Image of the falconer training a falcon / hawk

What does the falconer do?

Falconers keep birds of prey to capture food for both themselves and the bird. This has been carried out for more than 2000 years and happens in many parts of the world. Falconers use hawks and falcons and occasionally eagles to hunt for food but not every bird of prey is suitable for falconry – owls and vultures for example.

Close-up image of a hawk

Catching food

A falconer will select the right bird for the type of food he is trying to catch. The species used in Britain are the eagle, goshawk, sparrowhawk (which are all hawks) and the peregrine and merlin (which are falcons). These birds are bred in captivity since it is against the law to take birds of prey or their eggs from the wild.

Image of Felix / Milo with a hawk

Other uses for birds of prey

Many people also keep birds of prey as a hobby or for flying demonstrations, zoos and visitor centres. Falcons are also used at airports to keep other birds away from planes, at rubbish dumps to frighten off gulls and to keep messy pigeons away from sports stadiums and Trafalgar Square!

Click on the facts

 Bird of prey facts

  • 1. British birds of prey are protected by law, to stop them dying out
  • 2. Their numbers have reduced in the past because of people destroying their habitat
  • 3. Some hawks and falcons bred by people have been successfully released into the wild
  • 4.The white-tailed eagle is the largest UK bird of prey, weighing up to 6 kg
  • 5. Peregrine falcons are the fastest creatures alive – they can dive at up to 200 mph!
  • 6. The larger birds of prey can live for more than 50 years

 Falconry facts

  • 1. Breeding falcons is extremely difficult and many people thought it couldn’t be done
  • 2. There are only about 5000 professional falconers in the UK
  • 3. About 20,000 people in the country keep birds of prey for flying demonstrations, breeding, rescue centres and visitor attractions
  • 4. Birds of prey only eat raw meat and in the case of ospreys, raw fish
  • 5. Hawks and falcons need special housing and care – they must be flown at least four times a week during the hunting season
  • 6. Many words from falconry have become part of the English language, including hoodwink, mews and cadge – find out what these mean!

 Falconer’s jobs

  • 1. Regularly flying the birds
  • 2. Feeding the birds fresh meat daily
  • 3. Keeping their cages clean
  • 4. Training young birds to hunt by giving them rewards
  • 5. Getting permission to hunt for food on other people’s land
  • 6. Spending a lot of time with the birds to get to know them well
  • 7. Keeping the birds free from pests and giving medicine when needed
  • 8. Trimming talons and beaks
  • 9. Providing bathing water