FAQ

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What is Falconry? Falconry is hunting with a trained bird of prey and has long been recognized as legitimate recreational use of wildlife. The training of and hunting with birds of prey has been practiced since 2000 BC and was originally used as a means of catching food for the table. The birth of falconry came long before the invention of the firearm. Falconry is considered high input, low impact recreational-use of wildlife.

What is the British Columbia Falconry Association? The British Columbia Falconry Association is a private organization whose members are dedicated to the conservation of raptors and their prey and to falconry as a source of recreational enjoyment. Not all members actively fly birds, but many have extensive experience handling and training falconry birds. Some are actively involved in domestic breeding programs, and others in rehabilitation projects for injured wild raptors. The association maintains a strict code of ethics.
Why is falconry considered a valid recreational activity? The challenges associated with the training of and hunting with falconry birds provide satisfaction, enjoyment and outdoor recreation to falconers with no negative impact on populations of wild raptors or their prey. Additional benefits are gained from developing domestic breeding techniques and increasing public awareness of wildlife. Trained raptors have higher survival rates than wild birds and are maintained in peak physical condition. They are assured sufficient food to thrive and are generally protected from disease and predators. Some falconry birds are accidentally lost while flying and some are intentionally released back into the wild where they add to the free ranging populations. Hunting by falconry birds is a natural method of feeding and mirrors those methods used for survival by wild raptors. During the hunt, the role of the falconer is reduced to that of an observer of a real life drama. The falconer only attempts to choose the time and place in order to be present to witness the event.
Who can become a falconer? British Columbia government regulations indicate that in oder to obtain or hold a Falconry Permit, an individual must have British Columbia resident status for a minimum of six months, be at least 14 years of age (an individual who is under 16 years of age must be authorized in writing by their parent or guardian to hold that license), will construct a housing facility that is approved by the regional wildlife branch. However, falconry is not for everyone. There is no field sport and are very few hobbies that require more devotion of time and attention than falconry. This is often the most underestimated demand of the sport to newcomers. Furthermore, not everyone is, by their nature, capable of handling raptors. If your interest in the art of falconry is primarily to take game, then do not try falconry. If you're attraction to falconry is that it is an interesting and unusual hobby and would be a neat way to attract attention, you may be right but it is not what falconry is about. If you love birds and would like a hawk as a pet, then do not attempt falconry for they do not make good pets! If you are actively involved with social activities or clubs, business commitments, or enjoy taking vacations numerous times a year then do not attempt to fit in a bit of falconry. However, if you have an interest in the outdoors, the environment and a love of wildlife with enough depth and breadth to be more than sentimental; if you can see the highly developed and evolved qualities of predators such as courage, strength, coordination and physical perfection; if you have a fascination with the predatory process of search, locate, attack, subdue and consume and understand that these are essential in order for them to survive; if you are prepared to commit the time to ensuring their success; then falconry may be for you and with time and experience you may become a falconer.
What is a falconry bird? In B.C., 10 species of native raptors are classified as falconry birds: American Kestrel, Cooper's Hawk, Gyrfalcon, Harris' Hawk, Merlin, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk. Some imported species and Hybrids are also permitted.

How do falconers get birds?
There are a number of sources and methods of obtaining falconry birds. A capture permit may be issued for species that are not on the provincial Red list. Red-listed species may be used in falconry in BC if they have been bred and hatched domestically. Only captive bred birds and those birds that have been legally imported into British Columbia may be exported from the province in birds collected from the wild in British Columbia is not permitted, although such a birds may be transferred from one British Columbia falconer to another.

