What is a Falconer?

A falconer practices the ancient art of training and hunting with falcons and other birds of prey. Falconry, also known as hawking, is a traditional hunting method that dates back thousands of years and has been practiced in various cultures around the world. Falconers develop a deep bond with their birds and train them to hunt in partnership, using their natural instincts and abilities.

Falconry is not just a sport or hobby; it is a way of life that requires dedication, patience, and a deep appreciation for nature. Falconers often participate in falconry clubs and events to connect with others who share their passion and to showcase the beauty and skill of this ancient art form. Today, falconry is practiced both for conservation purposes, such as raptor rehabilitation and population management, as well as for recreational purposes, allowing enthusiasts to experience the thrill of hunting in a traditional and sustainable manner.

What does a Falconer do?

A falconer reaching out his arm so the falcon can land.

Falconers have a responsibility to care for their birds and engage in falconry practices that prioritize the welfare of the birds and respect for the natural environment. They also play a crucial role in preserving the cultural heritage and knowledge associated with this ancient art form.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a falconer revolve around the care, training, and hunting partnership with birds of prey. Here are some key responsibilities of a falconer:

  • Bird Care: Falconers are responsible for the health and well-being of their birds. This includes providing appropriate housing, such as mews (falconry enclosures), and ensuring the birds have access to proper nutrition, fresh water, and a suitable environment. Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations are also part of their duties.
  • Training and Conditioning: Falconers spend a significant amount of time training their birds to develop a strong bond and establish trust. This involves teaching the bird to respond to commands, such as returning to the glove or perch. They also work on conditioning the bird's fitness and hunting skills through exercise and simulated hunting sessions.
  • Hunting and Fieldwork: One of the primary responsibilities of a falconer is to engage in hunting with their birds. This involves carefully selecting appropriate prey species and locations, understanding local regulations and hunting seasons, and ensuring that the hunt is conducted ethically and legally. Falconers must have a deep understanding of their bird's abilities and behavior to ensure successful hunts while minimizing risks to the bird and the environment.
  • Conservation and Education: Falconers often contribute to the conservation of birds of prey by participating in rehabilitation programs, breeding projects, and public education initiatives. They promote the understanding and appreciation of raptors, their natural habitats, and the importance of their conservation.
  • Legal Compliance: Falconers must adhere to the regulations and laws specific to falconry in their respective regions. This includes obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, maintaining proper records, and participating in inspections or reporting requirements as mandated by local authorities.

Falconry Equipment
Falconers use a variety of specialized equipment to aid in the training, handling, and hunting of their birds.

  • Falconry Glove: A falconry glove is a thick leather glove worn on the falconer's hand. It provides protection from the bird's sharp talons while offering a secure perch for the bird to land on. The glove allows the falconer to handle and control the bird during training and hunting sessions.
  • Jesses and Leashes: Jesses are thin leather straps that are attached to the bird's legs. They serve as a means of safely tethering the bird and allow the falconer to maintain control over the bird's movements. Leashes are longer straps or cords that provide additional security when the bird is flying free but still connected to the falconer.
  • Bells: Bells are attached to the bird's legs or equipment, such as the hood, to help locate and track the bird during flight. The sound of the bell makes it easier for the falconer to keep track of the bird's movements, especially when it is out of sight.
  • Hood: A hood is a fitted cover that is placed over the bird's head, covering its eyes. It helps in calming and restraining the bird during transportation and periods of rest. The hood is removed when the bird is ready for hunting or training.
  • Lure: A lure is a decoy used to simulate prey during training exercises. It typically resembles the bird's natural quarry and is used to reinforce hunting instincts and recall commands. The falconer swings or throws the lure to encourage the bird to pursue it.
  • Perches and Stands: Falconers use perches and stands to provide a landing place for their birds when they are not in flight. These can be portable or fixed structures where the bird can rest and perch comfortably.
  • Scales and Jess Pliers: Scales are used to weigh the birds regularly to monitor their health and condition. Jess pliers are used to securely attach and remove jesses from the bird's legs.

Types of Falconers
There are different types of falconers based on their level of experience, the birds they work with, and their specific interests within the field of falconry. Here are a few types of falconers:

  • Apprentice Falconers: Apprentice falconers are individuals who are new to falconry and are in the initial stages of learning and practicing the art. They work under the guidance of a master falconer, following regulations and requirements set by local authorities to obtain the necessary permits and licenses.
  • General Falconers: General falconers are individuals who have gained experience and expertise in handling and training a variety of birds of prey. They may work with different species of raptors such as falcons, hawks, or eagles and have a broad knowledge of falconry techniques and practices.
  • Specialist Falconers: Specialist falconers focus on a specific type of bird of prey or aspect of falconry. For example, they may specialize in working with a particular species, such as the peregrine falcon, or they may specialize in a specific hunting technique, such as flying birds from a vehicle or using falconry in pest control.
  • Conservation Falconers: Conservation falconers have a particular interest in the conservation and rehabilitation of birds of prey. They may work closely with wildlife rehabilitation centers or participate in breeding and release programs to support the recovery of endangered or threatened species.
  • Display Falconers: Display falconers engage in educational and public outreach activities to promote falconry and increase awareness about birds of prey. They often participate in falconry demonstrations, shows, and exhibitions where they showcase the skills and abilities of their birds to educate and entertain the public.
  • Academic Falconers: Academic falconers combine their passion for falconry with research and study. They may conduct scientific research on raptor behavior, biology, or conservation, contributing to the broader understanding of birds of prey and their ecosystems.

Are you suited to be a falconer?

Falconers have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also enterprising, meaning they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.

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What is the workplace of a Falconer like?

The workplace of a falconer can vary depending on the specific context and activities they engage in. However, there are a few common environments and settings where falconers typically operate.

One primary workplace for a falconer is the field or natural habitats where hunting takes place. Falconers often venture into diverse landscapes such as open fields, forests, mountains, or coastal areas, depending on the target prey and the bird species they work with. They may spend hours in the field, carefully observing their surroundings and the behavior of their birds. This outdoor workplace allows falconers to connect with nature intimately and witness the awe-inspiring flight and hunting prowess of their avian partners.

In addition to the hunting grounds, falconers also spend considerable time at home or at specialized facilities. They are responsible for the care and training of their birds, which often involves having a dedicated space called a mews or an aviary. These facilities provide suitable housing for the birds, allowing them to rest, roost, and exercise. Falconers ensure that the mews or aviary is clean, secure, and well-equipped with perches, nest boxes, and other essential amenities for the birds' well-being.

Falconers may also work in collaboration with conservation organizations, wildlife rehabilitation centers, or falconry clubs. In these settings, they may participate in research projects, educational programs, or public demonstrations. Conservation falconers, for instance, might engage in activities such as breeding endangered species, rehabilitating injured birds, or releasing captive-bred raptors into the wild. Display falconers may perform at public events, providing educational talks and showcasing the beauty and skills of their birds to inspire and educate the audience.

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Falconers are also known as:
Raptor Trainer