5 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Falconry
Have you ever considered falconry as an environmentally friendly way of controlling pest birds? Once known as the “Sport of Kings”, falconry involves capturing, breeding, training, and keeping birds of prey for use in hunting.
What Is Falconry?
Dating back several thousand years, Falconry is the taking of wild quarry with trained birds of prey. Birds of prey - also called raptors, are all very skilled hunters in their natural state. A falconer harnesses this natural hunting ability by training the raptor to hunt in partnership with the falconer. The raptor and the falconer develop a bond and the raptor comes to trust the falconer to be fed and cared for.
The type of raptor used for hunting is going to depend on the type of game being hunted. Falcons, such as peregrine and saker, are longwings and will hunt mainly birds that are in flight. Shortwings, such as red-tailed hawk, harris hawk, goshawk, sparrow hawk, typically take ground game such as rabbit, squirrel, or chipmunk. Eagles are in a group of their own. There are several types of eagles - such as bald, golden, harpy, hawk-eagle, snake-eagle, crested eagle, grey headed fish eagle. Only the bald and golden Eagle are native to North America. Eagles tend to hunt larger prey. They are capable of taking down geese, ducks, rabbits, hare, pheasant, ptarmigan, and they can fish as well. Owls can also be used in falconry for hunting mice, rats, rabbit, and birds.
Falconry requires a real time commitment as the raptors need care and feeding every day. It can be considered a lifestyle, as the birds need to be flown often. Depending on what the laws are in your area only certain raptors can be taken from the wild, but there are a number of raptors that are captive bred and can be purchased. To become a falconer you must apprentice with a licensed falconer - usually for over a year. In Ontario the law is from the beginning of hunting season in one year to the end of hunting season the next year. Each province in Canada has its own rules and regulations to do with falconry.
Can I Do Falconry in Canada?
Yes, falconry is possible in Canada. You can become a falconer in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. Each province has its own regulations and permits for falconry. To become a falconer in Ontario you must find a falconer willing to mentor you as an apprentice for approximately 14 months and 30 hours of learning with the falconer. To become proficient requires many more hours of practice. You must also purchase a small game license from the province to be able to hunt with your bird of prey. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has the final say in giving certificates once your training is completed.
What Does a Falconer Do?
A falconer handles and often trains his/her birds of prey. Bird and falconer develop a working relationship and a certain level of trust. The bird needs to learn to obey commands to fly up and then return to the falconer’s glove and be rewarded with food. The bird becomes a tool for the falconer to use in hunting small game. Captive bred raptors that are purchased may already be trained.
What Is the Best Bird to Start Falconry?
As each Canadian province has its own set of regulations, only certain species of birds can be used for falconry. In Ontario, the Cooper’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and Merlin are the birds approved to use for capture. Hawkeye’s birds are bred in captivity; they are not captured. Our Harris Hawks are indigenous to the southern United States desert regions in Arizona and New Mexico. As such, they are not suited to cold weather flying and must be kept in heated quarters in the winter. At Hawkeye, we find the Harris Hawk to be the most versatile and gentle, easy to train raptor.
Many falconers recommend the Red-Tailed Hawk as a beginner bird once a person is approved and trained as a falconer. This species is native to Ontario and is therefore accustomed to the various weather and temperature fluctuations in our province.
Where Can I Take Falconry Lessons?
Hawkeye offers apprenticeship programs if you’d like to become a falconer yourself. In Ontario, an apprenticeship program lasts from the beginning of hunting season in the fall to the end of the next hunting season the following year.
You can glean a glimpse into the world of Falconry at our falconry workshops and experiences of one, two, and three hours at our facility just outside of Toronto. We can also do special experiences for groups tailored to suit your needs. Our certified and experienced falconers will teach you about training and working with birds of prey. In addition to having many years of experience in this industry, our falconers have a deep respect for nature, particularly the instincts that are exhibited by birds of prey. Email us at [email protected] or call us at (416) 429-5393 or toll-free at 1-(855) 393-4295 to learn more.