A goshawk
Flying a saker falcon

Falconry is the hunting of wild animals in their natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey. Small animals are hunted; squirrels and rabbits often fall prey to these birds. Two traditional terms are used to describe a person involved in falconry: a "falconer" flies a falcon; an "austringer" (Old French origin) keeps Goshawks and uses accipiters for hunting. In modern falconry, the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Harris's hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), and the peregrine falcon (Falco perigrinus) are some of the more commonly used birds of prey. The practice of hunting with a conditioned falconry bird is also called "hawking" or "gamehawking", although the words hawking and hawker have become used so much to refer to petty traveling traders, that the terms "falconer" and "falconry" now apply to most use of trained birds of prey to catch game. However, many contemporary practitioners still use these words in their original meaning.

In early English falconry literature, the word "falcon" referred to a female peregrine falcon only, while the word "hawk" or "hawke" referred to a female hawk. A male hawk or falcon was referred to as a "tiercel" (sometimes spelled "tercel"), as it was roughly one-third less than the female in size.[1][2] This traditional Arabian sport grew throughout Europe. Falconry is also an icon of Arabian culture. The saker falcon used by Arabs for falconry is called by Arabs "Hur" i.e. Free-bird where it is used in falconry since very ancient times in the Arabic peninsula. Saker Falcons are the national bird of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Yemen and have been integral to Arab heritage and culture for over 9,000 years. They are the national emblem of many Arabic countries.[3][4]

Birds used in contemporary falconry

Several raptors are used in falconry. They are typically classed as:

Owls are also used, although they are far less common.

In determining whether a species can or should be used for falconry, the species' behavior in a captive environment, its responsiveness to training, and its typical prey and hunting habits are considered. To some degree, a species' reputation will determine whether it is used, although this factor is somewhat harder to objectively gauge.

Species for beginners

In North America, the capable red-tailed hawk is commonly flown by beginner falconers during their apprenticeship.[5][6] Opinions differ on the usefulness of the kestrel for beginners due to its inherent fragility. In the UK, beginner falconers are often permitted to acquire a larger variety of birds, but Harris's hawk and the red-tailed hawk remain the most commonly used for beginners and experienced falconers alike.[7] Red-tailed hawks are held in high regard in the UK due to the ease of breeding them in captivity, their inherent hardiness, and their capability hunting the rabbits and hares commonly found throughout the countryside in the UK. Many falconers in the UK and North America switch to accipiters or large falcons following their introduction with easier birds. In the US, accipiters, several types of buteos, and large falcons are only allowed to be owned by falconers who hold a general license. The three kinds of falconry licenses in the United States, typically, are the apprentice class, general class, and master class.

Soaring hawks and the common buzzard (Buteo)

A falconer's red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

The genus Buteo, known as "hawks" in North America and not to be confused with vultures, has worldwide distribution, but is particularly well represented in North America. The red-tailed hawk, ferruginous hawk, and rarely, the red-shouldered hawk are all examples of species from this genus that are used in falconry today. The red-tailed hawk is hardy and versatile, taking rabbits, hares, and squirrels; given the right conditions, it can catch the occasional duck or pheasant. The red-tailed hawk is also considered a good bird for beginners. The Eurasian or common buzzard is also used, although this species requires more perseverance if rabbits are to be hunted.

Harris's hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Harris's hawk used in falconry
Falconer with a Harris's hawk

Parabuteo unicinctus is one of two representatives of the Parabuteo genus worldwide. The other is the white-rumped hawk (P. leucorrhous). Arguably the best rabbit or hare raptor available anywhere, Harris's hawk is also adept at catching birds. Often captive-bred, Harris's hawk is remarkably popular because of its temperament and ability. It is found in the wild living in groups or packs, and hunts cooperatively, with a social hierarchy similar to wolves. This highly social behavior is not observed in any other bird-of-prey species, and is very adaptable to falconry. This genus is native to the Americas from southern Texas and Arizona to South America. Harris's hawk is often used in the modern technique of car hawking (or drive-by falconry), where the raptor is launched from the window of a moving car at suitable prey.

