Average life span in the wild:
Up to 17 years
Body, 14 to 19 in (36 to 49 cm); wingspan, 3.3 to 3.6 ft (1 to 1.1 m)
18.8 to 56.5 oz (530 to 1,600 g)
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Falconry is the hunting of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey. There are two traditional terms used to describe a person involved in falconry: a falconer flies a falcon; an austringer flies a hawk or an eagle. In modern falconry the red-tailed hawk and the Harris’s hawk are often used. The words “hawking” and “hawker” have become used so much to mean petty traveling traders, that the terms “falconer” and “falconry” now apply to all use of trained birds of prey to catch game.
In early English falconry literature, the word “falcon” referred to a female falcon only, while the word “hawk” referred to a female hawk. A male hawk or falcon was referred to as a “tiercel” as it was roughly one third less than the female in size. Many contemporary practitioners still use these words in their original meaning. The practice of hunting with a conditioned falconry bird is also called “hawking” or “game hawking”.
Different types of falcons or birds used for falconry:
The genus known as “hawks” in North America and not to be confused with vultures, has worldwide distribution but is particularly well represented in North America. The red-tailed hawk, ferruginous hawk, and rarely, the red-shouldered hawk are all examples of species from this genus that are used in falconry today. The red-tailed hawk is hardy and versatile, taking rabbits, hares, and squirrels; given the right conditions it can catch geese, ducks, pheasants, and even wild turkeys. The red-tailed hawk is also considered a good bird for beginners. The Eurasian or common buzzard is also used, although this species requires more perseverance if rabbits are to be hunted.
The genus Falcon is found worldwide and has occupied a central niche in ancient and modern falconry. Most falcon species used in falconry are specialized predators, most adapted to capturing bird prey such as the peregrine falcon. A notable exception is the use of desert falcons such the Saker falcon in ancient and modern Middle Eastern and Asian falconry, where hares were and are commonly taken. Young falconers often begin practicing the art with American kestrels, the smallest of the falcons in North America; there is debate on whether this practice should continue. Small species, such as kestrels, merlins and hobby falcons can also be used for recreational bug hawking – that is, hunting large flying insects such as dragonflies and moths.
Eagle huntsman in Karakul, Kyrgyzstan
The Aquila (all have “booted” or feathered tarsus) genus has a nearly worldwide distribution. The more powerful types are used in falconry; for example golden eagles have reportedly been used to hunt wolves in Kazakhstan. Most are primarily ground-oriented but will occasionally take birds. Eagles are not used as widely in falconry as other birds of prey, due to the lack of versatility in the larger species (they primarily hunt over large open ground), the greater potential danger to other people if hunted in a widely populated area, and the difficulty of training and managing an eagle. There are a little over 300 active falconers using eagles in Central Asia, with 250 in western Mongolia, 50 in Kazakhstan, and smaller numbers in Kyrgyzstan and western China.
Falconry is currently practiced in many countries around the world. The falconer’s traditional choice of bird is the northern goshawk and peregrine falcon. In contemporary falconry in both North America and the UK they remain popular. The northern goshawk and the golden eagle are more commonly used in Eastern Europe than elsewhere. In the Middle East, the Saker falcon is the most traditional species flown against the houbara bustard, sandgrouse, stone-curlew, other birds and hares. Peregrines and other captively bred imported falcons are also commonplace. Falconry remains an important part of the Arab heritage and culture.
The UAE reportedly spends over 27 million dollars annually towards the protection and conservation of wild falcons, and has set up several state-of-the-art falcon hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the largest falcon hospital in the whole world. There are two breeding farms in the Emirates, as well as those in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Every year, falcon beauty contests and demonstrations take place at the ADIHEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
The successful and now widespread captive breeding of birds of prey began as a response to dwindling wild populations due to persistent toxins such as PCBs and DDT, systematic persecution as undesirable predators, habitat loss, and the resulting limited availability of popular species for falconry, particularly the peregrine falcon. The first known raptors to breed in captivity belonged to a German falconer named Renz Waller. In 1942–43, he produced two young peregrines in Düsseldorf in Germany.
Laws regulating the capture and import/export of wild falcons throughout the Middle East and Asia vary, and the effective enforcement of existing national and international regulations are lacking in some regions.
By: Maheen Arshad Khan