Join The Falconry School’s Mentorship Scheme. We will give you comprehensive advice and help with any problems you may encounter.
It’s certainly worth joining a club, particularly our largest one, the British Falconers’ Club. However, they do not give tuition. The Club has regional groups, and if you attend their meetings you will meet other falconers and may be able to pick up some information, but always remember that you may not be talking to an expert, and information you may receive could be harmful or misleading.
You may have some experience of field sports and already have land to fly on, but if not remember in the UK, there is no land you can fly a hawk on without permission from a landowner, the owner of the sporting rights, or perhaps a local council. The way to obtain land to fly on is to ask local farmers, which may be a long process and will involve plenty of rejections. Of course, finding somewhere to fly a falcon at the RC prey and drones will be considerably easier, but hunting land is a different thing. If you can find somewhere to do your training it’s a start, and this can often lead to gaining permission to hunt things like rabbits. To hunt game (pheasants, duck, partridge, grouse etc.) you may well need to pay for the privilege, and even then it might be difficult to find as you will be in competition with those who shoot, where large sums of money are involved. If you are determined enough, you will find what you need.
In the past it was, but we now have other devices for falcons to hunt, such as drones and radio-controlled “birds”, which can produce brilliant flights with falcons, arguably better than at live quarry. “Hawks of the fist” like Harris Hawks, Redtailed Buzzards, Goshawks etc., do not produce spectacular flights, so really they are purely for hunting. If you do hunt, it should be remembered that the object of the sport is NOT to catch large amounts of quarry, but to see high quality, fair and sporting flights, whatever species you fly. Quantity is the opposite of quality.
Birds of prey do not really have the capacity to enjoy flying (although some seem to do more than is necessary), and are designed to sit around conserving energy most of the time. In the northern hemisphere we generally only fly between about August/September around to about March, and in the late spring and summer the hawks are moulting so can’t be flown. During the flying period some species can be flown successfully just at weekends, while some will need to be flown more often to keep them fit. This will be particularly falcons. Whatever you have, remember you have them to fly, not as a garden ornament.
You can feed day old chicks, plus a variety of other foods which can be obtained frozen, specifically for feeding birds of prey. These can include quail, rats, mice etc. The biggest supplier of food is Honeybrook Farm, who distribute hawk food all over the country and through mainland Europe.
The amount of food depends on what the hawk is doing, and if in flying condition the amount is regulated according to the weight of the hawk.
The cost of your first bird will often be the least of the expenses. Accommodation for your hawk could cost anything from a few hundred pounds upwards if you have to build something. You may be able to convert an existing building, which could be less expensive. You will need about £500’s worth of equipment (everything that goes on the bird, plus scales, perch, bath, glove, etc.), PLUS a tracking system, which will cost new about £700. Second hand systems can be found, but take advice from us before buying, as there are some poor systems around. All of these things will last a very long time if they are of good quality. Top quality falconry equipment can be found at www.benlongfalconry.co.uk
Buying cheap things can, and often do, result in the loss or death of a hawk. Flying any bird of prey without radiotracking or GPS is stupid and irresponsible.
Sometimes you can be given or lent a hawk by a friend. The commonest “beginner birds” will be something like £200-400 when you buy them from a breeder.
If your housing and equipment are set up properly, about ½ an hour each day will be all you need for day-to-day management. Training a hawk involves perhaps 45 mins to an hour a day for about 3 weeks. Flying your hawk takes more time, particularly hunting, but after all that’s what you have the hawk for!
- read as many falconry books as you can. These must be proper reference books that show how to house, train, feed and fly a bird of prey used in falconry. Not story books. Older books (before the 1970s/80s) will often not give much tuition, but will give a real flavour of the sport and its traditional skills and techniques.
- avoid anything written on the internet. Some of it is good, but most of it is bad and misleading advice.
- find a local falconer who will take you out and show you his hawk flying, but REMEMBER that person is not necessarily an expert, and information you may receive could be harmful or misleading.
- come to us on a beginner course.
- make sure you are fully prepared, with knowledge, proper housing, good equipment, a source of proper food, and somewhere to fly your hawk.
Owning a bird of prey is not falconry, and particularly not with owls. Falconry is all about flying a falcon, hawk or eagle, and we have to own one in order to be able to fly it. We don’t necessarily want to own one. Some owls can be flown successfully, but they can be quite hard work and the results are very unexciting. Some owls can be cheap to buy, and they look very cute, but in order to fly one you will need the proper equipment, including a tracking system. A good new tracking system alone will cost ten times the price of a Barn Owl, let along the accommodation and other equipment. The time, cost and commitment are far better spent on something where the results are more rewarding.