- Written by Dan Frankian
Have you ever noticed the beauty of hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls flying overhead? Have you ever experienced the nuisance of pest birds on the beach or on your commercial property? There is a natural connection between these types of birds that has become a hobby, a functional practice, and a way of life.
Birds of prey are used by bird control companies to manage and control the overpopulation of pest birds, like seagulls, in a particular area; this process is called abatement. The specialists who train these predatory birds to hunt and scare away these pests are called Falconers. However, the art of falconry is also a huge hobby for hunting enthusiasts. Predatory birds like hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons are also used to hunt mammals like rabbits and squirrels for sport.
So how do you become a falconer? Where can you get falconry experience in Florida? Is falconry even legal? Here’s everything you need to know!
What Is Falconry?
Falconry is the process of hunting wild animals in their natural state and habitat by using a trained bird of prey such as an eagle, falcon, owl, or hawk. The animals that are hunted vary in size and environment depending on which type of raptor you choose to hunt with. These animals can include squirrels, rabbits, voles, mice, fish, and even other birds. There are several species of predatory birds that are used for this practice, but they are all conditioned and trained to catch wild game.
Which Birds Are Used for Falconry?
Despite the name, there are many species of birds rather than falcons that are used for this purpose. Here are the different types of birds used for falconry:
- Hawks: Hawks are divided into two categories
- Buteos: Red-Tailed Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Harris’ Hawk
- Accipiters: Eurasian Sparrow Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Goshawk, Cooper’s Hawk
- Eagles: Golden Eagle
- Owls: Eurasian Eagle Owl, Great Horned Owl
- Falcons: Peregrine, American and European Kestrel, Gyrfalcon, Merlin
What Is the Best Bird to Start Falconry?
The most common bird for a beginning falconer in North America is the Red-Tailed Hawk. The Harris’ Hawk is also a common bird used for beginner falconers. The Red-Tailed Hawk is preferred because of its ease of breeding in captivity, inherent strength, and capability to hunt prey like hares and rabbits.
Is Falconry Legal in Florida?
Although falconry is legal in Florida, you must obtain a Federal and State license. Your State Game and Fish Department can provide this to you, excluding in Hawaii, because it is illegal to hunt game using a raptor there. Keep in mind that each state has its own regulations and guidelines that meet or surpass federal standards.
How Do I Obtain a Falconry License in Florida?
Since all raptors are protected by Federal, State, and International laws, anyone interested in falconry must obtain specific permits and licenses before practicing this skill or acquiring a bird to train with. This licensing process can take a while, as it includes a written exam and obtaining signatures from a sponsor. Some states further require hunter education courses as well. To learn more about this process in Florida, click here.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Falconry License?
In Florida, falconers must pass a written exam and be at least 14 years old. Additionally, they must score at least an 80% on an exam covering the following:
- Laws and regulations
- Raptor identification
- Raptor physiology
- Raptor behavior
- Raptor ecology
- Raptor healthcare and diseases
- Raptor facilities
- Falconry equipment, terminology, and techniques
In Florida a falconer can progress through the classes of falconry permits (Apprentice, General, and Master) as they gain more experience. The difference between these classes is the type of raptors one can obtain, and the number of raptors they are allowed to house and have under their care.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Falconry License?
Getting into falconry can be an expensive hobby. Not only do you need to pay for your permits, but you also must consider the costs of appropriate facilities, equipment, food, and veterinary bills. Just to get started, you may need to put down $2,000 to cover the cost of books, a five-year license, an annual capture permit, annual hunting licenses/stamps, starting equipment , enough food to supply your bird for a year, and permanent and travelling raptor facilities. You may also need to invest an additional $600 to $1,000 in radio telemetry equipment to track your raptor.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Falconer?
Becoming a falconer will take time, but it depends on the individual’s determination, dedication, and ability to obtain a sponsor. This process could take anywhere from six months to seven years, depending on whether you want to become a Master level falconer or stay as a Beginner. Raptors are live creatures that require a significant amount of time training and caring for. You’ll need to dedicate 365 days a year training them. You will also need to consider how long it may take to get a sponsor. If you have young children or a busy career, you may not be able to have enough time for this hobby, as it is more of a lifestyle.
Are you interested in falconry classes in Florida or want to learn more about what it entails? We can help! Hawkeye Bird and Animal Control services residential, commercial, and industrial properties in the Greater Toronto Area, Golden Horseshoe, and many parts of Florida.
At Hawkeye, we provide unique hands on experiences that allow you to get up close and personal with birds of prey without making the full commitment of becoming a falconer. Using classes and workshops we teach clients how to train and work with these magnificent birds. Want to register for falconry classes in Florida? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (416) 429-5393) or toll free at 1-(855) 393-4295.
Another way to gain experience without a full commitment is by volunteering at a local wildlife rehabilitation center or a nature center that handles raptors. You can get to understand and interact with the animals and see if falconry is an interest you want to pursue.
Hawkeye as a Whole
Aside from managing pest birds, animals, and other nuisance wildlife, our services also include animal and bird control using birds of prey, balcony cleaning and netting, exclusion, installation of screens for doors and dock seals, and a variety of deterrent methods using sounds and visuals. We guarantee results and offer solutions that exceed our competitors.
Hawkeye is the only pest bird and animal control company in Canada designated "Certified Wildlife Control Professional" and we hold the following licenses: Trapping of Fur Bearing Animals Permit, Falconry Permit, and Pest Control License. We are the only company in the GTA allowed to permanently remove nuisance animals, while other companies are required to trap and release the animals.