Posts Tagged ‘Training’

Training a Hawk to use her water dish

May 25th, 2013

Summer ‘Training’ for Red-Tails

Training a Red-Tailed hawk has many methods and ways of achieving conditioning for your hawk. There are creance flights and jump-ups to build endurance. Most of these exercises are used in combination of weight management during the fall, in order to get ready for the hunting season. But what about the Summer? Typically, Red-Tails are fed up to be “fat and happy” so that they have enough energy to moult and grow new feathers. You don’t stress out your red-tail during the summer in fear of creating shock-marks in the feathers. A good steady diet of quail, rabbit, and mice will grow out your red-tail’s feathers nice and strong during the summer months. Conditioning exercises will just have to be repeated in the fall, so what else can you do during the summer?

I spend a lot of time watching my bird in the summer. It’s a time when I can learn a lot from their behavior and body language. Set the bird out in the weathering area on a perch with a water pan and let your raptor enjoy the summer shade and gentle breezes. After watching my hawk for some time, I noticed that she wasn’t using her water dish. Not even for drinks. Most of the time, I provide water via a squirt bottle, or on hot days, I’ll mist her down, give her a good gentle soaking, and let her dry out. This works pretty well, and is probably more of a bath than the bird really wants, but definitely needs regularly. So how can you get a hawk to WANT to take a bath?


I cleaned out the dish and filled it with water, set it next to the perch, and then emptied out a small bag of goldfish from Meijers. Feeder goldfish are typically cheap, about 19¢ each. A few minutes later my hawk noticed the little tid-bits in the dish and started to investigate. Load of fun to watch and my hawk learned to use her water dish. I’ve kept the fish alive for a few more days with a change of water each day, and the mews is now regularly wet from Cedar playing with her new pet goldfish in the water pan.

** As an afterthought, there was one other behavior that was observed during these bath-pan training exercises. Raptors typically mate in the spring, and with Cedar being outside on a perch and visible to the sky, any other Red-Tails would and do notice her perching.  When a young male suitor Red-Tail came closer in to investigate, Cedar began making a strange noise  / call that I’ve never heard from a Red-Tailed hawk before.  The call sounded like “Rrrrrrr….. Rrrrrrr… Rrrrrrr…”.  So, now I know what the “Buteo Booty-Call” sounds like.  🙂

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Early December Falconry

December 10th, 2012

Early December Falconry

Michigan Hawking Club West Side Field Meet

The Michigan Hawking Club hosted a west-side field meet this past weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This is a gathering of falconers from across the state who help out not only with falconry adventures for folks in the club, but also by putting on a falconry program for the Boy Scouts.  Several members of the club bring their raptors for an educational program for Boy Scouts interested in earning their “Birding Badge” in the boy scouts.  The educational program is lead by a master falconer for the local boy scout troop and other falconers assist where needed with their birds by putting on additional demonstrations.

Club members who are interested in additional falconry experience can go out with falconers for hunting expeditions in the morning and the afternoon.  Our group went out early in the morning to a local hunting spot that was close to the Boy Scout center for a morning hunting expeidition.  The hunting was difficult in the early part of the day due to the covering of snow that coated all the brush and trees in the morning.  I flew Cedar for the group and she did extremely well for  a young Red-Tailed hawk out for the first time with such a large group of people.  Typically, young hawks have difficulty hunting with large groups of people at first, as they are usually used to only the falconer in the field as a hunting partner. When you add an additional ten brush-beaters to the hunting party, the activity can sometimes get to be too much for the young hawk.  Cedar followed along just fine and took several stoops at running cotton-tails in the early part of the day.  She pulled fur on one and the morning came to a close for us.

Cedar’s Progress

During one of my recent hunting expeditions, I was able to capture this short clip of Cedar returning to the glove for a tidbit.  She has been hunting very well, taking stoops and dives on rabbits on each field outing.  She follows the hunting party (usually me and another falconer) very well and responds to direction and encouragement while out in the field.  I’m very excited for her progress and ability to follow and pay close attention while out in the field.



