Association Member Footage


A NLFA Member training a parent reared Red-Tailed Hawk. This bird is not an imprint and started out with the natural fear of humans exhibited by all wild raptors. After nearly a week of allowing the bird to become adjusted to its new environment (i.e. Mews), the falconer equipped the bird with a bell on a soft leather leg strap, and soft leather anklets and jesses (leg straps) designed to be easily removed by the bird should it decide to do so. This was followed by a week of manning the bird. That is to say, gently allowing the bird to get used to the falconer and permit the falconer to touch it without serious fears or defensive behaviours. During this time, the bird also adjusts to its new leg "jewellery" and learns to accept food from the falconer's gauntlet. Gradually, its fear is reduced enough that it learns to "step up" on to the falconers’ fist for a food reward and to eventually use the fist as a perch. Finally, a monumental day comes when more advanced training is introduced. Much of the initial stages of training is a process of gently reducing the fear response hardwired into all parent reared raptors and gradually developing a positive relationship with the bird so that it not only tolerates the falconer but looks upon the falconer as a positive partner through which only good things happen. Eventually a successful falconer is granted privileges that a raptor would not allow to any other animal.


Asking a raptor to jump/flap to the food held in a human fist is the equivalent to asking a human to rush in and steal a salmon from a hungry grizzly bear. While it takes a lot of patience and consistency to get to this stage, training advances very quickly after this. That first jump is a monumental day in the life of any falconer and never gets "old" or boring even after a lifetime of training raptors to accept humans as allies.


Like a dog getting used to a new collar, raptors are conditioned to accept the "hood" without fear or resistance. Falconers strive to maintain a positive relationship with their birds. Ideally, a raptor sees a falconer as a provider of good things and is eager to interact with the falconer. With hood training this is particularly challenging. Slow gradual steps are required along with consistent timing, behaviour on the part of the falconer, and of course environments, clothing, people, and noises. Food rewards and sound and hand signals are also generally part of this procedure. This raptor is being conditioned to ignore the sound on an ATV (as can be heard in the background) and accept the hood. This is the first time the bird was hooded with the braces (hood securing straps) being drawn. It took two weeks of ever increasing familiarization of the raptor with the hood for ever increasing daily periods of time to get to this stage..


After the initial jump to the fist, each day a falconer should be able to double the distance a raptor is called from while using the safety of a creance. This is a light line attached to the jesses with a swivel and is anchored to a weight that will give slightly if tugged on by the raptor after a short flight. At this point, the raptor has be introduced to a lure that is swung on a lanyard with an irresistible food reward attached. At the end of the training session in this film, and with a full crop and tired breast muscles, this red-tailed hawk still cannot resist the lure presented.


Raptors, like all animals, have a desire to get things their own way and at this stage falconers quickly encounter a psychological struggle of competing wills. The raptor is studying the falconer as much as the falconer is studying the behaviour of the raptor. While the falconer is training to induce an instant and unthinking response to being called, the raptor on the other hand would love nothing more than to have the falconer to come forward to it and provide a food reward. One step in the wrong direction at this point or presenting a reward for more than a few seconds can result in many leaps backward in the training process. Interacting with a raptor requires a falconer to constantly and consistently be aware of what is happening in the environment around them, how the bird is behaving, how the interaction between the raptor and falconer is playing out, and what must be done to insure a successful training session. Consistency, inducing familiarity, and staying one step ahead of the physiological game that is playing out is required at all times. Patience is the name of the game. Sometimes a well planned training session for the day that was supposed to last an hour or more; lasts two minutes.


Gradually and constantly new things are introduced in ever increasing degrees to the raptor as the bond between the falconer and raptor increases. Hunting dogs and hunting partners that were introduced and simply viewed during the first two weeks become more and more a part of the raptor's life. Carrying boxes (aka the giant hood), traveling in a vehicle, hiking longer and longer distances while being carried on the fist and other daily life around the home, training sites, and flying areas gradually becomes familiar to the raptor. This is a never ending process.


Eventually, the day comes when a test of courage is required. This day is exhilarating beyond belief but also steeped in fear and anxiety. The radio telemetry is attached, the leash is removed and both human and raptor plunge into a unique relationship as old as the pyramids.

Cost of the first Newfoundland Falconer getting to this stage:
$17,000+ dollars

Level of commitment, study, and training involved by the falconer, his friends and mentors throughout North America, and the government:

100s upon 100s of hours

Setting a wild raptor free and having it return to you:


This is a wild trapped red-tailed hawk.  Unlike a captive bred raptor, this hawk has already been coached by its parents as to what prey and food look like and has learned to be successful at capturing it. When trapping wild hawks for falconry purposes, experience counts. Little things like if a red-tail has clean or dirty feed tell a falconer a lot.  A hawk with clean feet is often a mouse specialist while those with dirty feet are often feeding on rabbits.
Hunting with a raptor requires many specific things be done including: actively flushing game for the hawk, carefully "making in" to approach the hawk while on its coveted prey, and the slight of hand "trading off" (in this case with what the falconer calls "ice cream"!). Eventually, the team of raptor and "human dog" meld with the hawk literally pointing rabbits and the falconer flushing the rabbits in such a manner as to give the hawk the best chance. Note the comments at time 5:23 and 6:03.

This page and all contents are copyright, Newfoundland and Labrador Falconers Association, all rights reserved 2010


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