Sunday, May 6, 2018

Falconry in Los Angeles

There are around 650 licensed falconers in California, mostly members of the California Hawking Club. They take their birds of prey out to hunt, and have to purchase hunting licenses for anything that they birds might possibly catch. If the falcon grabs a kangaroo rat or other endangered species, the falconer must step in and distract his or her bird with a chunk of meat and get it away from the prey--even if it's already dead.
The term falconry covers the care of owls - like this great horned owls - and hawks, as well as merlins and falcons..
Having seen great horned owls in the eucalyptus trees at twilight --and did you know they bob forward when they hoot? -- I was truly surprised that this guy looked half the size of the ones in the trees. I was told that the females are much larger, so it's probably females that I've seen.
Another thing about hawking in general: the birds' habitats are subject to inspection and have to meet many regulations. If a falconer wants to go on vacation ... well, he or she had better have some really good friends willing to weigh, feed, and care for the birds every day.
I had no idea that falconry was such a demanding hobby - a life-style, really.
I learned all this from Frank Hoffman, an officer of the California Hawking Club, who brought a Harris Falcon to Deane Dana Friendship Park in San Pedro He comes out there every few months and probably goes to other parks as well.
These raptors are stunning up close. We see red-tailed hawks circling over canyons and occasionally striking a pose at the tops of trees. Once in a while I'll see a falcon perched on a street lamp or freeway sign, or a Coopers Hawk diving at another bird. But unless a pair of high-powered binoculars is at hand, most of us rarely get a chance to study their beaks and eyes and very intimidating talons.
They weigh around two pounds or less, as big as they are.
So that's all I've got. If you see a flyer at your local library about a talk on Falconry, you really should take the opportunity to see these birds and talk to their handlers. It's a look into another world.

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