True hawks (Accipiter)

The genus Accipiter is also found worldwide. Hawk expert Mike McDermott once said, "The attack of the accipiters is extremely swift, rapid, and violent in every way." They are well known in falconry use both in Europe and North America. The northern goshawk has been trained for falconry for hundreds of years, taking a variety of birds and mammals. Other popular Accipiter species used in falconry include Cooper's hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk in North America and the European sparrowhawk in Europe and Eurasia.

Harriers (Circus)

New Zealand is likely to be one of the few countries to use a harrier species for falconry; there, falconers successfully hunt with the Australasian harrier (Circus approximans).[8]

A lanner falcon with its lure

Falcons (Falco)

The genus Falco is found worldwide and has occupied a central niche in ancient and modern falconry. Most falcon species used in falconry are specialized predators, most adapted to capturing bird prey such as the peregrine falcon and merlin. A notable exception is the use of desert falcons such the saker falcon in ancient and modern falconry in Asia and Western Asia, where hares were and are commonly taken. In North America, the prairie falcon and the gyrfalcon can capture small mammal prey such as rabbits and hares (as well as the standard gamebirds and waterfowl) in falconry, but this is rarely practiced. Young falconry apprentices in the United States often begin practicing the art with American kestrels, the smallest of the falcons in North America; debate remains on this, as they are small, fragile birds, and can die easily if neglected.[9] Small species, such as kestrels, merlins and hobbys are most often flown on small birds such as starlings or sparrows, but can also be used for recreational bug hawking – that is, hunting large flying insects such as dragonflies, grasshoppers, and moths.

Owls (Strigidae)

A barn owl landing on a falconer's hand

Owls (family Strigidae) are not closely related to hawks or falcons. Little is written in classic falconry that discusses the use of owls in falconry. However, at least two species have successfully been used, the Eurasian eagle-owl and the great horned owl.[10] Successful training of owls is much different from the training of hawks and falcons, as they are hearing- rather than sight-oriented. (Owls can only see black and white, and are long-sighted.) This often leads falconers to believe that they are less intelligent, as they are distracted easily by new or unnatural noises, and they do not respond as readily to food cues. However, if trained successfully, owls show intelligence on the same level as those of hawks and falcons.

Booted eagles (Aquila)

A Mongolian man inspects his golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) before competing in an eagle hunting contest in northern Mongolia

Main article: Hunting with eagles

The Aquila (all have "booted" or feathered tarsi) genus has a nearly worldwide distribution. The more powerful types are used in falconry; for example golden eagles have reportedly been used to hunt wolves[11] in Kazakhstan, and are now most widely used by the Altaic Kazakh eagle hunters in the western Mongolian province of Bayan-Ölgii to hunt foxes,[12][13][14][15][16] and other large prey, as they are in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.[17] Most are primarily ground-oriented, but occasionally take birds. Eagles are not used as widely in falconry as other birds of prey, due to the lack of versatility in the larger species (they primarily hunt over large, open ground), the greater potential danger to other people if hunted in a widely populated area, and the difficulty of training and managing an eagle. A little over 300 active falconers are using eagles in Central Asia, with 250 in western Mongolia, 50 in Kazakhstan, and smaller numbers in Kyrgyzstan and western China.[15]

Sea eagles (Haliaëtus)

Most species of genus Haliaëtus catch and eat fish, some almost exclusively, but in countries where they are not protected, some have been effectively used in hunting for ground quarry.[citation needed]

Husbandry, training, and equipment

Main articles: Hack (falconry) and Falconry training and technique

Falconry around the world

A brown falcon used for falconry in Tasmania

Falconry is currently practiced in many countries around the world. The falconer's traditional choice of bird is the northern goshawk and peregrine falcon. In contemporary falconry in both North America and the UK, they remain popular, although Harris' hawks and red-tailed hawks are likely more widely used. The northern goshawk and the golden eagle are more commonly used in Eastern Europe than elsewhere. In the west Asia, the saker falcon is the most traditional species flown against the houbara bustard, sandgrouse, stone-curlew, other birds, and hares. Peregrines and other captive-bred imported falcons are also commonplace. Falconry remains an important part of the Arab heritage and culture. The UAE reportedly spends over US$27 million annually towards the protection and conservation of wild falcons, and has set up several state-of-the-art falcon hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.[18] The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the largest falcon hospital in the world. Two breeding farms are in the Emirates, as well as those in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Every year, falcon beauty contests and demonstrations take place at the ADIHEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

A saker falcon used for falconry in Qatar
A hobby
Falconer from Al Ain, Abu Dhabi[19]

Eurasian sparrowhawks were formerly used to take a range of small birds, but have since fallen out of favor due to their fragility and the availability of various American species.

