Become a Falconer


Falconry is time consuming and it is a highly regulated sport. (see NCWRC and USFWS regulations)

The time spent in training a hunting bird is great. But this time factor pales in comparison to the daily time in providing for the hawk’s comfort and care. Food must be of the most natural variety and is not something that you find at the local supermarket’s pet section. Hunting birds must be handled, weighed, and looked after daily in order to be successful at catching game. The utmost attention must be paid towards their health and well being.

The legal aspects of becoming a licensed falconer would seem somewhat overwhelming to many. Because birds of prey are protected by Federal law, having one is highly regulated by both State and Federal regulations. These regulations were originally written in order to ensure that, by law, the birds would be adequately cared for and would indeed be hunted with and not merely a pet. Falconers feel very strongly about the regulations and their enforcement. New falconers are required to serve a two year apprenticeship under an experienced falconer, score 80% or better on a comprehensive test relating to falconry, raptor biology, and health care of the birds, and build housing (inspected by the state game officials) that meet set requirements.

This is not to say that becoming a falconer is impossible. But all of these difficult requirements help to insure that only people dedicated to practicing the sport in a quality way are likely to participate.

If after considering all of this, you still would like to learn more, click here.

Letter from NAFA
(North American Falconers Association)


From time to time we receive letters of inquiry about falconry. Many persons want to know if there are any regulations against keeping a hawk, where to obtain birds for use in falconry, and for details on how to become a falconer. These persons often have recently read an article on falconry in a newspaper, popular magazine, or library book. Some may actually have seen a trained bird in flight, perhaps on television or in a movie. Few really know any falconers, however, and almost none have any idea of the time, effort, money, and facilities the sport of falconry demands.

Responsible falconers and falconry organizations usually try to discourage newcomers to the sport, particularly when their interest is kindled by public media. Newspaper and magazine articles on falconry are frequently inaccurate, and they tend to stress the sensational aspects of the sport. Success in taking game may be grossly exaggerated, for example, and little emphasis may be given to the fact that the falconer’s chief the beauty of the flight itself, whether successful or not. Flight demonstrations themselves may make falconry look easy, but they cannot possibly give any idea of the long hours and hard work the trained bird represents.

Of all sports in America, falconry is the only one that uses a trained wild creature. The falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls are essential elements of our wildlife. The competent falconer recognizes this and takes care to follow sound conservation principles in the pursuit of the sport. Because of this, proper falconry activities represent no threat to the raptorial species. The casual and uninformed novice, however, by attempting to satisfy a passing fancy, may do much harm to one or more birds and cast discredit upon falconry itself.

Therefore, before most falconers will aid anyone newly attracted to falconry, they will require proof of serious, dedicated interest in the sport. They feel that anything less is not worth bothering with and that birds that fall into the hands of those who are not deeply motivated should be restored to the wild without delay.

Serious dedication is normally demonstrated by reading anything and everything available on the birds and the sport, by a sincere interest in all aspects of wildlife and the out of doors, and by a persistent effort to learn the fundamentals of the sport all before attempting to obtain a bird. Most successful falconers began in this manner, and today’s newcomer must expect a similar period of apprenticeship. Only this will lead to a reasonable expectation that a bird may be safely entrusted to one’s care. If unwilling to do this, one should not try to become a falconer.

If one is convinced, however, that his or her interest in falconry is more than superficial and is willing to undertake the necessary study before getting a bird, one must then be prepared to fulfill additional minimum requirements. One must have sufficient time and patience to devote to training and flying a bird. The trained raptor requires a minimum amount of time every day, 365 days a year. A bird in training requires substantially more time. Raptors cannot be hung up and forgotten, like a hunting rifle, when not in use. If this time is not available, if school studies or employment interfere, it is far better never to begin.

One must have the funds to obtain food and the basic materials for falconry equipment, pay for travel, and have the time and skill to make the necessary equipment and facilities. A hawk in captivity may eat much meat each week. When some form of natural food cannot be obtained, and at current prices, the cost can be substantial. In addition, leather, metal, lumber, and the necessary tools to work with them may be expensive. These are needed for shelters, perches, weatherings, blocks, leashes, jesses, and hoods. Other items that must be purchased or fabricated are swivels, glove, and bells. Most falconers also spend a considerable amount of money on books.

One must be able to provide suitable facilities for keeping a bird in fair weather and foul. Captive hawks and falcons must be protected at all times from cats, dogs, and other predators, including humans, as well as extremes of heat, cold, wind, and dampness. They should be provided with a weathering place where they may be kept outdoors in good weather, winter and summer, and be provided with an opportunity to bathe in warm weather. They must have a sheltered perch at night. In bad weather they must be ept protected from the wind. While raptors adjust well to cold weather, with sufficient food and protection from the wind, they suffer in the heat and must never be left in the direct rays of the summer sun.

One must have an adequate and reasonably convenient area for flying the raptor. Accipiters, or short-winged hawks, should be flown in the enclosed wooded areas which make up their natural habitat; falcons, or long-winged hawks, need open space, preferably at least a mile across, where they may be flown from a position high over the falconer. Red Tailed Hawk are very versatile and can be flown in a variety of habitats. Casual gun hunters, curious passers- by, and many other sources of interference that scare a bird or which may lead to its death, will make an otherwise satisfactory area unacceptable. The permission of the landowner must always be obtained when flying on private land.

All birds of prey are protected by state and federal laws. All potential falconers thus need to get information on local regulations and must obtain all necessary and proper permits and licenses.

There are other requirements, but space does not permit more detail. We hope we have convinced you that the ancient “art and practice of hawking” can not be learned overnight or in a single lesson, but only after hard, time consuming work and essentially devoting one’s life to the subject. Whether or not you eventually become a falconer, we hope that you will retain a friendly interest in birds of prey, their conservation, and the sport of falconry. The birds need your help in eliminating needless persecution at the hands of those who know no better.

Reprinted with the permission of The North American Falconers Association