Questions + Answers
In this section we’ve included some answers and explanations to many of the common inquiries we encounter about our birds and our services. If you have any additional questions about the services we offer or about falconry, please feel free to get in touch with us through our contact page.
Hawks are meant for soaring and maneuvering with broad wings and long tails. They can catch a thermal which can raise them a thousand feet into the clouds quickly with little effort. Their beaks are powerful but the real threat is in their talons and toe-power. They grip their prey for total control and a speedy death. Falcons have fast beating hearts and large breast muscles which power their wings for long, upward flights where they watch from the clouds for unsuspecting prey below, or to launch them from a rocky perch to outfly their quarry, pursuit style. They have a notch in their beak which they use to separate the vertebrate in their prey resulting in a quick death. Some falcons, like the Peregrine Falcon, come down from the heavens at such a rate they are able to hit their prey and kill it on impact. The Peregrine is the fastest animal on the planet, speeds reaching 280MPH!
In the wild hawks and falcons eat a wide array of foods, but everything on their menu is meat. No vegetables for these predators. Our birds eat a varied diet of quail, rabbit, squirrel, sparrows, starling and pigeon, along with specialty hawk vitamins.
There is DNA sexing which can be performed but usually we don’t need it. Female hawks and falcons are approximately 1/3 larger than males. Our male Harris Hawk flies at 630 grams whereas our female Harris Hawk flies at 900 grams. He pushes her around but she always has the last word.
There are so many hawks and falcons in every terrain Southern California offers, from the oceans to the mountains, deserts to sage.
In the form of hawks we have the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk, rarely the Goshawk, Marsh Hawk, most commonly the Red-Tailed Hawk, rarely the Zone-Tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, rarely the Harris’ Hawk and the Swainsons Hawk.
In the form of falcons we have the plentiful American Kestrel, Merlins, Peregrine and Prairie Falcons.
There are graceful Barn Owls and captivating Great Horned Owls
And of course we have the mighty Bald Eagle and the majestic Golden Eagle
Hawks and falcons are opportunists. They wait for the right time to strike and they aren’t wasteful. They use as little energy as necessary to get in, get the job done, and get out. It wouldn’t be beneficial for them to scare all their food away from their hunting grounds. Hawks and falcons trained for abatement work are always ready to chase and their unique relationship with their human hunting partner allows them to invade the ‘safe havens’ of the prey birds.
A ‘safe haven’ for a prey bird is usually somewhere they can hide from predators, but there’s no hiding from the Hawk Pros! We introduce a seemingly endless stream of hungry raptors which at the end of the day, makes your pest birds consider a permanent change of scenery. To put this idea into perspective, if you enter your home and half of the time there is either a violent intruder, a lion or a bear… you might consider moving too!
Do what you can to disturb them and make them feel uncomfortable from making loud noises, spraying with the hose, removing nesting material or removing any food source for them. They might decide to move on to a more peaceful environment.
Most hawks and falcons live a life of solitude, other than during the breeding season. Hunting requires energy and territory and raptors are very protective of their resources. If there is enough to go around, they may be inclined to share year-round with a mate but generally hawks and falcons fly solo. There are some exceptions and a well documented exception is the Harris Hawk. There are groups in the wild that hunt cooperatively and share kills. Our Harris Hawks quite enjoy each others company!
All of our birds have separate enclosures. They cannot be kept together unless specific precautions are taken.
There are very few occasions where the hawk or falcon will happen to “get lucky” and catch a prey bird by surprise. Usually it will be a prey bird unfamiliar with the territory that finds itself in a vulnerable situation. The prey birds can usually easily outfly the hawk or falcon, and exercise that ability quickly upon seeing the deadly predator.
Not EVERYWHERE, but pretty close… They live at our home and we take care of them on a daily basis. They require daily care and do enjoy interaction with people. And of course we provide safe opportunities for them to spread their wings and fly, they like that! There are SOME occasions we will leave a trained care-taker in charge of their needs for short lengths of time, but it’s very stressful!
Usually… But not ALWAYS. When I(Alyssa) first began training wild-trapped Red-Tailed hawks, I would release them quickly and let them decide if they wanted to return. I made all of their equipment removable and there were a couple who didn’t return and though I could have followed them, I didn’t. With wild birds I believe they are all different and do have opinions. Some very much enjoy their hunting partnership with the humans and dogs, the safe place to sleep and guaranteed meals plus regular air-time. For our captive-bred birds, we take a different approach. After their initial training, releasing them for the first time, they are green, they have never known a day in the wild. Sometimes they get themselves into trouble by venturing into dangerous situations and we take every precaution to prevent injuries and mishaps. They are fitted with a transmitter either attached by a tether around their ankle or a backpack mount which will allow us to track their signal from wherever they disappear to, if they should decide to disappear. Rarely do they leave our sights and even rarer do they do it intentionally. But there have been times we have had to track our birds in rugged terrain where they were injured or on a kill.
After they have flown and we are ready to call them back, we whistle and they return to our glove for a small reward in the form of meat about the size of a dime. If they did something really awesome and we want to give them a big reward to reinforce the behavior we will call them to a lure, a padded leather teardrop at the end of a rope. They LOVE their lure!
Wild trapped birds are juvenile which means they are trapped in their first year, usually around the age of seven months. At seven months they have already long-left home and their families and they are out on their own, hunting for themselves. These birds can take from a week to a month to transfer from a wild bird to a working falconry bird. Captive bred birds can be started as a chick, called an eyass. This bird will be known as an imprint as they will believe you to be their ‘mother’ and will look to you to provide food. These birds take quite a while to develop mentally and you have to take on the demanding role of mama bird. Our birds are all taken later which means they are ‘chamber raised’ by their parents. This allows the bird to mature mentally as a bird, not a human. They learn social behaviors from their peers. Their instincts are sharp and ready to be shaped by the falconer. These birds are usually ready to work freely with us in a month. Our Harris Hawks have gentle talons and grab lightly which actually allows us to remove the prey from their grip without being harmed, usually.
There are strict laws which must be abided by when taking a bird from the wild and it is strictly regulated, thankfully! Our captive bred birds are bought from specially licensed breeders. The captive bred birds are banded with a number to keep track of them with.
There are three legal requirements to becoming a falconer in the state of California:
You must pass a state given test on history, identification, husbandry, health and care of raptors. You also must build a hawk house as well as either make or purchase state-required equipment and have it inspected and approved by a fish and game warden. Most importantly and probably most difficult, acquire a sponsor, who is a licensed falconer at the general or master level of falconry. I also recommend starting by joining your state hawking club where you can attend falconry meets and expand your knowledge and maybe make some friends to help you on your journey.
There are many publicly funded wildlife rescue centers, especially in Southern California. It takes a little bit of research and some patience but you can get connected with the right people if you are dedicated enough. I like the California Wildlife Center in Malibu, they have helped me immensely with wildlife I have been able to bring in to them. I also like the Ojai Raptor Center in Ojai, they have taken in and rehabbed everything from American Kestrels to Bald Eagles.