Let Us Prey: Hunting With Hawks/Falcons

This week's installment of Aoife's Links is devoted to the art and science of hunting with raptors for food and for sport.

Greetings, Faithful Readers!

This week's links list is themed around Raptors. Specifically, Raptors that can help humans hunt. These powerful and graceful Birds of Prey are intense hunters, fierce protectors of their young (and equally fierce about kicking them out once they can fly), and steadfast friends of Man since before recorded history.

Raptors have been on my mind a lot lately. I happen to live very rurally, in the fertile Valley between the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers. Bald Eagles (who really aren't bald, just white-headed) are making an incredible comeback here. Just last summer I pulled into my driveway which is situated near a lake, in woodlands, and in a fairly unpopulated area. Sitting on a half a telephone pole, about eye level with me as I passed in my truck, was a beautiful, enormous, ebony bird with a wickedly curved orange beak and yellow talons. I was fully down the driveway and parking in front of the house when I realized two things: 1) What I'd just seen up close and personal, as he eyed me while I drove past, was a young Bald Eagle, before his head turned the classic white of the typical adult. It gave me the shivers. 2) I'd better call the cats in pronto. No sense in them becoming kitty dinner.

We get a lot of Raptor action around here, though. My favorite is the red-tailed hawk and the various Owls we hear in the woods surrounding my house. One spring I noticed that the local Barn Owls were multiplying rapidly. At Sunset, you could hear the deep who-who-who of the parents, and the excited, high-pitched who-who-who of the babies. I once dogsat my mother's tiny little city dog (my husband calls it "the rat"), and my heart nearly stopped when I saw, from the front porch, little Rosie narrowly avoid being scooped up by a huge white snowy owl. I believe it saw me from the corner of its eye at the last second and averted its dive--about 20 feet from my head.

So, Raptors are very very cool in my book. They are also dangerous, useful to mankind, and essential in a properly ordered ecosystem. This Links List is about those raptors that can be trained to hunt with man. Notice I don't say "tamed". I don't believe that they can ever be tamed, merely persuaded to hang out with us, possibly for the fun of the hunt. Much like my teenagers, they're wild animals who're here for comfy shelter and the free lunch :) The best we can hope for is to offer firm suggestions for behavior and hope they make the choices we want them to.



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

Ancient & Medieval Falconry: Origins & Functions in Medieval England
by Shawn E. Carroll
(Site Excerpt) A swift bird, gliding high above the grassy plain, is the focal point of a group of hunters scattered below. The falcon, its identity betrayed by its size, speed, and shape appears as merely a speck cutting across the sky like a shooting star. It suddently tucks its wings and begins to dive, its stream-lined silhouette growing slightly larger, until a flock of mallards on the small lake take notice and begin frantically to disperse. But for one duck, slightly too young and inexperienced, it is too late.

The Ancient Art of Falconry
(Site Excerpt) The ancient art of Falconry is commonly defined as the hunting of wild quarry using trained birds of prey. Strictly speaking Falconry involves only the long-winged hawks, the Falcon family, and only a person who flies a falcon at wild quarry is entitled to call themselves a Falconer, where as the term Hawking should be used for anyone using a Broad or Short winged Hawk, namely the true Hawks, Buzzards and Eagles for the same purpose, and this person would be termed an Austringer.

The Medieval Bestiary: Hawk
(Site Excerpt) The hawk has great courage in a small body; its determination arms it better than its claws do. It is called a robber bird because it greedily snatches food from other birds. The hawk is known as a harsh parent, refusing to feed its young when they are able to fly, but rather beating them with its wings to drive them out of the nest.

Medieval Hunting
(Site Excerpt) Medieval terminology spoke of hawks of the tower and hawks of the fist, which roughly corresponds to falcons and hawks, respectively. The female hawk was preferred, since it was both larger than the male and easier to train. Hawks were captured all over Europe, but birds Norway or Iceland were considered of particularly good quality.

Hawks and Hunting: Images of Religious Life
by Sister Gillian Mary SSC
(site excerpt) Hawks and hunting may not seem the most obvious images for Religious Life, yet Franciscans will find a hawk in Assisi. In the Lower Basilica a fresco by Simone Martini shows Saint Martin receiving his investiture as a knight from the Emperor Constantine. Behind the Emperor stands a courtier with a hawk on his fist. It is possible that both Francis and Clare in their youth handled hawks. Even if not, they would both have been familiar with hunting, which was woven into the fabric of medieval society.

