Monday, September 29, 2008

Birds of a feather...

So, something kinda cool happened over the weekend. There I was, attending the kidlet’s soccer game all bleary-eyed because we had the “ass-crack of dawn” start time this weekend. I was wishing desperately that I had some hot chocolate and a donut when I noticed something odd down at the far end of the park.

It was a guy. I know, nothing weird about that part, but just wait.

A guy who appeared (and yeah, I WAS wearing my glasses) to have a rather large bird on a string.

Now, people also use this (and some of the other surrounding parks) to fly all kinds of small, remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters and fire off home-made rockets and lots of other strange stuff so I had to keep looking to make sure I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing.

Yep. He really did have some type of hawk or falcon on a line and he was training it. Like something straight out of Bradley’s “Hawkmistress” or one of the other Darkover books or any other story where the nobles go out “hawking.” I was fascinated because I was under the impression that all birds of prey were on the endangered list in this state and that it was therefore illegal to keep them as pets unless you are a licensed by the Fish & Game dept. as a bird rescuer.

I eventually went over and spoke to the man when he was done (yeah, I know, bad me for leaving the soccer field, but the game hadn’t started yet and I knew the kidlet would be so bummed he didn’t get to find out what was going on as the guy had attracted quite a crowd by this point) with his training session and I learned some interesting stuff.

The bird was a peregrine falcon. They are native to the area and there’s been such a successful captive breeding program that their numbers are back up in the wild and they are no longer quite so endangered. If you have the correct license and permits from Fish & Game, it is legal to capture them although this guy’s bird was captive-bred.

He’s a licensed falconer and had to go through a 2-year apprenticeship and be reviewed by both the state and federal Depts. of Fish & Game including visits to his breeding and training facility before he earned his license. He trains the birds as a hobby and then either sells them to other falconers or returns them to the wild (if they are wild-caught to begin with).

This particular bird was 8 months old and male. The females are about 1/3 again larger. The guy was nice enough to let me take some pictures:

Isn’t he absolutely beautiful?

I wish I’d been able to get some shots without the hood on because his eyes were just amazing. You can definitely see the intelligence there. Still, it was an amazing experience to be able to get this close!

It's strange how you can just be going about your normal, everyday, boring life, and then something like this drops right into your lap. It made my weekend!



Katie said...

how cool was that?! my only question is, he trains them to interact with humans and then returns them to the wild??? the he**? is that a good idea???

Silver Parrot said...

I may not have understood him exactly correctly so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt. But what I thought he told is that this particular bird was captive-bred (born in captivity). HOWEVER, it is now legal for LICENSED FALCONERS to capture wild birds and train them. They train very easily in a short period of time (a couple of months is what I think he told me). After training, it is possible to release them. He didn't say specifically, but I had the impression he was talking about capturing wild birds that were old enough to have already learned how to survive in the wild on their own, putting them through a short training period and then releasing them again. It would be the same as if you found an injured adult bird, nursed it to health and then released it. They've already learned "wild" behavior. It's different if a bird is born into captivity and you have to train it how to act in the wild. But again, I had about a 2 minute conversation with the guy in the middle of a zillion kiddie soccer games so I was maybe a bit distracted and didn't get the whole story right.