The Importance of Falconry in the Modern World
In 2010, UNESCO added falconry to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Although falconry has been in existence as a hunting sport for many years, many people did not know or appreciate the cultural significance nor the excitement associated with this art. As such many new enthusiasts have sought falconry in a bid to share in the excitement and prestige associated with this art.
Many falconers have asserted that falconry is not a practice for the faint-hearted. This is a very true and useful piece of advice for upcoming falconers and it should be considered as such. Several years ago, a prominent falconer was quoted saying that falconry should not be undertaken as a hobby but as a lifestyle. This statement captures the depth of the issue considering the huge amount of resources, time, commitment, and dedication that goes into rearing, training and breeding falconry birds or raptors.
I have been in the business of rearing and breeding birds of prey for a significant amount of time. Although I am now considered a seasoned falconer, I also faced some hurdles in the field as a beginner. One of the most sensitive aspects of falconry is breeding and I have some experience I would like to share in this regard. Additionally, I would like to emphasize the importance of conservation and the role played by private breeding in preserving various species.
Breeding Falconry Birds
When dealing with captive-bred raptors, the first step towards breeding is their care and management. Several choices, adjustments, and decisions must be made before one can even start to think about breeding falconry birds. Housing is the first consideration during breeding. The breeding birds should be housed in specially constructed mews to enable proper observation and also to enhance privacy.
Some raptors refuse to breed if they are watched by their fellow birds and they may become aggressive during the mating season. They require comfortable perches and sand-covered concrete floors to ensure hygiene in their mews. You should also consider the nesting requirements and preferences of individual species of raptors. In this light, nest areas should be constructed or improvised to suit specific species needs. The birds also require adequate clean water for drinking and also for baths. Breeding raptors require a high protein and mineral, especially calcium, diet.
The food should also be feed small but regular meals, and the food should be varied to enhance nutrition. When it comes to mating, raptors can become very aggressive and care should be taken to control this behavior. Mews containing breeding raptors should be observed and constantly monitored to avoid any surprises. In order to increase egg production, laid eggs should be collected immediately. If artificial production is preferred, semen can be collected by training the males to copulate on a chosen object and hybrid birds produced using imprinted birds. During incubation, raptors should not be disturbed and after hatching the chicks should be removed immediately.
Conservation of Falconry Birds
Several steps have been taken in response to dwindling populations of falconry birds in the wild. Wild raptors have been affected by various factors including habitat loss, systematic persecution, and death due to toxins and chemicals. One of the most effective practices in the conservation of raptors is the widely practiced and highly successful captive breeding.
Captive breeding using artificial insemination has helped to save and reinvigorate falconry species such as the peregrine falcons. Currently, some countries have implemented laws to regulate the capture of wild raptors in order to encourage private breeding. In addition to providing raptors for private rearing, private breeding also provides birds that are released back into the wild to sustain different species.