Scriptorium: Hunting (Falconer)
(Site Excerpt) To succeed in making the falcon obey the whistle, the voice, and the signs of the falconer was the highest aim of the art, and it was only by the exercise of much patience that the desired result was obtained. All birds of prey, when used for sport, received the generic name of falcon; and amongst them were to be found the gerfalcon, the saker-hawk, the lanner, the merlin, and the sparrow-hawk. The male birds were smaller than the females, and were called tiercelet - this name, however, more particularly applied to the gosshawk or the largest kind of male hawk, whereas the males of the above mentioned were called laneret, sacret, émouchet.

Historical Perspectives on Falconry
copyright Robert G Ferrell
(Site Excerpt) The practice of flying birds of prey at game has been extant for at least 2,500 years, and is still in evidence today, in the retinue of falcons and falconers preceding kings in their grand ceremonial entrances and progresses. Falconry no doubt played an important part in the education and actual sustenance of medieval man, from the serf right up to the sovereign.

A hawking party from Tres Riches Heures

History of falconry: Bibliography

Borsch's Falconry (History of Falconry in Scandanavia)
Articles on the subject
(Note: If page appears in Scandinavian, please click the English Flag for Translation.)
Site Excerpt: Most of the articles are written from the assumption that the reader have little or no knowledge of falconry at all. Falconers might find the addresses, the booklist in "Bibliotheca Accipitraria", the hawking stories in "Round the Smoking Room Fire", the art in "Galleria Accipitraria", the pages on legislation, culture and history worthwhile.

Stefan's Florilegium: P-Falconry-msg
This particular file is a bibliography of Falconry in several cultures.

History of Falconry
(Site Excerpt) The first defensible record of humans using birds of prey for hunting comes from an Assyrian bas-relief dated in the early part of the seventh century, B.C. References to falconry in China come from as early as 680 B.C. in the kingdom of Ch'u, although one Japanese work states that falcons were used as gifts to Chinese princes during the Hsia Dynasty (206-220, B.C.), encouraged by the Emperor Teng's fondness for hunting in the imperial forests with falcons and dozens of that era's finest falconers.

ORB Bibliography: Medieval Hunting, Falconry, Angling, and Horsemanship

The Hunt Guild (and interkingdom SCA guild for the hunter/huntress)
(Site Excerpt) The ultimate goal is to help focus people on the big part of Everyday Life in our Period: animals and hunting . So everything researched on Period Hunting Techniques is for Persona Development and personal knowledge. And of course, to explore another facet of Equestrian Arts, that of hunting on horseback. Individual Kingdoms are invited to form their own Chapters of the Hunt Guild.

Royal Stables of Artemesia: Hawks
(Site Excerpt) The art of Falconry was enjoyed by both noble men and noble women. Hunting with hawks or falcons was a favorite pastime to war and the tournament. Proper care, feeding, and training of the bird was time consuming and kept under strict supervision -- similar to how the modern day falconers are inspected and licensed by each state. Because of the dedication required to support healthy birds of prey, not many modern peoples keep to the sport and art of hunting with them. Anyone interested in this art should seek out a licensed falconer and learn directly from him/her.

Training for a Career in the Hunt
Talbot Mac Taggart
(Site Excerpt) Every medieval trade begins with an apprenticeship period. The huntsman's training is no different. At the age of 7, a boy would become apprenticed to the master of the hunt. Here he would learn to get used to the demands of the job. His first job was to spend each day and night with the dogs. The apprentices slept in the kennels, making sure that there were no cold drafts or leaky spots in the roof.

World Falconry Yahoogroup
(Site Excerpt) This Group has been set up for anyone that has an interest in raptors, be it a casual interest, rehabs, or falconers. On joining please introduce yourself to the other members. Being an international Group, it would help if you gave your name, your location, and any relevant experiance you have.

BBC: Falconry at Shakespeare's mum's house
(Site Excerpt) Officially the Shakespeare Countryside Museum, this chocolate box pretty and very tranquil spot in Warwickshire offers a real step back in time to the days of William Shakespeare and his mother, Mary Arden. Heart of England Falconry That includes showing you one of the ways the Tudors caught their fresh meat. The Museum is the base for Heart of England Falconry, where you can not only learn how birds of prey were used to catch rabbits and pigeons, but have a go yourself.

Birds of Prey
by Norma Jean Venable
(Acrobat Reader required to read this treatise)

The Modern Apprentice
An extensive site about the training of falcons and of falconers, with downloadable movies. Link contributed by James Pratt.