Falconry Equipment Buyers Guide
Falconry is the art and sport of hunting with raptors. It has been practiced in many forms for thousands of years by many cultures, and it is also the oldest field sport known to mankind.
Falconry takes a lot of dedication, patience, and time spent with your bird almost everyday. It also requires special equipment and other necessary items to ensure a safe and effective training for your bird.
A falconry bird is usually housed in a mews. This is, typically, an 8 by 8 feet-sized area, with perches, a bath, and other necessities for the bird. Mews can be a simple single chamber, and it can also have an equipment room attached, as well as a weathering yard where the bird is placed to sun and spend its days.
Probably the most important piece of equipment among others, a hood is used in acclimatizing the birds to humans and the human world. It also helps keep the raptor in a calm state, both in the early part of its training and throughout its falconry career. Hoods are made of several different patterns, each designed for particular species
Arab or Bahraini
This style is marked by a circular pattern to make the hood fit the contours of the eyes and head. The braces are woven in and out of leather pleats, making an accordion of the back's base which tends not to catch the bird's crest feathers.
Traditionally made from three pieces of leather, but is recently being made from a single piece as well. It has an inverted V opening in the back where the braces close. Although the Dutch hood style was used exclusively on falcons, a good, well-made Dutch hood will properly fit a hawk, falcon, or accipiter of the right size.
Indian, Pakistan, or Amritsari
This hood style is from Pakistan and is sometimes also known as the Indian hood outside the Indian subcontinent. Generally thought to best fit Accipiters, eagles, and Ferruginous hawks, many falconers dislike this hood style and prefer the Dutch hood for all their various species instead.
British "Game Hawkers" Hood
- The plume for this style of hood would be made from the first type of game caught with the falcon. When falcons are carried on the cage, one could quickly see the required falcon by the color of the eye panels and the type of feathers in its plume. Green felt eye panels would be used for a Crow hawk.
This hood originated in Mongolia and is used by the Kazakh falconers, most typically on Golden Eagles. The tab at the top or back of this hood serves the same function as the more familiar top knot.
Bells are great help in locating a falcon or hawk out of sight. This is usually attached on its legs via small leather strips called bewits.
Bewits are small strips of leather which attach the bells or other hardware to the bird's leg. If a different material is used as a bewit, it should not be attached directly to the leg, but rather to the anklet.
An anklet is a leather strap which goes around the bird's leg. The jesses are attached to this. It is sometimes referred to as a bracelet.
An identity band is not really required in falconry, but this equipment is used by most falconers in many countries. A small identification tag on your bird with your name and phone number can identify your bird. Also, an identity band makes it possible for others to return it when lost.
These are strips of strong leather on both legs, which are used for holding the bird. They are connected to the leash through the swivel. Jesses and anklets need to be replaced periodically, and checked for fit if they are causing injury. Keep the jesses supple with proper dubbin or similar grease.
Jesses are of 2 types:
A single strap specially knotted onto the bird.
A two-part restraint, featuring an anklet that is grommeted on, and a removable jess strap. Nylon Aylmeri jesses, which are thinner, lighter, and stronger, have recently grown in popularity. They do not rot or need oiling to stay supple.
Similar to a dog leash, this is what falconers hold on to. Nowadays, it is also usually made of nylon. Although leather is traditional, materials such as nylon and parachute cord are stronger and do not break down, unlike leather.
A swivel is the one responsible for linking the leash and jesses. The two eyes rotate independent of each other. The bird, in this way, avoids getting the leash and jesses entangled.
Having a variety of perching surfaces in different diameters will help keep your bird's feet in good shape. Here are some of the perches you could use:
- can be incredible works of art made of marble, cast of plaster, turned from wood, or they can be very simple. As long as it is safe and comfortable, it will serve its purpose.
A bow of metal or wood with a perching surface where the bird will stand. These can be made in all different sizes. These perches are typically wrapped with rope.
Also called a Rotating Ring Perch, these are sometimes maligned as having too many moving parts. They are compact and stable as they have a single spike that typically goes into the ground.