  •   A limited number of PEFA (6/year) are now available for capture by Class 1 falconers.
  • Capture permits can be issued for some designations of species-at-risk.  Rare and Endangered have very specific definitions under COSEWIC.  The policy in BC is not to allow capture of Red-listed species – this is why there is no capture allowed for Prairie Falcons, Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks (or goshawks on Vancouver Island); however there is limited capture allowed for Gyrfalcons and Peregrine falcons as they are Blue-listed (a level below Red-listed).  Provincially Red-listed = species eligible for consideration as Threatened or Endangered; Blue-listed = Vulnerable/Special Concern.  Rare is a lower designation than either of these.
  • Traffic = barter, sell, trade, etc., basically exchanging for something of value.  Trafficking of wild-caught native falconry species is allowed amongst valid BC permit holders; they just can’t be exported.

How are falconry birds collected from the wild?
Usually birds are taken from the nest as chicks (called eyasses). When this is done, at least one (Class 2) or two (Class 1) nestlings must be is always left for the parent birds to raise, so as to prevent the nest site from being abandoned and to conserve the local population. The timing of pulling a chick is crucial. An eyass taken too young will imprint on its handler, imprinting is complex and unwanted in most cases. Sometimes birds are captured as free flying juveniles also known none as passage a birds on passage. Sexually mature adults and Red-listed species are not collected for falconry purposes.

What species of wildlife may I hunt with a falconry bird?
If you hold a falconry permit and have purchased the proper bird hunting licenses, you may hunt migratory and upland game birds during open seasons. Bag limits and possession limits that apply to game bird hunters also apply to falconers. You may also hunt Schedule C exempted wildlife animals such as crows, magpies, House Sparrows, domestic pigeons, starlings, Eastern Cottontail and European Rabbits, at any time of the year on Crown land or private land with permission of the landowner.  The same is true for Schedule B wildlife such as Snowshow Hares, Columbian Ground Squirrel, mice and voles, Woodchuck and Yellow-bellied Marmots but only on private land with permission of the landowner.
  • Grackles are not Schedule C, they are protected and not open to harvest.
  • Some of the species listed are Schedule B which limits hunting them to private land only (Schedule C wildlife can be taken on Crown land too)
  • Only domestic pigeons (Rock Pigeons), not Band-tailed pigeons
  • Note also that you must possess a valid BC hunting licence to hunt Schedule B species and native species on Schedule C (crows, magpies)


Would hunting with a falconry bird increase my chance for success? No! Next to throwing stones, falconry is probably the least efficient of traditional hunting techniques. The trained falconry bird, unlike its counterpart in the wild, is greatly disadvantaged during the hunt by the fact that the falconer chooses the time, place and prey available. Falconers are motivated not by the kill but by the quality of the flight and the thrill of the chase. Prey is sometimes captured unharmed and can be released.

Do many hunters use falconry birds? NO! Falconry will never be a popular sport. Aside from the fact that the hunting success rate is so low, it is relatively expensive to obtain, house and care for a falconry bird. On top of this, the inordinate amount of time required every day to handle, train and exercise a falconry bird is usually more than the average person is willing to forgo. Falconers must, by the nature of their calling, be extremely dedicated to it. It has been described as more of a way of life than a hobby.

Would a falconry bird make a satisfactory pet? NO! Aside from the fact that one cannot keep raptors as pets under British Columbia Wildlife Regulations, raptors are by nature solitary predators who avoid even their own kind except during the breeding season. Through training they learn to tolerate and use the falconer as a food source, but they are neither affectionate nor intelligent, nor capable of responding to kindness per se like a dog or cat.