In North America and the UK, falcons usually fly only after birds. Large falcons are typically trained to fly in the "waiting-on" style, where the falcon climbs and circles above the falconer and/or dog and the quarry is flushed when the falcon is in the desired commanding position. Classical game hawking in the UK had a brace of peregrine falcons flown against the red grouse, or merlins in "ringing" flights after skylarks. Rooks and crows are classic game for the larger falcons, and the magpie, making up in cunning what it lacks in flying ability, is another common target. Short-wings can be flown in both open and wooded country against a variety of bird and small mammal prey. Most hunting with large falcons requires large, open tracts where the falcon is afforded opportunity to strike or seize its quarry before it reaches cover. Most of Europe practices similar styles of falconry, but with differing degrees of regulation.

Medieval falconers often rode horses, but this is now rare with the exception of contemporary Kazakh and Mongolian falconry. In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia, the golden eagle is traditionally flown (often from horseback), hunting game as large as foxes and wolves.[20]

In Japan, the northern goshawk has been used for centuries. Japan continues to honor its strong historical links with falconry (takagari), while adopting some modern techniques and technologies.

In Australia, although falconry is not specifically illegal, it is illegal to keep any type of bird of prey in captivity without the appropriate permits. The only exemption is when the birds are kept for purposes of rehabilitation (for which a licence must still be held), and in such circumstances it may be possible for a competent falconer to teach a bird to hunt and kill wild quarry, as part of its regime of rehabilitation to good health and a fit state to be released into the wild.

In New Zealand, falconry was formally legalised for one species only, the swamp/Australasian harrier (Circus approximans) in 2011. This was only possible with over 25 years of effort from both Wingspan National Bird of Prey Center[21] and the Raptor Association of New Zealand.[22] Falconry can only be practiced by people who have been issued a falconry permit by the Department of Conservation. Tangent aspects, such as bird abatement and raptor rehabilitation, also employ falconry techniques to accomplish their goals.

Falconry today


Falcons can live into their midteens, with larger hawks living longer and eagles likely to see out middle-aged owners. Through the captive breeding of rescued birds, the last 30 years have had a great rebirth of the sport, with a host of innovations; falconry's popularity, through lure flying displays at country houses and game fairs, has probably never been higher in the past 300 years. Ornithologist Tim Gallagher, editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird magazine, documented his experiences with modern falconry in a 2008 book, Falcon Fever.[a]

Making use of the natural relationship between raptors and their prey, falconry is now used to control pest birds and animals in urban areas, landfills, commercial buildings, hotels, and airports.[24]

Falconry centres or bird-of-prey centres house these raptors. They are responsible for many aspects of bird-of-prey conservation (through keeping the birds for education and breeding). Many conduct regular flying demonstrations and educational talks, and are popular with visitors worldwide.

Such centres may also provide falconry courses, hawk walks, displays, and other experiences with these raptors.

Clubs and organizations

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In the UK, the British Falconers' Club (BFC) is the oldest and largest of the falconry clubs. BFC was founded in 1927 by the surviving members of the Old Hawking Club, itself founded in 1864. Working closely with the Hawk Board, an advisory body representing the interests of UK bird of prey keepers, the BFC is in the forefront of raptor conservation, falconer education, and sustainable falconry. Established in 1927, the BFC now has a membership over 1,200 falconers. It began as a small and elite club, but it is now a sizeable democratic organisation that has members from all walks of life, flying hawks, falcons, and eagles at legal quarry throughout the British Isles.

The North American Falconers Association[25] (NAFA), founded in 1961, is the premier club for falconry in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and has members worldwide. NAFA is the primary club in the United States and has a membership from around the world. Most USA states have their own falconry clubs. Although these clubs are primarily social, they also serve to represent falconers within their states in regards to that state's wildlife regulations.

The International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey,[26] founded in 1968, currently represents 156 falconry clubs and conservation organisations from 87 countries worldwide, totalling over 75,000 members.

