. However, if the crop being grown happens to be a favorite of the nuisance species, and there are few alternative locations for them to go, then you can expect the birds will want to return quickly. This is common for fruit crops like grapes. At these locations, the focus is on decreasing the size of the nuisance bird population to reduce the amount of damage they can do to the crop. After a couple of seasons, the reduction in bird damage will be quite noticeable.
There is no definitive answer to this question, as a variety of factors determine how quickly the problem can be resolved. The most common factors are: number of nuisance birds, type of crop that is attracting the birds, layout of property and surrounding area, and control method used. To give an accurate estimate on how long it will take to clear a problem area, an onsite consultation is required.
Our focus is on chasing away nuisance birds with falconry. It is the threat of being caught that motivates the nuisance birds to leave. In the wild, large flocks of birds will actually land and forage next to a bird of prey that is feeding on a kill! When we fly our falcons or hawks, we are doing so when they are hungry, and therefore, in the hunting mindset; only they are hunting a lure that we are swinging and not the birds in the field. What the birds see is a falcon actively hunting, so they quickly leave, becasue they do not want to be one of its targets.
No. While we do have hawks and falcons that like to catch mice, voles and gophers, they wouldn’t be able to catch enough to effectively reduce the population. You also cannot chase away rodents like you can birds. They require a different control method.
Falcon chasing starlings off the grapes.