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Falconry is the use of a trained raptor (bird of prey) to hunt quarry in its natural environment. Falconry is an ancient form of hunting, with a language and customs all of its own.

In the UK, it is lawful to keep captive bred raptors for falconry. Birds must be officially ringed and registered. Common raptor species used in falconry include goshawk, peregrine falcon, Harris hawk, gyr falcon and red-tailed hawk. Other species include golden eagle, buzzard, kestrel and saker falcon amongst others; there are also hybrids.

Falconry is a big commitment and requires much training for both raptor and falconer. There are a number of essential equipment items such as hood, jesses and bells, and the bird must have suitable housing and facilities. Raptors are exclusively carnivorous. The bird learns that the falconer is a good, reliable source of food and protection and so it chooses to return to the falconer when being flown. Other factors, such as the bird’s weight, also come into play.



In the hunting community, falconry is distinguished by its presence on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This means that it is a safeguarded part of the culture of many countries across the globe.

Falconry was threatened in the UK when the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 was debated in Parliament; the RSPB sought to have this form of hunting banned outright. They were not successful. Today we must remain vigilant against potential threats to this ancient form of hunting.