Thank you for visiting my page about practicing falconry in Philadelphia! You can find out what got me interested in falconry and the experience I have had with this incredible sport on my About page.
What is falconry? Falconry is the sport, hobby, and art of using a trained raptor to hunt wild game. Despite the misleading term, the use of any trained raptor to hunt – whether it is a hawk, eagle, or falcon – is still called “falconry.”
In Pennsylvania, the Game Commission regulates all kinds of hunting, which includes falconry. They conduct inspections of the falconer’s facilities for the bird and issue the permits necessary to become a falconer. In order to become a falconer, a person must pass an exam, build an aviary for a bird, and complete a 2-year apprenticeship under the expertise of a more experienced falconer.
After obtaining the necessary permits to acquire a bird of prey, the bird’s training begins. When training a bird of prey, the falconer works with the bird’s natural instincts to hunt for food. The falconer tames the bird only to the point of getting her to recognize that the falconer is not a threat, but an asset to her ability to hunt. This is done by initially only letting the bird eat from the falconer’s glove. Once the bird is eating off the fist, she is asked to fly increasing distances to the glove for its food. When the falconer is confident that the bird will respond to the glove, the bird is released in a hunting area. The falconer acts as a sort of hunting dog for the bird, stirring up prey as she walks along, and the bird learns that it is in her best interest to stay close to the falconer to find prey.
If a bird should find and catch something, like a squirrel, rabbit, or snake, the falconer rushes in to help the bird dispatch what she has caught in order to prevent injury to the bird and end her prey’s suffering. The falconer then trades the bird off of her kill to another piece of food in the glove and hides what she has caught in order to give to her in smaller pieces at a later date. All of the training of a raptor is managed with positive reinforcement, as negative reinforcement is incomprehensible and ineffective in working with birds of prey, and food, not praise or affection, is the only factor that motivates a raptor to return to the falconer.
Falconry depends on the continued welfare of birds of prey and the resources they need to survive. As hunters, falconers should be supportive of conservation efforts to keep the environment healthy. I believe that my ability to provide education with my red-tailed hawk allows people who might never have seen a raptor up close to connect with a fierce and beautiful aspect of the natural world that surrounds residents of both urban and rural areas. To learn more about falconry, please visit my resources page, and contact me to find out about booking me for any fairs, camps, or classroom activities. You will find my experience listed in my About page, and can get in touch through my Contact page. Thanks again for visiting!