Archive for December, 2010

Training Birds of Prey for Displays – a perspective.

Well it’s December and what with the cold and snow we are all longing for the summer – well grown ups are at least! But I would like to wish everybody a happy Christmas from me Michael Davie  and all the best for 2012.

Now on with my article! I have always had a very small turn over in new birds of prey in what is anyway a modest sized team. One of the great maxims of the ‘old falconers’ was not to be overhawked. Far better to have one well trained hawk than two half trained ones.

Having worked as a member of staff  at a large collection of birds of prey underlines this point but in a slightly different way. More birds means more avairies, more cleaning, more things to go wrong and therefore a small team of well trained hawks for birds of prey displays makes a lot of ense. They are well trained – or have a chance of being so – because you have more time to develop each individual to its full potential.

This can take several seasons particularly with flying birds away from home – each new venue presenting fresh challenges which an experienced team of birds of prey can best deal with.

Some individual birds seem to be cut out for this type of work and slot right in – but they are a much valued rarity – others take longer and with fewer birds there is more time to train a slow starter.

With falcons  there are two key elements in the later stages of the training that have to be negotiated before one has the confidence to fly them free. Firstly the catch of the lure in the air and then secondly to see if the falcon will circle back after the lure is twitched away – just like a wild falcon having missed on its first attempt will look back to have another go – its instinctive.

Some find it hard to pick up this idea and so instead of circling when the lure is twitched away they just continue on to the horizon! This means more time on the creance or training line which is frustrating – but if anything it teaches you real patience, self control and actually a lot of soul searching about your technique.

Once they get the idea it should just be a steady process of building up the falcon’s fitness by getting it to circle back repeatedly known as ‘stooping to the lure’. This fitness build up should bring about the birds natural hunting condition which in the wild is brought on by playfully chasing its brothers and sisters about the nest site and is further fostered by the parent falcons dropping prey in the air and so encouraging the youngsters to chase and catch.

Falconry is process of harnessing the falcons natural skills and as a result they can trained amazingly quickly but it is important to not give up on slow starters – their training may be slower but ultimately the results may be more rewarding. ‘Duke’ and ‘Waqar’ were both slow starters but turned out to be two of the best falconry display falcons we have had and with Duke in particular what can I say? he was the special one.