A sharp-shinned hawk. This species can be used for falconry, but this one isn’t. Courtesy of Robyn Perkins.
In answer to the question “would hunting with a falconry bird increase my chance for success?” Alberta Falconry Association (AFA) frequently asked questions (FAQ) says,“ No! Next to throwing stones, falconry is probably the least efficient of traditional hunting techniques.”
So what’s the point?
“Falconers are motivated not by the kill, but by the quality of the flight and the thrill of the chase,” says the FAQ.
“Falconry is the art of taking of wild quarry with trained hawks,” says the AFA information package.
Falconry is an ancient form of hunting, which has been legal in Alberta since 1981, says the AFA FAQ. Falconry in Alberta is connected with raptor conservation. Falconers must be members of the AFA.
To begin the long process of becoming a falconer, a person must be a resident of Alberta who is at least 14 years old and be accepted as a member of the Alberta Falconry Association. The levels of falconry are non-falconer, novice, apprentice, regular, and master falconer.
“The purpose of this category (non-falconer) is for those individuals who are interested in falconry or falconry birds, but who do not have any falconry experience or who do not wish to actively participate in the sport,” says the FAQ.
Novices can have one hawk. It must be a red-tailed hawk, Swainson’s hawk or American kestrel.
After at least one year of supervised experience, a novice can take a written exam to become an apprentice.
An apprentice can have two birds, but cannot breed them.
Regular falconers have three years experience. These are not restricted and can mentor.
Master falconers have seven or more years experience and knowledge on a broad range of subjects relating to falconry.
Falconry is regulated for three reasons: to protect domestic hawks, to protect wild populations, and to protect the reputation of the sport, says the AFA information package.
“Hawks need to be kept in a facility that has to be inspected and approved by a conservation officer,” says the AFA. “Usually this is a room of at least 8x8ft size, with cross ventilation, ample sunlight and a double door entrance. In addition, a similar size outdoor weathering area is required. There are other requirements, but these are the most basic elements of a mews.”
Building a mews and other set-up costs run to several thousand dollars, says the AFA.
“Only captive bred birds and those birds that have been legally imported into Alberta may be bought, sold or bartered,” says the AFA FAQ. “Traffic and export in birds collected from the wild in Alberta is not permitted, although such a bird may be transferred from one Alberta falconer to another.”
Another thing to consider is “hawks need fresh whole food,” says the AFA information package. “Poultry or beef for human consumption is not acceptable.”
This means falconers need a reliable source of quail, healthy pigeons, and mice to feed their hawks.
The AFA can be contacted through its website albertafalc onry.com which also has more information.