Saturday, September 24, 2016

Falconry Isn't What You Think

People who are against falconry are usually against it under the banner of animal rights. They assume the falconer is kidnapping a wild animal and taking it home as a pet or performer. A play thing for the eccentric, and the poor wild bird is the victim. Something akin to circus elephants or magicians’ white tigers. If that was the case I’d be against falconry, too. But it’s not.

Unlike captured animals kept as exotic novelties, falconers don’t ask their birds to do anything other than what they would do in the wild. We let them be hawks.

The best example I can share would be the circus one. If elephants were the subject It would be like like this: A baby elephant is harmlessly trapped and taken to a human village. Instead of her handler teaching her to balance on pedestals or carry people on her back, she would be taught how to find the best snacks. Her handler setting up situations where the little gal had to learn to navigate tall grasses, swim to cattails, and walk around dead trees to discover the best palm fronds. That’s what falconry is. It’s raising an animal to be successful at eating, perhaps even more successful than they would be on their own. Human handlers (falconers) raise the confidence and skill set of a bird, getting it to pursue game it might not even hope to try for in the wild.

The bird isn’t hunting for us. The bird isn’t fetching us game. The bird is just doing what it would do every single day in the wild and letting us tag along because of the mutual benefits. This is not common among all wild animals. I wouldn't want to sit down beside a fresh kill of one of those white tigers. But my hawk doesn't mind the dinner company.

Hunting in the wild is hard, exhausting, and never a sure bet. But knowing this person who took you home will always have dinner on the table is comforting to that avian brain, in a sense. Which is why they come back to their falconers when called even though they are flying free. It’s not returning to a friend, it’s responding to the waiter who called your name for the table you’ve been waiting for. Of course you’ll follow the person with menus against their chest and a smile on their face. You want to eat.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

So...just a small question: I understand why the bird benefits if they get free meals but if this is a mutual benefit gig- what do you get out of it?

September 24, 2016 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I get to share time and space with these amazing animals, learn from them and along side them.

September 24, 2016 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

It risk of being a horses butt- what can an adult human learn from a hawk taken from it's habitat? I understand the comradery of dogs and other domestic animals, but what is the object of having a hawk? Are there unknown lessons?

September 24, 2016 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

To have the privilege to work alongside a wild bird of prey and enhance its life. I get to be a part of something primal, private, wild, and real. More details about falconry here.

September 24, 2016 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

What type of bird is Aya? Red-tail?

September 24, 2016 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Yes, Aya Cash is a RT

September 25, 2016 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

This was posted by Margaret and I deleted it by mistake! Sorry!

When we were in Scotland this summer we went to a falconry exhibition, and the gentleman there said that the US practice of keeping a bird for a year or so and then returning the bird to the wild vastly increases the chances that this individual will reproduce. The chances that an uncaught bird will live to reproduce is very small (I think he said around 10%), so just the act of keeping Aya Cash fed and alive is highly beneficial to her well being and to the well being of the species.

September 26, 2016 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Welsh Harlequin said...

Passing on a book title to you in case you haven't heard of this one......

September 30, 2016 at 10:31 PM  

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