Falconry: A Positive Influence in Our Enviornment
Falconry; A Positive Influence in Our Environment A hawk catches your eye as it glides slowly in lazy circles overhead. For a second you stop to watch it soar through the clouds dotting the sky.
Suddenly it stops. It begins to fall, to dive. Spiralling closer and closer to the ground, it seems it will not stop but crash into the foliage below. Its wings shoot out, legs extend, and it hits the ground. The prey struggles for a moment in her talons but its efforts are futile.
A girl runs up to the bird, and after letting it feed for a while, transfers the hawk to her glove and walks away out of sight. Would you understand what you had seen? Would you realize you had witnessed the medieval sport of royalty? Would you recognize falconry? Falconry originated in Mongolia and quickly spread to many European cultures. In Mongolia magestic eagles were used to hunt wolves and deer. The bird was respected as a large source of food and furs for the villages but Europe was the first to develop falconry as a sport. Kings and nobles hunted with hawks for smaller prey. The thrill of the chase became the drive for falconry rather than the food.
In recent times, controversies have arisen regarding the legality of falconry. Many believe falconry should be banned due to cruelty to the bird, howeverfalconers all over the globe fight for the right to keep their birds. The sport of falconry today not only enables the restoration of endangered species but it also aids research, but also aids avian research and medicine, and increases the survival of raptors exponentially. Falconry has played an instrumental role in the restoration of raptors around the globe. As the world changes threats such as habitat and predators arise to challenge plants and animals of all species.
When nature does not restore the balance man steps in to protect our ecosystem.If no one steps in however, the species will dwindle away into extinction.Before laws were put in place to protect animals in danger of becoming extinct, people were free to hunt and exterminate as they pleased. This led to many species death.Soon, people started to notice the effect the vanishing species had on the environment and governments all around the world began instituting laws to protect.
When species do become endangered, a system for restoration is in place. Since 1973 many raptors including Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Peregrine Falcons have been placed on the endangered list. In 1970 Peregrine falcons were all but extinct all the way from the Rockies to the east coast. Only two pairs were found in a space spanning over forty states, and thousands of acres.If not for the work of Dr.
Patrick Redig and many other falconers, the peregrine falcons would have never returned to the midwest.Dr. Patrick Redig was the single most important factor in the restoration of peregrine falcons.His interest if falconry can be traced all the way back to fourth grade when a book depicting the experiences of a young norse boy and his Gyrfalcon captured his imagination.In college as a veterinarian student he began treating raptors with his professor.During the seventies the public began to grow in awareness of the environment and began focusing on preserving it.
Dr. Patrick Redig referred to as the “awakening of an environmental consciousness”. As his work progressed not only did he develop the internationally recognized raptor center, but he revolutionized avian medicine. In 1982, when the peregrine falcons began to disappear Dr. Redig launched the Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration Program and arranged for birds to be sent down from Canada.With the help of many falconers and the Nature Conservancy,Peregrine falcons were raised and released throughout the midwest.
Without the help of falconers, the Peregrines would have never made their way back to their rightful place across America. The work of falconers has been proven invaluable in not only the restoration, but also the research and medical advancements of raptors. Falconry has provided new insight into the, mind body, and behavior of birds of prey.With the help of falconers, avian research has been elevated to a new level.Rather than just observing raptors, falconers could catch, band, and study the birds up close.
Millions of birds migrate each year including thousands of hawks.If it were not for the traps designed by falconers, researchers could not band and release the raptors to track their steps through migration.Banding is used for more than migration patterns.Providing a way to study birds in the wild removed the variability of their behavior in captivity.To understand them in the wild you have to observe them in the wild.
It can be used to study behavior, population, life expectancies, and diseases. Not only did falconry allow research in the wild but it also improved research in captivity. From handling, feeding, and maintaining the bird, to the behavioral sciences and anatomy, falconers were proved invaluable once again.In the past several decades more advances have been made in avian medicine than ever before. The largest and most influential clinic is the Raptor Center located on the University of Minnesota campus. It treats hundreds of birds and trains dozens of students a year.
The Raptor Center’s extensive educational, and medical education have made it a center of learning that has completed numerous feats that haverevolutionized avian medicine. All of that was started by a falconer. Falconry does not stop at research and restoration it extends to the very lives of the falcons. In the first year of life eight out of ten red tailed hawks die, most of them from starvation.When a falconer starts as an apprentice he is required to trap an immature hawk.
Every immature trapped it is an immature saved.Falconers train the immatures to hunt and assist their hunt by flushing out game.When raptors leave the nest they have very little hunting skill. Most of them not enough to feed themselves. Those who survive do so by eating small rodents like mice and voles.
Falconers train hawks barely capable of catching a mouse to catch much larger game like rabbits, squirrels, ducks, and pheasants depending on the bird. If the hunt is unsuccessful they have a safety net to fall back on. If injured in the wild, a birds only chance at survival is for someone to stumble upon them.Even small or easily fixed injuries can be fatal in the wild, and anything that could keep them from hunting almost always is. When something goes wrong in falconry, the raptors have their own paramedics to help them and bring them to a clinic as fast as possible. Falconers also bring in their birds to clinics and vaccinate them sparring the bird from several fatal diseases.
The camera may add ten pounds but captivity adds ten years. Birds can happily live out ten to twenty years more than their expected lifespan, and remain active and healthy.Through falconry, by the time they are released, the survival rates of raptors has raised exponentially. In recent times controversies concerning the moral and ethics of falconry has arisen.Many people believe it is a cruel sport; a blood sport.
P.E.E.T.A let out an official statement against falconry comparing it to dog and c*** fighting.
Activists all over the world protest falconry and fight for the freedom of the bored and enslaved birds of prey. Phrases such as; “They’re not happy!” and “Wild birds should stay wild!” are common plastered on the signs floating above a sea of activists. While calling falconry a blood sport is certainly a stretch there is blood.Contrary to many opinions falconers do not turn animals against each other. Falconry allows people to become involved in the natural process of a predator. In the wild the large majority of a raptor’s time is spent sitting in a tree and only a fraction is spent in the air or on the hunt.
This situation parallels to the arrangements in captivity. Another major concern is the effect falconry has on the population when raptors are being taken out of the breeding pool.The population under the influence of falconry actually increases rather than decreases. The stress levels in raptors however does decrease.Stress in raptors presents itself most obviously in horizontal stripes across the tail of many birds of prey.
The bars develop due to stress when the new tail feathers grow in. Falconers can monitor stress and happiness and in most cases stress lowers as the bird remains in captivity. All arguments concerning the legality of falconry can be quelled by the knowledge that the influence of falconers over raptors has improved their life span, expectancy, and decreases stress. Falconry has aided the restoration of species, avian medicine and education, and raises the survival rate of falcons. Without falconry we would not have the species of peregrine falcons such as the falcons that turned the Mayo Clinic into their home. Without falconry we would not be able to care for injured birds of prey.
And without falconry many more birds would die of cold, injury, and starvation. We were given domain over all the earth.We were given a responsibility. Falconers accept that responsibility. Arielle K Bosworth.
“A Falconry Rant.” Arielle K Bosworth. n.p. 22 May 2012. Web.
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