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How to Handle a Bird of Prey – Falconry Handling

A bird of prey, otherwise known as a raptor, is one of the most vicious animals on planet earth. These incredible, predatory birds have evolved and adapted to the top of the food chain with their keen vision, strong feet, sharp curved beaks and talons and powerful wings. All of these characteristics allow birds of prey to catch and kill a variety of small and medium sized vertebrates. In fact, there are many videos that capture the sheer power of a raptor picking up small deer!

As you can see, handling a mighty winged animal like a bird of prey comes with a big responsibility. However, there is no other feeling of having such a well-trained and magnificent creature trust and obey your commands.

Before entering into the sport of falconry or owning a bird of prey it is important to consider all the demands and requirements. As we mentioned in the article, How to Get Into Falconry, entering this sport requires a lot of time, money and legal requirements. You simply cannot become a master level falconer in a day. But, let’s say you have successfully completed all legal requirements and are ready to begin your journey to become a master falconer. The first step in this learning process is how to handle your bird of prey when going hunting.

First, you should learn the jargon and equipment used in the sport of falconry before you try to establish a meaning for yourself. Listed below are the equipment and common words used in falconry:

  • Falconry – The sport of hunting with a trained bird of prey.
  • Falconer – The person who trained and is hunting with the bird of prey.
  • Jess – Leather straps are attached to the birds’ legs.
  • Bell – Bells are attached to the raptors’ legs in order to alert the falconer where the bird made its kill.
  • Hood – A leather hood has been used for centuries to keep the raptors calm and manageable.
  • Glove – A falconer wears or carries a leather glove or gauntlet that extends to the elbow to ensure he or she is protected from the falcon’s legs.

Assuming you are already well acclimated to the bird’s temperament, have been trained and have the right equipment; you now can learn the basics of handling a bird of prey. The first step in falconry, is to learn how to call a bird in. If you are all dressed with the correct equipment and food, you are ready to call the raptor in. Most of the time, falconers have a pouch of dismembered chick legs or small rodents to lure the raptor to them. You should position your back to the location of the bird and your head towards it while holding your food out in the hand covered by the glove. The raptor will then swoop down and land on your arm.

Once the bird of prey has landed, you then should quickly thread the jesses or leather straps attached to the feet through your fingers so the bird cannot fly off. Once you have stabilized the bird, you can release the jesses and point your arm in the direction you want the bird to go. The bird will usually perch in a tree or highly elevated area.

Once the bird of prey is perched, the falconer usually beats around the brush to steer up any small mammals for the raptor to lock eyes on. If the bird spots a kill they will swoop towards it and kill it instantly and the bells will alert you where the raptor flew to.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong. To master falconry takes relentless practice and you must establish a bond or connection with the raptor. If you are ready for the challenge, we suggest using premium frozen rodents to keep your bird of prey strong and healthy. Remember, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.




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