The Saudi Falcons Club preserves the historical heritage associated with the falconry culture, and spreads awareness and provides training to protect falcons and flourish falconry.[tone]

Captive breeding and conservation

The successful and now widespread captive breeding of birds of prey began as a response to dwindling wild populations due to persistent toxins such as PCBs and DDT, systematic persecution as undesirable predators, habitat loss, and the resulting limited availability of popular species for falconry, particularly the peregrine falcon. The first known raptors to breed in captivity belonged to a German falconer named Renz Waller. In 1942–43, he produced two young peregrines in Düsseldorf in Germany.

Falconry equipment

The first successful captive breeding of peregrine falcons in North America occurred in the early 1970s by the Peregrine Fund, professor and falconer Heinz Meng, and other private falconer/breeders such as David Jamieson and Les Boyd who bred the first peregrines by means of artificial insemination. In Great Britain, falconer Phillip Glasier of the Falconry Centre in Newent, Gloucestershire, was successful in obtaining young from more than 20 species of captive raptors. A cooperative effort began between various government agencies, non-government organizations, and falconers to supplement various wild raptor populations in peril. This effort was strongest in North America where significant private donations along with funding allocations through the Endangered Species Act of 1972 provided the means to continue the release of captive-bred peregrines, golden eagles, bald eagles, aplomado falcons and others. By the mid-1980s, falconers had become self-sufficient as regards sources of birds to train and fly, in addition to the immensely important conservation benefits conferred by captive breeding.

Between 1972 and 2001, nearly all peregrines used for falconry in the U.S. were captive-bred from the progeny of falcons taken before the U. S. Endangered Species Act was passed, and from those few infusions of wild genes available from Canada and special circumstances. Peregrine falcons were removed from the United States' endangered species list on August 25, 1999.[27] Finally, after years of close work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a limited take of wild peregrines was allowed in 2001, the first wild peregrines taken specifically for falconry in over 30 years.

Some controversy has existed over the origins of captive-breeding stock used by the Peregrine Fund in the recovery of peregrine falcons throughout the contiguous United States. Several peregrine subspecies were included in the breeding stock, including birds of Eurasian origin. Due to the extirpation of the eastern subspecies (Falco peregrinus anatum), its near extirpation in the Midwest, and the limited gene pool within North American breeding stock, the inclusion of non-native subspecies was justified to optimize the genetic diversity found within the species as a whole.[28] Such strategies are common in endangered species reintroduction scenarios, where dramatic population declines result in a genetic bottleneck and the loss of genetic diversity.

Laws regulating the hunting, import and export of wild falcons vary across Asia, and effective enforcement of current national and international regulations is lacking in some regions. It is possible that the spread of captive-bred falcons in falcon markets in the Arabian Peninsula has mitigated this demand for wild falcons.

Hybrid falcons

The species within the genus Falco are closely related, and some pairings produce viable offspring. The heavy northern gyrfalcon and Asiatic saker are especially closely related, and whether the Altai falcon is a subspecies of the saker or descendants of naturally occurring hybrids is not known. Peregrine and prairie falcons have been observed breeding in the wild and have produced offspring.[29] These pairings are thought to be rare, but extra-pair copulations between closely related species may occur more frequently and/or account for most natural occurring hybridization. Some male first-generation hybrids may have viable sperm, whereas very few first-generation female hybrids lay fertile eggs. Thus, naturally occurring hybridization is thought to be somewhat insignificant to gene flow in raptor species.

The first hybrid falcons produced in captivity occurred in western Ireland when veteran falconer Ronald Stevens and John Morris put a male saker and a female peregrine into the same moulting mews for the spring and early summer, and the two mated and produced offspring.

Captive-bred hybrid falcons have been available since the late 1970s, and enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in North America and the UK in the 1990s. Hybrids were initially "created" to combine the horizontal speed and size of the gyrfalcon with the good disposition and aerial ability of the peregrine. Hybrid falcons first gained large popularity throughout the Arabian Peninsula, feeding a demand for particularly large and aggressive female falcons capable and willing to take on the very large houbara bustard, the classic falconry quarry in the deserts of the West Asia. These falcons were also very popular with Arab falconers, as they tended to withstand a respiratory disease (aspergillosis from the mold genus Aspergillus) in stressful desert conditions better than other pure species from the Northern Hemisphere.

