Is Falconry Cruel?



Falconry is a technique that individuals can use to train birds of prey to capture small animals. The falconer can train their bird to fly and capture small prey and bring it back to them. But is this training and the overall sport cruel?

Is Falconry Cruel?

Falconry is generally not considered cruel. Anyone interested in starting falconry must complete a two-year apprenticeship first and receive a license to ensure they know how to treat and take care of the birds properly. Most falconers have great respect for their hunting partners.

Let’s take a closer look at what falconry is, and how this process works while learning how falconry can be safe and healthy for both the bird and its owner.

Is Falconry Cruel to the Birds?

When falconry is done right, it is not cruel. Most people who participate in this will take excellent care of their birds and eventually release them back into the wild. The birds are not abused or misused.

There are several steps to the falconry process to help ensure the falcon’s safety and health, including:

  • Proper licensing: In America and most places abroad, you cannot begin falconry without proper licensing.
  • Apprenticeship: Again, in most places, new falconers must apprentice with a master for two years.
  • Proper housing: Falcons are expensive to care for and house properly, so falconers must provide suitable housing for their falcons.
  • Access to land to hunt: Falconers and their falcons cannot hunt unless they are on land where it is legal—and that means the falcons are safe from any aerial threats in more populated areas.
  • Knowledge of how to care for the raptor: Falconers typically take extreme pride in the quality of care and training they provide their raptors.
  • Quality vet care: Besides the love and respect most falconers have for their raptors, their birds also represent a significant money and time cost. They have good reasons to ensure their falcon gets top-quality veterinarian care.

These steps are in place to ensure the bird is appropriately taken care of and that falconry does not become cruel to the animal.

A falconer will need to know how to take care of their bird, have a license, and undergo an apprenticeship before they can branch out on their own.

Can Only Falcons Be Used in Falconry?

Despite the name, falcons are only one type of bird used in falconry. Many other birds of prey do well in this role too.

Falconers can choose the type of bird they would like to train and use in falconry, some common choices include:
  • Harris hawk
  • The true hawk
  • True eagles
  • Sea eagles
  • Falcons
  • Peregrines
  • Owls
  • Merlin Falcons
  • Redtail hawks

When choosing the right bird for falconry, the falconer needs to consider how much time is necessary to train the bird and how much space is available for it to stretch out and fly.

Larger birds will need more room to fly around, so, typically, only experience falconers will take them on.

Are the Birds Released Back to the Wild After Falconry?

Yes, often, the birds used in falconry will go back to the wild. The falconer will choose to train the bird for a year or two before releasing it.

Because these birds are allowed to hunt their prey and improve their survival skills, they are often stronger once released and do better than their untrained counterparts.

Cruelty-Free Benefits of Falconry Apprenticeships

Eagle landing falconry training

When someone wants to start as a falconer, they must go through an apprenticeship to learn how to take care of the birds and keep them safe. To start the apprenticeship, they must find someone to sponsor them.

There are two options here:

  • Find someone they know who is a falconer; or
  • Get a sponsor through a qualified organization.

Most of the time, they will start with a passage, which is just a raptor under one-years-old that has already been trained. The falconry apprenticeship takes two years to complete.

During this time, they gain experience on the falconry process and make sure the bird is well-taken care of – preventing any cruelty along the way.

Some of the things the apprentices learn or gain during this time include:

  • The ethics of falconry and how to keep the bird safe;
  • Ample practical experience;
  • Building a strong relationship with their bird; and
  • Learning how to take care of their bird correctly.

This apprenticeship may sound long, but it makes sure that anyone who chooses to do it,  learns all the skills they need and can help keep the bird safe.

Falconry Licensing Stops Animal Abuse

For those worried about animal cruelty for birds used in falconry, the United States has strict licensing requirements for all individuals who want to participate.

Falconers must get a federal and a state license through the Game and Fish Department in their state before beginning.

They can choose from three types of licenses including:

  • Master
  • General
  • Beginner

Those who get the master or general licenses can choose from more birds of prey and may be allowed to have more than one bird at a time, as long as they meet all required regulations. It takes time to move up in-licenses so the falconer can learn more about the sport rather than rushing in.

To get the beginner’s permit you need to take a written test. The falconer will need to get at least 80% on the test to pass. There are several resources to help with this, but they must get a beginner’s license before starting the apprenticeship.

Proper Care Is Provided to Falcons

Owl Training Falconry

A falconer needs to provide the proper housing to their bird. The housing facilities used in this are often called mews, and they will be similar in size to a large tool shed. However, make it the size that fits the bird.

Falconers must be careful not to place the bird in a home that is too small as it would be cruel to their feathered friends.

There are a few things that the mews needs to have:

  • A place for the bird to perch;
  • Shelter from all the elements;
  • Enough space for the bird to spread out; and
  • Safety chamber to keep the bird inside and safe.

These mews are regulated through various falconry laws and may have additional local requirements to help keep the birds safe.

Birds are not allowed to be placed in small cages as per these regulations. Many often have their own little homes with plenty of room to spread out and roam within.

When Can Falconry Be Cruel?

Falconry is often considered a safe activity, but there are times when it can be cruel to the bird. If the falconer does not take care of the bird or does not follow the proper rules, they may cause harm to the bird.

Some instances where falconry can become cruel includes:

  • The bird is not given enough space in their home;
  • The bird is not fed well;
  • The bird is pushed passed their limits during training; or
  • Other abuse is present.

The objective of these extensive qualification steps – from the licensing to apprenticeship and more – is to ensure the falconer is prepared for the responsibility that comes with caring for a bird of prey.

These steps also help reduce the chances of any cruelty towards the birds and make the sport safe.

Final Note

It is normal to worry about whether falconry is cruel to the birds or not. Many that worry about this, have seen someone treat a bird unkindly or even use inhumane practices.

But it is important to remember that falconry is not cruel when it is done well. When the bird is taken care of, appropriately trained, and given the right home, it is perfectly safe and suitable for the bird.

Many of these birds are later released back into the wild after a few years and tend to thrive!

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