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Introducing “Tahoe”, Red-Tailed Hawk

October 6th, 2009

Introducing “Tahoe”, Red-Tailed Hawk

It took a week for Tahoe to respond to food reward, but she ate a chipmunk on the 6th night after trapping. With a trap weight of 1147g, and a response weight of 1030g, we are on to the next step of training: Step to the glove. This is one of the most critical times in the training, getting your hawk to respond to you and your glove. More importantly, it’s necessary for the raptor to know what to do when you enter the Mews, to take her up for training, or out for Hunting!

Some additional lessons we covered during the first week:

  • Drinking from the Squirt-Bottle
  • Cleaning and Brushing the feet
  • Changing out Jesses
  • Swapping leashes
  • Placing in the Giant Hood
  • Hooding (although she has learned how to take it from me and toss it on the floor)
  • Stepping from Glove to other perch

During the course of the week, Tahoe also got comfortable sitting on the glove, fairly flat-footed, instead of gripping the glove tightly. She also has been ‘rousing’, indicating her additional comfort level with my presence and handling. The picture above was the very first time that Tahoe was standing on my fist just a few hours after trapping. She was a little unsteady, but quickly was able to gain her balance. More pics of Tahoe over in the albums…

On to the next training lesson!

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Trapping Success

October 5th, 2009

Trapping Adventure Success

It only took three outings to trap my first immature red-tailed hawk! After driving around for a good part of a Sunday morning, Sue helped me trap this beautiful immature red-tailed hawk in the Shelby Township area. She was sitting on a telephone pole, watching traffic go by. Once we spotted her, we turned the car around, I tossed the trap out the window into a ditch, and she hit the trap before we could turn around again. What a lucky break after two previous outings without success! I ran out of the car with gloves and a towel and quickly covered the raptor to prevent her from seeing my hands. I grasped her two feet, and quickly untied the nooses that had closed on her talons. With the feet under control, I folded the wings under my gloved hand, picked up the trap and towel, and quickly ran towards the car. I was very excited to have trapped my first immature red-tailed hawk!

Trapping Criteria

When looking for the ideal Red-Tailed hawk to keep for training for falconry, there are a few criteria used to determine suitability for Falconry:

  • Large Bird: ‘Large’ can be relative, based on area, and climate, and personal preference based on the type of expected game you are going to fly your bird at.  Some folks even prefer to fly small males, but the ultimate decision for acceptable size is up to the falconer.
  • Large Feet: Raptor feet are quite varied, but you are looking for something sturdy and beefy. Thin talons and pads may not be a good sign, nor will they be suited well for grasping and holding game.
  • Response: The bird should hit the trap pretty quickly, indicating a good hunter with little hesitation.
  • Feather Condition: Feathers only grow once a year, so any feather damage is going to have to wait another year, or be fixed by the falconer if the damage is repairable.
  • Keel / Crop: You’ll need to diagnose the keel on the raptor to determine how ‘sharp’ it is. Is it fat? Is the keel well pronounced? A large bird that is well fed, indicates overall good health, and a good hunter. A full crop would indicate that it had eaten recently, and is still hungry enough to hit the trap for additional nourishment.
  • Health / Injury: You’ll need to assess the overall health of the raptor fairly quickly; there’s no obligation to take on a raptor-maintenance nightmare from the start. At a minimum, you should dust her off with poultry dust (for mites, files, and parasites) and you should treat any injuries with first aid, then release the bird back to the wild. You’ll feel good knowing that a wild bird received your first-aid assistance, if only to give it a leg up in the wild and speed its recovery.

When I got back to the car, we quickly hooded her, wrapped her in a nylon stocking, and bound up the talons with co-flex. We performed a thorough inspection on her and got her weight. So, how did my capture rate? My first bird was 1147grams which is not overly large but average size. She hit the trap quickly, was quite fat, her keel was not well defined, and her crop was full. The feet are large enough to be a good hunter, although they were quite dirty which is not uncommon. There were no injuries apparent on her, other than a slight scratch on the right leg-pad from one talon scraping the other foot! The combination of these factors led me to the decision to keep her and mold her into a well-mannered falconry hawk. Five out of six characteristics isn’t that bad, and with my ‘trapping clock’ running out, it was time to call the morning done and get home to begin the manning process.

I am very grateful to my sponsor, Sue, for putting in so many hours of trapping for me to find the right bird. Trapping can be very time consuming if there are not many trappable birds around. Luck, timing, and many other factors play a big part of catching that red-tail for falconry.  I would also like to thank all the folks in the Michigan Hawking Club who put many hours of time and effort into getting legislation passed to allow trapping of wild birds in Michigan.

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