Falconry is a perfect marriage between environment and beauty

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How do you describe falconry to people when you first talk to people?

Many people don’t realize it exists; they think it’s a fantasy. These women form relationships and partnerships with their birds that last for years. These falcons are all juveniles when trapped, meaning they must be under 3 years old to protect breeding populations. Before 3 they did some hunting and they have basic skills. When the formators welcome them, [they] provide them with 5-star meals and Olympic-level training. These women share their lives with these birds, but the birds don’t like them. A falcon is not a pet, but birds understand that it is someone in their life who will provide them with food and whom they can trust. They train these hawks to hunt and ask them to work with you as a predator in search of prey.

There is a community of people doing this in New England, but I chose to focus on women. I come from a family of many women, and I’m much more comfortable with women. Over time, they really became friends. It’s not just something I spend my Sunday mornings doing.

How to train a bird?

A newly trapped bird is usually afraid of humans, so the beginning of the relationship gains their trust and allays their fears.

The very first step in training a bird of prey is one of the most important: it must eat the falconer’s glove. They must remain calm and quiet, even with a piece of meat on the glove. The state of the bird has been carefully examined beforehand: is it hungry, greedy, in good health? In order for the bird to lean down and eat from the glove, it exposes its neck and takes a huge leap of faith with the human. The bird has a habit of taking its food and running and finding a safe place to eat, because in nature there are other predators and threats. The journey to earn this bird’s trust and make it comfortable has begun.

From there they progress to jumping or gauntleting, flying 15 feet away on a short leash, and then progressing to free flight, a huge moment in the falconer-bird relationship. The first leap of the gauntlet is a leap of faith. They left. It’s a beautiful thing, that falcons have their freedom when working with a falconer and choose to come back. It is also the confidence of falconers. Birds have the ability to live their own lives. Most falconers eventually release their birds, and they continue to do what they are supposed to do, hunt for themselves and breed.

It is fine in falconry that these birds only do what is natural, but they do it alongside a human being. Falconers have to be so much to them in return – they have to be wildlife trappers, experts and trainers.

Falconers are only allowed to trap juvenile falcons so as not to affect the breeding population. Juvenile falcons have a mortality rate from 60% to 80%. Two big risks are rodenticides, or rat poison, and collisions with cars, the first that many falconers hate and advise against because it can disrupt entire ecosystems. Falconers are able to keep a young falcon safe and in excellent physical condition until it is ready to return to the wild and seek mates, helping to secure future generations of raptors.

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