Are you a licensed falconer?
Yes, I am a PA Licensed falconer. I served an apprenticeship about 6 years ago for 2 years under a master falconer In Williamsport, PA, as part of the licensure process, after passing the state-run federally mandated exam (that’s a mouthful!). It is illegal for a non-falconer to possess a raptor.
Can you tell us a little about your hawk?
My hawk this year is an immature Cooper’s Hawk. US falconers trap juvenile hawks and falcons, train them to hunt with them, and then release them after a season or two, generally speaking.
How old is he?
We only trap juvenile birds in the fall of their first year because, in the wild, the mortality rate for a hawk during its first winter is approximately 80% (it’s kind of astonishing to think that 8 out of 10 hawks, more or less, will die within about 6 months from hatching).
How has the training process gone so far?
I’ve been training this hawk fairly slowly. I have trained and hunted with Redtails and Kestrels.
Cooper’s hawks, like all accipiters, are very, very different from those species, so I’m moving slowly with him lest I make a mistake! I’ll keep him through his summer moult, to make sure that he has a strong new set of tail feathers fully grown before I release him.
Has he had a successful hunt yet?
I am training this Cooper’s hawk to hunt pigeons, as pigeons are an invasive breed in North America.
He’s managed to catch one pigeon with me, and so I’ve given him a name (it’s a PA falconry tradition not to name a falconry bird until they have managed to catch something). I named him George III, because, like the 18th-century English king, he’s a little bit crazy.