Learning about Falconry from the Right Mentor
Having watched my uncle rearing falconry birds as a child, I developed a keen interest in this exciting but demanding art. I had done a lot of research on the subject and my uncle, a seasoned falconer, had been my mentor since childhood. I applied this knowledge and my acquired skills when I decided to acquire my first falconry bird. After considering various factors and seeking advice from seasoned falconers, I decided to buy a captive-bred Harris Hawk.
The Harris Hawk was the most suitable bird for me as a beginner because of its temperament and also because it is very adaptable and hence easy to rear and train. Additionally, the bird is a very capable hunter, will take a variety of quarry, and it is highly sociable. My first falconry bird was a captive-bred Harris Hawk, and I named him Grant.
The first step when rearing the birds of prey is to consider all aspects of bird husbandry.
– The mews –
In this light, I constructed a spacious mews for accommodation with specially designed perching equipment. I considered various factors when constructing the mews including the Hawk’s requirements in terms of health and safety, the weather, and training among others. The floor of the mews was made of solid concrete and then I poured sand up to four inches thick.
– Diet –
As recommended, I maintained a strictly carnivorous diet of suitable (not too much to avoid overweight and not too little to avoid malnutrition) ration of meats, from dead one-day old chicks and turtles and rats. I acquired these foods from various outlets and I also ensured that fur was included in every meal to ensure proper digestion. Thank goodness I never need to use crazy human diets, it would be impossible to apply weight loss techniques to a bird.
Training and Equipment used for the Training
The next step, which is by far the most challenging according to me, was the training. To start with, I had to acquire all the necessary equipment to aid in the training.
– The Hood –
The hood is the most important tool in falcon training and it is used during the manning process during the training. I decided to use the Dutch hood, which has a special mould that allows space for the bird’s eyes and also contains an adequate neck width. I chose the three piece suit due to its special design and ensured that it fit the bird comfortably to avoid rejection.
– Bell, telemetry transmitter, and identity band –
I bought and attached a pair of bells that would help me to track the bits movement and whereabouts from a fair distance. I also bought an identity band and tied it to the bird’s leg to ensure that it’s identifiable and traceable in case it fled or got lost. A telemetry transmitter also came in handy in case the bird got lost during free flight.
– Jess and creance –
I bought an Aylmeri jess that included dental rubber bands to ensure that the bird did not pull out of it. The jess was composed of two parts; a removable dental rubber strap and a looped anklet for restraint and I attached a creance to it.
Training Falconry Birds
The first part of the training is called manning and it involves the acclimatization process between the Hawk and me. The second part of the training was undertaken as recommended for imprinted captive-bred birds. In order to ensure that the Hawk did not associate the arrival of food with my presence as a human being, I never allowed it to be too hungry, avoided its visual range and kept away from the bird.
Finally, when bird came of age, I allowed it to wander around outside so that it could use its wings and develop its muscles. For the final training, I employed operant conditioning using food as a reward. In this light, the Hawk developed a trust in me and started hunting and delivering prey. The success of this training depended on the cultivation of mutual trust between the bird and I, such that it trusted that I could not steal its catch. It also returned after a hunting escapade because it was assured of my protection.