The history of falconry

Falconry is the art of training a bird of prey, like a hawk or a falcon, to hunt game. Falconry is more than a sport or a hunting technique; it is a way of life.

The capture, breeding, keeping and training of raptors have been practiced for millennia. Falconry dates back 4,000 years, and is probably the oldest sport known to man.

Falconry originated in Asia and became well established in China, India and Arabia. It slowly made its way West, reaching Europe and England in the year 700AD. It attained the height of its popularity during the Middle Ages, in the 12th century.

During these times, falconry was the favorite hobby of the noble classes and of royalty. It was also popular with the working class; merchants also had raptors with which they hunted. However, the most spectacular birds, like Peregrine falcons and Gyrfalcons, were reserved for the upper class.

Since the invention of firearms, falconry has become less widespread, but it remains popular in many cultures.


Modern functions

Though falconry is now mainly a recreational sport, its techniques are pertinent to training raptors that have been injured to fly and hunt, and also to train birds for educational programs. The knowledge possessed by falconers has been indispensable in breeding certain species for re-release for recovery programs of endangered species like the Peregrine falcon.

Falconry is also often used for wildlife control on airport sites. The land surrounding the landing strips can be very welcoming to animals and birds, but these visitors can pose a threat to the safety of the planes and passsengers during take-off and landing. To avoid impacts between planes and wildlife, trained raptors can be flown by falconers on the airport site to scare the nuisance birds away. Ducks, geese, sparrows, gulls, pigeons all have an instinctual fear of raptors and flee or hide when they see them. By taking advantage of this fear, falconers and their birds can keep airports safe.

If the art of falconry is something that interests you, we strongly encourage you to join an association that will help guide you through your journey. Quebec’s Falconry and Austringers association is a great way to get started!