Nurturing My Interest in Falconry
My interest in falconry was stirred very early in my childhood after reading a children’s fictional book. As a child, I was mesmerized by the main character in the book, ‘My Side of the Mountain’, who owned a trained falcon, called Raptor.
As a child, I believed everything I read. However, as I grew up, I started questioning some of my readings and was surprised to learn that owning, training and hunting with birds of prey was not a myth. I was even more surprised to learn that the practice of hunting with birds of prey existed as a very popular activity and it was deemed as a cultural heritage. I was intrigued by this practice and excited and its prospects and this is what attracted me to this artistic pursuit called falconry.
In pursuit of my dreams, I researched extensively, joined a Falconry Club as a support member at the age of 17, and finally acquired my first falconry bird at the age of 22. This is when I embarked on the challenging but gratifying task of acquiring a captive-bred Red Tailed Hawk. Following my years of practicing falconry, I appreciate domestication of birds of prey and the artificial selection attributes that have emanated from this practice.
Private Breeding to Produce the Perfect Falconry Bird
Although they originate in the wild, several factors have not favored falconry birds there. The domestication of birds of prey dates back to the ancient times. Initially, the domestication of raptors involved trapping and capturing the birds for hunting sports.
As time passed, the population of various species of raptors dwindled dangerously prompting some falconers to domesticate the birds to conserve their species.
Domestication of falconry birds is also called ‘private breeding’ and it involves rearing and breeding desired species to achieve private goals or to preserve the species.
Many researchers believe that raptors have not been domesticated long enough to acquire totally desired attributes and traits. However, domestication practices coupled with artificial insemination and ‘selective breeding’ has resulted in some positive changes.
Domestication practices have led to the production of hybrid raptors that are more hardy and suited to hunting than the original species. Firstly, domesticated falconry birds have acquired the ability to survive and breed in captivity.
Some birds have also enhanced their disease resistance through private breeding. The most important benefit to private breeders is found in imprinted private-bred birds. Although the process of imprinting is very demanding and time consuming, the benefits accrued from this practice are worth it.
Imprinted birds are very tame and they lack some of the vigilante behaviors exhibited by non-imprinted birds. They are less aggressive and they learn to respect and trust the falconer ensuring a lasting relationship between the falconer and the bird. These changes are very important when it comes to training a falconry bird to hunt. They also ensure that the falconry bird is does not flee or escape during hunting.
Selecting a Suitable Falconry Bird
When it comes to choosing a falconry bird, any factors must be considered. First and foremost, the level of experience in rearing birds of prey must be considered. For beginners, the recommended starting birds are the Harris Hawk or Red Tailed Hawk.
These birds are easily adaptable and they consume a wide variety of prey. For seasoned falconers, the choice must be made to choose the best bird in terms of training and hunting.
Imprinted birds are the best choice regardless of species. However, the peregrine falcon is usually the preferred choice for seasoned falconers. Advances in domestication and continued selective breeding continue to produce high quality raptors and hybrids, which are also suitable for specialists.