Artificial selection and domestication

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Some believe that no species of raptor have been in captivity long enough to have undergone successful selective breeding for desired traits. Captive breeding of raptors over several generations tends to result, either deliberately, or inevitably as a result of captivity, in selection for certain traits, including:

Escaped falconry birds

The Shaw Monument, a falconry observation tower in Scotland.
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Falconers' birds are inevitably lost on occasion, though most are found again. The main reason birds can be found again is because, during free flights, birds usually wear radio transmitters or bells. The transmitters are in the middle of the tail, on the back, or attached to the bird's legs.

Records of species becoming established in Britain after escaping or being released include:

In 1986, a lost captive-bred female prairie falcon (which had been cross-fostered by an adult peregrine in captivity) mated with a wild male peregrine in Utah. The prairie falcon was trapped and the eggs removed, incubated, and hatched, and the hybrid offspring were given to falconers. The wild peregrine paired with another peregrine the next year.

Falconry in Hawaii is prohibited largely due to the fears of escaped non-native birds of prey becoming established on the island chain and aggravating an already rampant problem of invasive species impacts on native wildlife and plant communities.


In Great Britain

In sharp contrast to the US, falconry in Great Britain is permitted without a special license, but a restriction exists of using only captive-bred birds. In the lengthy, record-breaking debates in Westminster during the passage of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Bill, efforts were made by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other lobby groups to have falconry outlawed, but these were successfully resisted. After a centuries-old but informal existence in Britain, the sport of falconry was finally given formal legal status in Great Britain by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which allowed it to continue, provided all captive raptors native to the UK were officially ringed and government-registered. DNA testing was also available to verify birds' origins. Since 1982, the British government's licensing requirements have been overseen by the Chief Wildlife Act Inspector for Great Britain, who is assisted by a panel of unpaid assistant inspectors.

A white gyrfalcon

British falconers are entirely reliant upon captive-bred birds for their sport. The taking of raptors from the wild for falconry, although permitted by law under government licence, has not been allowed in recent decades.

Anyone is permitted to possess legally registered or captive-bred raptors, although falconers are anxious to point out this is not synonymous with falconry, which specifically entails the hunting of live quarry with a trained bird. A raptor kept merely as a pet or possession, although the law may allow it, is not considered to be a falconer's bird. Birds may be used for breeding or kept after their hunting days are over, but falconers believe it is preferable that young, fit birds are flown at quarry.

In the United States

In the United States, falconry is legal in all states except Hawaii, and in the District of Columbia. A falconer must have a state permit to practice the sport. (Requirements for a federal permit were changed in 2008 and the program discontinued effective January 1, 2014.)[31] Acquiring a falconry license in the United States requires an aspiring falconer to pass a written test, have equipment and facilities inspected, and serve a minimum of two years as an apprentice under a licensed falconer, during which time, the apprentice falconer may only possess one raptor. Three classes of the falconry license have a permit issued jointly by the falconer's state of residence and the federal government. The aforementioned apprentice license matriculates to a general class license, which allows the falconer to up to three raptors at one time. (Some jurisdictions may further limit this.) After a minimum of five years at general level, falconers may apply for a master class license, which allows them to keep up to five wild raptors for falconry and an unlimited number of captive-produced raptors. (All must be used for falconry.) Certain highly experienced master falconers may also apply to possess golden eagles for falconry.

Within the United States, a state's regulations are limited by federal law and treaties protecting raptors. Most states afford falconers an extended hunting season relative to seasons for archery and firearms, but species to be hunted, bag limits, and possession limits remain the same for both. No extended seasons for falconry exist for the hunting of migratory birds such as waterfowl and doves.

Federal regulation of falconry in North America is enforced under the statutes of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), originally designed to address the rampant commercial market hunting of migratory waterfowl during the early 20th century. Birds of prey suffered extreme persecution from the early 20th century through the 1960s, where thousands of birds were shot at conspicuous migration sites, and many state wildlife agencies issued bounties for carcasses.[32] Due to widespread persecution and further impacts to raptor populations from DDT and other toxins, the act was amended in 1972 to include birds of prey. (Eagles are also protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1959.) Under the MBTA, taking migratory birds, their eggs, feathers, or nests is illegal. Take is defined in the MBTA to "include by any means or in any manner, any attempt at hunting, pursuing, wounding, killing, possessing, or transporting any migratory bird, nest, egg, or part thereof".[33] Falconers are allowed to trap and otherwise possess certain birds of prey and their feathers with special permits issued by the Migratory Bird Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by state wildlife agencies (issuers of trapping permits).

The Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) restricts the import and export of most native birds species and are listed in the CITES Appendices I, II, and III.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act, legislation put into effect circa 1993, regulates importation of any CITES-listed birds into the United States.

Some controversy exists over the issue of falconer's ownership of captive-bred birds of prey. Falconry permits are issued by states in a manner that entrusts falconers to "take" (trap) and possess permitted birds and use them only for permitted activities, but does not transfer legal ownership. No legal distinction is made between native wild-trapped vs. captive-bred birds of the same species. This legal position is designed to discourage the commercial exploitation of native wildlife.


Detail of two falconers from De arte venandi cum avibus, 1240s
Indian king, Maharaja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur with a hawk
Mughal emperor Akbar with a hawk
The medieval poet Konrad von Altstetten shown with his falcon, in the embrace of his lover. From the Codex Manesse.

Evidence suggests that the art of falconry may have begun in Mesopotamia, with the earliest accounts dating to around 2,000 BC. Also, some raptor representations are in the northern Altai, western Mongolia.[2][34] The falcon was a symbolic bird of ancient Mongol tribes.[35] Some disagreement exists about whether such early accounts document the practice of falconry (from the Epic of Gilgamesh and others) or are misinterpreted depictions of humans with birds of prey.[36][page needed][37][page needed] During the Turkic Period of Central Asia (seventh century AD), concrete figures of falconers on horseback were described on the rocks in Kyrgyz.[34] Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194–1250) is generally acknowledged as the most significant wellspring of traditional falconry knowledge. He is believed to have obtained firsthand knowledge of Arabic falconry during wars in the region (between June 1228 and June 1229). He obtained a copy of Moamyn's manual on falconry and had it translated into Latin by Theodore of Antioch. Frederick II himself made corrections to the translation in 1241, resulting in De Scientia Venandi per Aves.[38] King Frederick II is most recognized for his falconry treatise, De arte venandi cum avibus (The Art of Hunting with Birds). Written himself toward the end of his life, it is widely accepted as the first comprehensive book of falconry, but also notable in its contributions to ornithology and zoology. De arte venandi cum avibus incorporated a diversity of scholarly traditions from east to west, and is one of the earliest challenges to Aristotle's explanations of nature.[39][page needed]

Three panels depicting hawking in England from various time periods, as reprinted in Joseph Strutt's 1801 book, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England from the Earliest Period: The middle panel is from a Saxon manuscript dated to the late 10th century – early 11th century, as of 1801 held in the "Cotton Library", showing a Saxon nobleman and his falconer. The top and bottom panels are drawings from a manuscript held, as of 1801, in the Royal Library, dating from the early 14th century, showing parties of both sexes hawking by the waterside; the falconer is frightening the fowl to make them rise and the hawk is in the act of seizing upon one of them.[40]
Mughal emperor Jahangir in the desert hunting deer with a falcon., Brooklyn Museum, c. 1600.
Icelandic gyrfalcon, 1759, Livrustkammaren

Historically, falconry was a popular sport and status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe, and Asia.[citation needed] Many historical illustrations left in Rashid al Din's "Compendium chronicles" book described falconry of the middle centuries with Mongol images. Falconry was largely restricted to the noble classes due to the prerequisite commitment of time, money, and space. In art and other aspects of culture, such as literature, falconry remained a status symbol long after it was no longer popularly practiced. The historical significance of falconry within lower social classes may be underrepresented in the archaeological record, due to a lack of surviving evidence, especially from nonliterate nomadic and nonagrarian societies. Within nomadic societies such as the Bedouin, falconry was not practiced for recreation by noblemen. Instead, falcons were trapped and hunted on small game during the winter to supplement a very limited diet.[41][page needed]

In the UK and parts of Europe, falconry probably reached its zenith in the 17th century,[1][2] but soon faded, particularly in the late 18th and 19th centuries, as firearms became the tool of choice for hunting. (This likely took place throughout Europe and Asia in differing degrees.) Falconry in the UK had a resurgence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when a number of falconry books were published.[42] This revival led to the introduction of falconry in North America in the early 20th century. Colonel R. Luff Meredith is recognized as the father of North American falconry.[43]

Throughout the 20th century, modern veterinary practices and the advent of radio telemetry (transmitters attached to free-flying birds) increased the average lifespan of falconry birds, and allowed falconers to pursue quarry and styles of flight that had previously resulted in the loss of their hawk or falcon.


