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Falconry March 16, 2011

Posted by bsciencecenter in Uncategorized.

I have worked with raptors (birds of prey) in an educational setting for 15 years.  Over the past 2 years, I was a spectator at a couple local falconry hunts and became very interested in becoming a Falconer.  Diane Welch, the Science Center’s assistant, has been a Falconer for many years.  This past year, I decided to get my Apprentice (beginner) Falconry License.

Falconry is the art and sport of hunting (the pursuit of wild quarry) with a trained raptor. In this modern age it is a highly regulated sport that demands time and serious commitment. Currently, there are an estimated 4,000 falconers in the United States with roughly 5,000 birds. Falconry has been practiced in many forms for thousands of years by many cultures. Some speculate that falconry dates back as far as 4000 – 6000 BC in Mongolia, Egypt, and possibly Asia.

Falconry requires long hours, constant devotion, and skill. Falconers begin with a Falconry Permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service plus State Permits where required. But before the beginner can even apply for the permit, they must have the proper gear and facilities for the bird. Then, he or she must pass a test (100 questions, 80 percent required) and pay the appropriate fees.  The falconer must train a bird of prey to fly free, hunt together with a human, and then accept a return to captivity.

My first juvenile red-tail hawk falconry bird, Medusa

An apprentice falconer should begin with knowledge. The beginner must learn about the various gaming birds, their stages of life, characteristics, prey, care, feeding and the hunting environment. Some medical knowledge is a must, because a falconer has to be able to recognize and treat health problems. They must also learn about proper housing for the birds and how to use the equipment. Another factor to keep in mind: a falconer must know the rules and regulations that affect the sport and the laws that apply to birds of prey.


The beginner (Apprentice) is required to work with an experienced falconer (sponsor) for two years. Apprentices are limited to two choices of bird: the American Kestrel or the Red-tailed hawk, both common raptors in the United States. The apprentice’s first bird must be obtained from the wild and beginners are required to capture a “passage bird” or first-year bird that already has learned how to fly.  The bird is trapped from the wild, trained and hunted.  The falconer can release their bird back to the wild after the season is over, or choose to hunt with it for years!

Medusa's first rabbit

Success! A squirrel!

A bird and falconer, both properly trained, can enjoy a hunting relationship for many years.  Many claim falconry is not a hobby, but a lifestyle.

As my first hunting season ends, I am sad, but also excited for opportunities in years to follow.  I was successfully taking wild quarry with my trained bird.  There is a great sense of pride, having a partnership with such an amazing animal.  This is something I will do for the rest of my life.  It has become my passion.

That was a big rabbit she caught!

Here is a video of my bird flying back to me after pushing through some Cape Cod marsh habitat  for rabbits.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have.


1. Lupatrian - May 30, 2011

Do you know of anyone who is missing a bird? I have seen – more than once, in the same place – a bird (who looks like yours) with leathers. [S]he looks a little scraggly; not sure how well they can survive with the leathers on -? Hoping to find who is missing their bird. Yarmouth, Cape Cod.

2. senhoritaf - January 3, 2012

This bird is really beautiful and falconry is an interesting sport, but I just dislike somebody needs to die, in the case, the rabbit.

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