I think I would like to be a falconer. What should I do? The first thing to do is use the library and read as much as you can about raptors and about falconry. If possible, discuss the pros and cons of the sport with a falconer and then with your family. Assess your personal situation, remembering that falconry is a major commitment. Then, if you are still interested, apply for membership in the British Columbia Falconry Association, where you can learn from experienced falconers.
Are there any other points of general interest? Falconry birds collected from the wild in British Columbia and held under a falconry permit may not be exported, except temporarily for the purpose of hunting or attending a falconry meet. This restriction does not apply to imported birds or captive-bred birds. A non-resident falconer is not permitted to collect wild raptors or falconry birds in British Columbia. Non-resident falconers may bring their falconry birds temporarily into British Columbia for the purposes of hunting, attending meets, etc., as long as the birds are accompanied by the appropriate licenses and permits (e.g. falconry permits, export and import permits, health certificates, CITES permit, hunting licenses, etc.).
Why does someone aspire to hunt with a hawk?
Most people that consider taking up the sport of falconry cannot answer this question easily.  A lot of people wish to possess a raptor for all the wrong reasons, the most popular being the simple prestige of walking around with one of these magnificent birds on their fist.  What a lot of people don’t realize, is that the amount of actual labour that must be put forth to maintain a hawk that is a credit to her keeper, is far too great for the small amount of fame and prestige that will follow. 
 People who do become experienced falconers seem to have been disinterested in prestige at their beginnings and pursue falconry more out of a deep interest in the nature of predation and predatory birds themselves.  A deep affection for one’s own hawk is always a necessary prerequisite for a falconer of merit.  The rewards that come from practicing falconry are mostly a feeling of personal satisfaction at the teamwork involved at successfully bringing game to the bag. When a hawk is at her very best, chances are that no one else will be around.
 
Does falconry suit my lifestyle?
One very important consideration for any aspiring falconer are whether or not sacrifices need to be made in the home and family life to make room and time for such a bird?  Falconry does not fit into everyone’s lifestyle.  Does one’s job conflict with allowing time to train and hunt a hawk?  A properly trained hawk will require daily maintenance and flying time to be successful in the field. Time must be allowed for training as well as the incidentals like procuring food.  Some individual birds take more time in training than others.  The aspiring falconer must be able to apply as much time to his/her bird as is needed.  A half-trained hawk is more bother than she is worth. 
  
Can I afford the expenses associated with being a falconer?
At times falconry can be expensive to practice. One must establish a budget for several important items.  These include:

  1.  The building of a proper mews (hawk house),
  2. A supply of fresh, whole food, 
  3. The purchasing of the appropriate equipment or materials for making equipment,
  4. Veterinary services when necessary,
  5. Gas for round trips to a suitable field for training and hunting,
  6. A vehicle suitable for transporting the trained bird, 
  7. Fees for hunting licenses and falconry permits.
Do I have access to a suitable hunting field? To a food supply?
One must have an area of several acres in which to train and/or hunt with their hawk. Until such an area has been located with a healthy supply of game, one should not consider obtaining a hawk. Without a source of game, the hawk will be nothing more than a prisoner on the fist of a mere bird keeper. 
 Do I have personal/telephone/internet access to several experienced falconers?
One of the best ways to learn falconry is through contact with experienced falconers.  It is therefore paramount to consider the distance to the closest experienced falconer.  A novice falconer that has only one or two falconer acquaintances is certainly very limited. One should make as many contacts as possible and sort out the admirable qualities in each. 

Laws/ Regulations and Policy/Procedures A. Falconry in BC is governed and managed through regulations, policy and procedure under the provincial Wildlife Act.
B. Provincial regulations, policy and procedures address requirements (facilities, equipment, etc.) C. All regular hunting laws apply, including acquiring provincial hunting license and migratory game bird permits as required

The birds of falconry - a broad range of species, depending on distribution and availability of prey. A. Buteos – Red-tailed Hawk, Harris Hawk (parabuteo). B. Shortwings - all North American and some exotic accipiters. C. Longwings - all indigenous falcons; American Kestrel, Merlin, peregrine and Gyrfalcon. D. Prey ranges from small birds to large mammals. Many species are very opportunistic (Red-tails, Harris Hawks, goshawks). Others more specialized (falcons on large birds, sharp-shins on small birds, etc.).
Equipment.
A Jesses (traditional, Aylmeri), glove, leash, creance, lure, bells, hoods (Dutch, Anglo-Indian), transmitter, field bag (for equipment and game).

