Apr 05 2009
Last Wednesday, for the first time ever, I held a Harris’s hawk on my hand.
Jeff taught us about the rules and traditions of falconry, a hunting technique that’s at least 4,000 years old. In it, the falconer and his bird go to the field and look for prey. The falconer stirs up the prey, the bird flies to the kill. What they hunt depends on the bird’s natural hunting technique: ground-based prey (rabbits, squirrels, muskrats) for red-tails, harris’s and goshawks; ducks and pheasants for peregrines. Sometimes more than one prey item is caught per day but it doesn’t go to waste. The falconer brings it home to feed his birds throughout the year.
Falconry is hard work and a lifetime commitment, not only to train and care for the birds but to hunt with them all season – September through March. For falconers it’s a passion, a life-changing experience. We saw how falconers bond with their birds because Jeff brought his male American kestrel and female northern goshawk and master falconer Richie (I didn’t catch his last name) brought his Harris’s hawk.
The birds were gorgeous. It was such a treat to see them up close. Here I am holding the Harris’s hawk while Richie stands just outside the picture to the right. The hawk is wearing a falconry hood so you can’t see its face. (Click here for a better view of this species.) And don’t be fooled by my expression. My brows are knitted because I’m squinting. Those glasses in my right hand should be on my face!
Because of the peregrines, I have a special place in my heart for falconers whose passion, knowledge and breeding birds helped make the Peregrine Recovery Program such a success.
For more information on falconry in Pennsylvania, contact Jeff Finch at the Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust.
(photo by Mike Fialkovich)