A couple belonging to the Sambal warrior class, documented by the 16th-century Boxer Codex: The female warrior is holding a raptor, which has captured a bird, exemplifying a culture of falconry.

Falconry in Britain in early 12th century

Medieval Normans distinguished falconry from the sport of 'hawking'.[citation needed] Normans practiced falconry by horseback and 'hawking' by foot.[citation needed] An immediate impact of the Norman Conquest of England was a penchant for falconry enjoyed by Norman nobility.[citation needed] So much so, in fact, that they outlawed commoners from hunting particular lands so that nobility could freely enjoy both sports.[citation needed] Both falconry and 'hawking' were central to Norman cultural identity in medieval times.[citation needed] Normans transported their falcons on a frame called a cadge.[citation needed]

The Book of St Albans

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A lady with peregrine falcon on horse

The often-quoted Book of Saint Albans or Boke of St Albans, first printed in 1486, often attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, provides this hierarchy of hawks and the social ranks for which each bird was supposedly appropriate.

  1. Emperor: Eagle, vulture, and merlin
  2. King: gyr falcon and the tercel of the gyr falcon
  3. Prince: falcon gentle and the tercel gentle
  4. Duke: falcon of the loch
  5. Earl: Peregrine falcon
  6. Baron: bustard
  7. Knight: sacre and the sacret
  8. Esquire: lanere and the laneret
  9. Lady: marlyon
  10. Young man: hobby
  11. Yeoman: goshawk
  12. Poor man: tercel
  13. Priest: sparrowhawk
  14. Holy water clerk: musket
  15. Knave or servant: kestrel

This list, however, was mistaken in several respects.

The relevance of the "Boke" to practical falconry past or present is extremely tenuous, and veteran British falconer Phillip Glasier dismissed it as "merely a formalised and rather fanciful listing of birds".

Further information on the 15th century illuminated falconry manuscript: Kerdeston Hawking Book

Falconry in Britain in 1973

A book about falconry published in 1973[53] says:

Intangible cultural heritage

Main article: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists

Falconry, a living human heritage
CountryAustria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates
DomainsKnowledge and practices
Inscription history
Inscription2021 (16th session)

In 2010, UNESCO inscribed falconry on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity upon the nomination of eleven countries in which it is an important element of their culture: Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, South Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. Austria and Hungary were added in 2012; Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Portugal were added in 2016; and Croatia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia were added in 2021. Nominated by a total of twenty-four countries, falconry is the largest multi-national element on the Representative List.[54]

In their rationale for inscription on the list, the nominators highlighted that "Originally a means of obtaining food, falconry has acquired other values over time and has been integrated into communities as a social and recreational practice and as a way of connecting with nature. Today, falconry is practised by people of all ages in many countries. As an important cultural symbol in many of those countries, it is transmitted from generation to generation through a variety of means, including through mentoring, within families or in training clubs".[54]

Literature and film

A falconer from Saudi Arabia, 1970s.

English language words and idioms derived from falconry

These English language words and idioms are derived from falconry:

Expression Meaning in falconry Derived meaning
haggard[58] of a hawk, caught from the wild when adult looking exhausted and unwell, in poor condition; wild or untamed
lure[59] Originally a device used to recall hawks. The hawks, when young, were trained to associate the device (usually a bunch of feathers) with food. To tempt with a promise/reward/bait
rouse[60] To shake one's feathers Stir or awaken
pounce[61] Referring to a hawk's claws, later derived to refer to birds springing or swooping to catch prey Jump forward to seize or attack something
to turn tail[62] Fly away To turn and run away

See also


  1. ^ About 5,000 falconers were in the United States in 2008.[23]


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Further reading