I was lucky enough to be able to meet this wonderful Gyrfalcon, named “Luna” this past weekend (below). With all the other falconers at the field meet this weekend, there were great opportunities to learn new things and to “talk hawking” with friends.  These meets are great for that, as well as getting to see and visit up close with different birds and learn about them.

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Early October Hunting with Cedar

October 15th, 2012

Early October Hunting with Cedar

The past week has afforded several more hunting / training opportunities for Cedar. We’ve been able to get out to the field each day this week with the nice fall weather. Truthfully, the cooler weather, the better, as it is easy to work up a sweat hacking through the thick undergrowth. The early season for hunting in October is challenging with the leaves still on the trees and shrubbery still thick and standing. The dense undergrowth makes it difficult to walk through due to the green branches that have not dried out yet from the cold. These small thickets and densely covered areas are the key places where it is most likely to find game. Rabbits love to hide in the thick briar patches where there is food AND cover.

It will take another three weeks or so for the leaves to fall completely to the ground in Lower Michigan. The leaves are already about half way done in the upper part of Michigan. The annual bird hunt weekend is scheduled appropriately in order to fall on a weekend at the tail end of leaves falling off the trees. This makes it much better for having good shots at grouse.

These hunting excursions have been conducted in order to continue working on Cedar’s hunting ability and to get her out to fly each day. We continue to work on her hunting and falconry skills with the routine. Each activity should build on the next, and as much as possible, it’s the falconer’s job to provide that. In the case of actually finding game in the field, this is a little more luck than skill, unfortunately. Cedar has been extremely well behaved in the field, flying ahead to perches and moving along when called. I’m particularly impressed with her ability to pick higher perches and move up when appropriate. So far, she has the great beginnings to making a great falconry hawk. Stay tuned for more adventures.

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Training Complete

October 7th, 2012

Training Complete

It took Cedar 15 days of manning and training to achieve first free flight and catch her first rabbit.  To say I’m excited about this would be an understatement. This is a wonderful start to what looks like it could be a great falconry season with a fantastic Red-Tailed Hawk.  It’s hard to say just where training ends and hunting begins for these raptors, but I’m quite pleased with today’s progress in the field.  The weather today was ideal  for Cedar’s first free flight;  light winds, cool temperatures, and a moderately cloudy /overcast sky.  Not only was she great at following along through the trees, she was very attentive to the hunting area,  and she was a successful hunter today.  Very exciting!  I’ll be sure not to get my hopes up too high, as each bird and each season can be different.  Each season, hawk, and adventures bringing their own set of challenges. I’m sure glad to be back enjoying the fall weather with a feathered friend in the hunting grounds. Stay tuned for more hunting updates, it’s going to be a heck of a ride!

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Cedar’s Training Progress

October 6th, 2012

Cedar’s Training

It’s been almost two weeks with Cedar and so far she is showing great promise during her training. She started out fairly high wieght, as nearly all newly trapped birds do, and has been manned down to training weight (around 850g) and continues to progress through the steps. The manning process took about two hours each day for the past week and we continue to spend time together to get used to one another.

Trap Weight: 1100g
Color: Dark Back, Medium-to-light Belly-Band, Light Colored Head Feathers
Feet: Large, dirty feet, a few mild scratches, talons sharp
Keel: Medium sharp
Crop: Full
Feathers: Good Shape, none missing
Attitude: Very Mild mannered, getting used to new falconer

So far, the most impressive feature about Cedar is her light colored feathers on her head and neck. She has a full white breast, with the distinctive immature belly band. Her breast feathers are very thick and it gives her the appearance of being larger than she actually is. The other thing that is amazing about this animal is her temperment. She is manning down very easily and allows all the handling and attention that new birds get without any issues. She sits on the glove very comfortably for long periods of time. She accepts a hood without any bating or issues. The other day, I was sizing hoods for her and she sat on the glove while I tried on 5 different hoods to get the proper size. She did not bate once. I’m truly excited about her personality and am excited for her training to progress into the hunting excercises.

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