These can be excellent perches in the right hands, and disasters if used incorrectly. One of the biggest advantages of this design is that it can be placed up off the ground when birds naturally want to get up high and hide in the evening.
It is a tall perch, putting the bird at eye or shoulder height. This particular perch is about 5 feet tall, and is used for remote control jump-ups, general inspection or talon care. It is unsafe for a leashed bird, as the leash can get caught on one of the T pieces.
Just as the name indicates, this is a shelf coming out from a wall. Typically wrapped in sisal or covered in Astroturf, the bird can choose where to stand on this perch.
Named for Floyd Presley, a renowned falconer, this is sometimes called a high perch or tall perch. This is, basically, a rotating ring perch elevated up in the air, anywhere from 5 feet high to 20 feet high, and is appropriately scaled for the bird it is being used with.
Some individual hawks and falcons will not perform well without their daily bath. The bath should be about half the wingspan in diameter, but less will do. The water should be changed every day or every other day, depending on the climate. The bath should also be disinfected regularly.
A weighing scale is used to weigh the bird and its food. Weight is key, especially in small species. The scale must be reliable and accurate. There are two types that are mostly used in falconry: digital scales and triple beam scales. Be sure the scales weigh at least 5 pounds.
Gauntlets or gloves
These are used by the falconer to turn the arm into a suitable perching surface. Falconry gloves may only cover the fist and the wrist, while gauntlets for larger species extend to the elbow. An eagle glove may cover the entire arm and a portion of the chest, or it may be a heavy sheath worn over a standard hawking glove. The traditional falconers glove is made of buckskin, but can also be made of moose or other strong leather. Whatever your options are, remember to choose the one best suited for you and your hawk/eagle.
A creance is a long line or cord attached to the bird while training. This is tied to the swivel or jesses. Ten yards is going to work for most situations, but for free flights (to verify that your bird is ready to be taken from the creance),it is recommended to use 50 yards in length.
This is a radio transmitter fitted to the bird, which is useful in tracking when the bird is not in sight or does not return from a flight. The transmitter emits a radio beep, which the falconer can track with a portable receiver.
Raptors are birds of prey, and they eat a strictly carnivorous diet. Some falconers raise pigeons, chickens, quail, or rabbits for their food. Others store the bird's catches for food and supplement by purchasing frozen foods. The birds must be fed with a good quality, varied diet, along with a vitamin and mineral supplement. In all cases, a bird's diet is carefully measured to control its weight.
Falconers also have to be aware of potential health problems specific to the type of bird they are caring for, and how health problems can be prevented. Significant progress and new development of diseases and treatment methods have been made in the past years. Special medications for birds effective in treating specific illnesses are now available.
Some common medicines that a falconer must have handy: Antacid preparation (TUMS)
Antiseptic towelettes or wash
Rubbing alcohol and alcohol swabs
Is Falconry for You?
For beginners, initial knowledge of the sport is key to a good start in falconry. They must learn about the various gaming birds, their stages of life, characteristics, prey, care, feeding, and suitability for the falconer and the hunting environment.
Other Falconry Books
The Falconer's Apprentice
by William C. Oakes Falconry & Hawking by Phillip Glasier
Falcon Fever: A Falconer in the Twenty-first Century
by Tim Gallagher
Practical Handbook of Falcon Husbandry and Medicine
by Margit Gabriele Muller
Art of Falconry; Being the De Arte Venandi cum Avibus of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen
by Frederick Second of Hohenstaufen
Falconry: The Essential Guide by Steve Wright Falconry: Art And Practice, Revised Edition
by Emma Ford
Training Birds of Prey
by Jemima Parry-Jones
Falconry For Beginners
by Lee William Harris
by Frank Beebe
Falconry is For You!
As an apprentice falconer in the United States, you only have the options of a Red-Tailed Hawk or an American Kestrel for a bird, unless laws of the state declare otherwise. The easiest way to start your venture into falconry is to contact a local club and ask for help and information regarding the sport. This will give you a good idea about what is required to be a falconer, and whether or not you want to pursue it further.
We hope that these information serve you well in your endeavor to becoming an expert falconer. Good luck and happy hunting!