Training Young Raptors


Lure training a young female Gyr/Saker Falcon

One advantage of having my talented journalist boyfriend home for a visit is that I get great photos of my latest activities!


Not interested in the lure

I’ve been working at the Raptor Centre for about a month now and it’s been magical. I’m lucky to be there at a time when there are many young birds to train: Cooper’s Hawks, Red Tailed Hawks, Harris Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Gyrfalcons and Gyr/Saker Falcon hybrids. They all need glove training and flight training.


A young Peregrine Falcon

IMG_9344IMG_9338IMG_9351IMG_9353IMG_9363Above is a young Peregrine Falcon I’m feeding on the glove. This is so he can learn that the glove is a nice place to be where he gets to eat. At first he wasn’t interested in his chunk of raw quail and was preoccupied with trying to take it away to enjoy somewhere else. You can see how hard he was leaning to one side. Once I tried wiggling the meat in my glove a little he changed his mind and decided to chow down.


Lovely Bell enjoying some sunshine on her back

Some of the training we do is simply manning birds, which means to carry them around on the glove. This is just good practice for the birds as they get to observe their surroundings and form positive experiences. Of course some of our birds are very well trained already like Bell the Saker Falcon (above photo) and Harry the Swainson’s Hawk (below photo).


Getting Harry off his weathering station and onto the glove for a manning session

Next up is feeding a Gyrfalcon/Saker hybrid on the glove. This little beauty tore through her portion of pigeon in no time. You can tell she’s young because of the bluish tinge to her cere (nostril area) and feet. These will mature to a bright yellow color.

IMG_9402IMG_9398IMG_9383Finally, feeding a pure white Gyrfalcon on the glove. Gyrs are magnificent birds that used to be reserved for kings and nobles in European falconry. They are very impressive, especially when tearing apart their prey. Thanks for reading!

IMG_9316IMG_9304All photos by the Stuttering Journalist.

Raptor Handling Apprenticeship


This is Turbo, a young male Peregrine falcon we were flight training today

I have been busy for the past week attending a falconry apprentice course at The Raptors center in Duncan BC. An amazing facility with great staff caring for over a hundred different birds of prey. A good number of birds are on display for visitors and many of them are working animals, employed at chasing gulls away from airport runways and dumps and performing for film and television.


Bell, a 17 year old female Saker falcon who is an absolute sweetheart

Among the more impressive species they have are bald eagles, golden eagles, a Maribou stork and beautiful white gyrfalcons. There are also many species of owls, lots of different species of hawks and falcons, a few turkey vultures and a tiny kestrel no bigger than a robin.


Little Kessy, an American kestrel. So cute

I learned many things there, including how to man (carry on the glove) many different kinds of birds, how to replace (imp) a lost tail feather, clean aviaries, how to tie a falconer’s knot, and how to train birds with a flying lure. I learned that you need at least two years of experience before you can man eagles because they are very dominant and will do whatever they can to intimidate you. They also hold a grudge against you if you do something like trim (cope) their beaks and you will not be able to work with them for a few days if you do.


Annie with Hera, a mature female bald eagle. Here she is tying Hera’s leash to her weathering station

I learned that Harris hawks are one of the only raptors to hunt in packs, and that turkey vultures can be among the most dangerous birds to handle. I learned how to make jesses, which are leather straps that tie into anklets on the birds legs and allow you to secure the bird in your glove, and also that weight is very important and the birds are weighed every day in order to find out if they are ‘keen’ enough to be flown.


One of the young barn owls who later went AWOL

I learned about how things can sometimes go wrong, as while I was there a couple of young barn owls were taken out for flight training and were lost in the nearby trees for multiple days before they could be recovered. I also learned that feeding birds day old chicks on the glove can be messy business when they rip into the yolk sac and then spray the contents all over you!

All the mess and danger was worth it though, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was bitten once or twice by hawks, and it wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting. I handled a turkey vulture briefly and escaped unharmed. Luckily I was not footed (grabbed by the talons) by anyone which is what can cause real damage. Most of the birds are very well-trained and the staff are excellent educators. I really can’t recommend the experience enough.


Elton, a spectacled owl and crowd favorite

I had such a rewarding time there that I’m planning to begin volunteering on a regular basis. Since I already have the apprenticeship course under my belt, I can be much more useful, although I do expect to spend a lot of time hosing down aviaries, cutting raw quail and rabbits into tiny bits and making jesses. For me it’s worth it to get to be around such magnificent predators.


Gaston the Maribou stork performing in the flight show

My ultimate goal is to obtain my own bird and take up falconry. In British Columbia the only thing legal requirement is a suitable aviary or mews which has been inspected by the relevant authorities. My choice would be a Harris hawk which is also a very good beginner bird. Hopefully I can move towards this goal as I gain more experience at the center and see if it’s a good fit for my lifestyle. I basically already run a raptor feed supply company with all the quail, rabbits and pigeons I breed!


This is Duck, a male Harris hawk resting on my car after some impressive flying exercises