B. Facilities - mews (aviary), weathering area, bath/water pan. Comfort and protection are the principal concerns. Birds may be free-lofted (untethered) or tethered. Size must be adequate to prevent damage to feathers, feet, etc. Flooring - drainage, protection of feet and talons. Vertical barring in windows and secondary containment.
C. Perches (ring, bow, shelf or block (falcons), screen. Size, surface very important.
D. Scale - weight within 5-10 grams for small species, 15-20 grams for larger.

Nutrition and health.
A. Most progress toward taming and training is made using food as an incentive. The caloric and nutritive value of the food is critical. A fresh, whole animal diet appropriate to the raptor species is a must. Commercial diets are available.
B. Supplementation. Vitamins can be added to the diet and calcium is important in the diet of growing birds, but these probably are obtained through the natural prey diet.
C. Water. Raptors obtain moisture from their food but often drink and bathe.
D. Health and disease - covered previously.

Taming, training and hunting.
A. Manning - time spent carrying a bird as well as exposing it to everyday distractions. Most birds adapt very well to human contact and activity, pets, etc. but varies with individuals and species. Time spent in manning is just as important, probably more important than feeding for a tame, well-adjusted bird.
B. Feeding on the fist or lure. Basis for additional progress in training and ultimately for controlling a bird when flying free in the field. Traditionally, the lure is used for training, exercising, and calling down falcons, but use with shortwings is common and advantageous. Birds should be weighed daily, especially during early training, to insure that weight loss is minimized.

Care and maintenance.

The care of a hawk outside the hunting season is essentially the same as the procedures we use for birds in the Cornell Raptor Program. Proper facilities, diet, and access to water help to insure the health and proper molt of the bird in the off-season. If a bird is retained, the taming and training process is similar but much shorter and simpler at the beginning of the next season.

 Hawk Anatomy:

Alula: Three small, stiff feathers control the flow of air over the wing during flight.
Blood feathers: Feathers which still are still growing and have blood supplied through the shaft.
Cere: The smooth, featherless skin just above the beak where it attaches to the forehead. Also called the operculum.
Choanal slit: The slit in the roof of the mouth which connects to the bird's sinuses.
Cloaca: The external opening to expel fecal matter. In birds there is a single opening for intestinal (fecal matter),
Coverts: Row of feathers which run down the wing above the primaries and secondaries. This is the generally referred to feathers when somebody says "coverts". There are other covert feathers over the body such as those on the tail and over the alulas.
Crines: The short hair-like feathers around the cere and beak.
Crop: The crop of the bird is like a pouch along the esophagus. It is where food is initially placed before it moves into the stomach. Food comes here for quick storage and to soften it and to separate out the digestibles from the indigestibles. It is useful to note that owls have no crop.
Crural: The feathers that cover the leg from the upper leg to the abdomen. In some species the crural feathers cover the leg to the top of the foot.
Deck: The two center tail feathers in the train.
Ear: Raptors have ears placed on each side of their head, although there is virtually no external structure to it.
Fret marks: A line across feathers created when a bird is starved or diseased while she was growing the feather. Also called stress marks, stress bars, or hunger traces.
Glottis: The valve at the base of the tongue that closes the trachea to food or liquid.
Hallux: The toe which faces backwards in raptors. In hawks, this is the talon most responsible for puncturing the vitals of prey. Technically, this is labeled toe #1. The innermost forward toe is toe #2, the next toe outside of that is toe #3 and the furthest front-facing toe is toe #4.
Keel: The large bone running vertically up the bird's breast. This is the site of the breast muscle's attachment and is a very important bone. The term feel the keel means to put the keel between your thumb and finger and judge the amount of fat and muscle along the sides of this ridge. A healthy, well muscled bird will have a dense padding along the sides and barely any ridge of the bone to be felt. A bird who is in low condition will have a sharp ridge of bone sticking out with very little muscle or fat along side. A fat bird without a lot of muscle will be well padded, but not with dense muscle.
Mail: The breast feathers.
Malar stripe: The dark streak of feathers beneath a falcon's eye. The biological theory for this is that, much like athletes putting blacking under their eyes to prevent glare, this also prevents glare from reflecting off their feathers.
Mandible: The upper and lower jaw and the beak. (Image also shows tongue and open beak.)
Nare: The nasal opening in the cere. In falcons this is a circular opening, and in all member of Accipitradae this is an oval.
Nictitating membrane: The nictitating membrane is sometimes called the third eyelid or the "haw". It is a thin, white membrane that can operate independently of the eyelid. The purpose is to have a form of protection over the eye while still retaining some amount of vision.
Pannel: The stomach region (UK).
Pendant feathers: The feathers behind the thighs (UK).
Preen gland: Formally called the uropygial gland, this is a gland at the base of the tail that produces oil important to proper feather and beak health as well as waterproofing. The bird spreads this oil over the feathers and body through preening actions.
Primaries: The primaries provide the main forward thrust for flight. On the wing, these are the feathers most distal (located nearest to the tip; furthest from the center of the body). Also called beam feathers in the UK, flight feathers or phalangeal feathers.
Principals: The longest two feathers on a hawk's wing.
Pygostyle: The tail bone that supports the tail muscles and feathers.
Rectrices: The paired tail feathers. There are, generally, 12 tail feathers in total. This is a term used in general biology, and not usually in falconry.
Remiges: The primary and the secondary feathers are together called remiges.
Sarcel: British term for the outermost primary feather.
Secondaries: The feathers most proximal (just inside from the primary feathers; closer to the center of the body) on the wing are the largest surface area of the wing. Also called flags in the UK.
Supraorbital ridge: The ridge just above the eye; the brow bone. Immature birds are frequently not seen with a developed supraorbital ridge.
Tarsus: The leg between the foot and first joint.
Tomial tooth: The tooth (and often referencing the corresponding notch) in a falcon's beak specialized for snapping the neck of their prey. Sometimes just called the notch.
Trachea: The tube at the back of the bird's tongue which leads to the lungs.
Train: The 12 tail feathers. Formally called the retrices (singular retrix).
Vent: The external surface of the cloaca. Birds are unique in that their fecal and urates come from a single outlet which is the cloaca. The fecal is the dark portion and is the stool. The urate is the white solid portion. The liquid clear-ish is the liquid urine.
Wing butts: The forward angled section of the wing - analogous to our wrist.  


This text is from the BC Ministry of the Environment website.
Management of Recreational Use of Wildlife

Falconry is a hunting sport in which the natural hunting skills of birds of prey ("raptors") are used for the falconer's purposes. Traditionally, wild-caught and captive-bred raptors are trained by falconers to chase and capture prey.
Any raptor (including non-native and captive-bred birds) acquired by a falconer outside of the province becomes the property of the Crown once it is imported into British Columbia. The principal reasons for the regulation of raptors are to protect native species and habitat, to address concerns regarding alien species, and to comply with national and international law and treaties (e.g. the Federal Species at Risk Act, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The overriding objective is to ensure the integrity of the species and minimize the risk of hybridization. A further reason for the regulation of falconry is to ensure the humane treatment of raptors held in captivity. In practice, the Province allows falconers to treat the raptors they possess and use as their own property for the purposes of falconry and other uses permitted under the Wildlife Act.
Live wildlife possession permits issued by the Ministry for raptors include an annual reporting requirement detailing the status and description of raptors in possession. Possession permits will only be issued to first-time falconers after their mews (raptor housing structures) have been built, inspected, and found to meet appropriate Ministry standards. Falconers are required to have an appropriate hunting licence when using their birds to hunt prey. Falconry permits enable them to capture, transport, possess, import and export live raptors.