FALCONRY (Fr. fauconnerie, from Late Lat. falco, falcon), the art of employing falcons and hawks in the chase, often termed Hawking. Falconry was for many ages one of the principal sports of the richer classes, and, since many more efficacious methods and appliances for the capture of game undoubtedly existed, it is probable that it has always been carried on as a pure sport. The antiquity of falconry is very great. There appears to be little doubt that it was practised in Asia at a very remote period, for which we have the concurrent testimony of various Chinese and Japanese works, some of the latter being most quaintly and yet spiritedly illustrated. It appears to have been known in China some 2000 years B.C., and the records of a king Wen Wang, who reigned over a province of that country 689 B.C., prove that the art was at that time in very high favour. In Japan it appears to have been known at least 600 years B.C., and probably at an equally early date in India, Arabia, Persia and Syria. Sir A.H. Layard, in his Nineveh and Babylon, considered that in a bas-relief found by him in the ruins of Khorsabad "there appeared to be a falconer bearing a hawk on his wrist," from which it would appear to have been known there some 1700 years B.C. In all the above-mentioned countries of Asia it is practised at the present day.
Little is known of the early history of falconry in Africa, but from very ancient Egyptian carvings and drawings it seems to have been known there many ages ago. It was probably also in vogue in the countries of Morocco, Oran, Algiers, Tunis and Egypt, at the same time as in Europe. The older writers on falconry, English and continental, often mention Barbary and Tunisian falcons. It is still practised in Egypt.
Perhaps the oldest records of falconry in Europe are supplied by the writings of Pliny, Aristotle and Martial. Although their notices of the sport are slight and somewhat vague, yet they are quite sufficient to show clearly that it was practised in their days - between the years 384 B.C. and A.D. 40. It was probably introduced into England from the continent about A.D. 860, and from that time down to the middle of the 17th century falconry was followed with an ardour that perhaps no English sport has ever called forth, not even fox-hunting. Stringent laws and enactments, notably in the reigns of William the Conqueror, Edward III., Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, were passed from time to time in its interest. Falcons and hawks were allotted to degrees and orders of men according to rank and station - for instance, to the emperor the eagle and vulture, to royalty the jerfalcons, to an earl the peregrine, to a yeoman the goshawk, to a priest the sparrow-hawk, and to a knave or servant the useless kestrel. The writings of Shakespeare furnish ample testimony to the high and universal estimation in which it was held in his days. About the middle of the 17th century falconry began to decline in England, to revive somewhat at the Restoration. It never, however, completely recovered its former favour, a variety of causes operating against it, such as enclosure of waste lands, agricultural improvements, and the introduction of fire-arms into the sporting field, till it fell, as a national sport, almost into oblivion. Yet it has never been even temporarily extinct, and it is successfully practised even at the present day.
In Europe the game or "quarry" at which hawks are flown consists of grouse (confined to the British Isles), black-game, pheasants, partridges, quails, landrails, ducks, teal, woodcocks, snipes, herons, rooks, crows, gulls, magpies, jays, blackbirds, thrushes, larks, hares and rabbits. In former days geese, cranes, kites, ravens and bustards were also flown at. Old German works make much mention of the use of the Iceland falcon for taking the great bustard, a flight scarcely alluded to by English writers. In Asia the list of quarry is longer, and, in addition to all the foregoing, or their Asiatic representatives, various kinds of bustards, sand grouse, storks, ibises, spoonbills, pea-fowl, jungle-fowl, kites, vultures and gazelles are captured by trained hawks. In Mongolia and Chinese Tartary, and among the nomad tribes of central Asia, the sport still flourishes; and though some late accounts are not satisfactory either to the falconer or the naturalist, yet they leave no doubt that a species of eagle is still trained in those regions to take large game, as antelopes and wolves. Mr Atkinson, in his account of his travels in the country of the Amur, makes particular mention of the sport, as does also Mr Shaw in his work on Yarkand; and in a letter from the Yarkand embassy, under Mr Forsyth, C.B., dated Camp near Yarkand, Nov. 27, 1873, the following passage occurs: - "Hawking appears also to be a favourite amusement, the golden eagle taking the place of the falcon or hawk. This novel sport seemed very successful." It is questionable whether the bird here spoken of is the golden eagle. In Africa gazelles are taken, and also partridges and wild-fowl.
The hawks used in England are the three great northern falcons, viz. the Greenland, Iceland and Norway falcons, the peregrine falcon, the hobby, the merlin, the goshawk and the sparrow-hawk. In former days the saker, the lanner and the Barbary or Tunisian falcon were also employed. (See Falcon.)
Of the foregoing the easiest to keep, most efficient in the field, and most suitable for general use are the peregrine falcon and the goshawk.
In all hawks, the female is larger and more powerful than the male.
Hawks are divided by falconers all over the world into two great classes. The first class comprises "falcons," i.e. "long-winged hawks," or "hawks of the lure," distinguished by Eastern falconers as "dark-eyed hawks." In these the wings are pointed, the second feather in the wing is the longest, and the iris is of a deep, dark-brown hue. Merlins must, however, be excepted; and here it would seem that the Eastern distinction is the better, for though merlins are much more falcons than they are hawks, they differ from falcons in having the third feather in the wing the longest, while they are certainly "dark-eyed hawks."
The second class is that of "hawks," i.e. "short-winged hawks," or "hawks of the fist," called by Eastern falconers "yellow (or rose) eyed hawks." In these the wings are rounded, the fourth feather is the longest in the wing, and the iris is yellow, orange or deep-orange.
The following glossary of the principal terms used in falconry may assist the reader in perusing this notice of the practice of the art. Useless or obsolete terms are omitted: -
Austringan. - A falconer.
Bate. - A hawk is said to "bate" when she flutters off from the fist, perch or block, whether from wildness, or for exercise, or in the attempt to chase.
Bewits. - Straps of leather by which the bells are fastened to a hawk's legs.
Bind. - A hawk is said to "bind" when she seizes a bird in the air and clings to it.
Block. - The conical piece of wood, of the form of an inverted flower-pot, used for hawks to sit upon; for a peregrine it should be about 10 to 12 in. high, 5 to 6 in diameter at top, and 8 to 9 in diameter at base.
Brail. - A thong of soft leather used to secure, when desirable, the wing of a hawk. It has a slit to admit the pinion joint, and the ends are tied together.
Cadge. - The wooden frame on which hawks, when numerous, are carried to the field.
Cadger. - The person who carries the cadge.
Calling off. - Luring a hawk (see Lure) from the hand of an assistant.
Carry. - A hawk is said to "carry" when she flies away with the quarry on the approach of the falconer.
Cast. - Two hawks which may be used for flying together are called a "cast," not necessarily a pair.
Casting. - The oblong or egg-shaped ball, consisting of feathers, bones, etc., which all hawks (and insectivorous birds) throw up after the nutritious part of their food has been digested. Also the fur or feathers given them to assist the process.
Cere. - The naked wax-like skin above the beak.
Check. - A hawk is said to fly at "check" when she flies at a bird other than the intended object of pursuit.
Clutching. - Taking the quarry in the feet as the short-winged hawks do. Falcons occasionally "clutch."
Come to. - A hawk is said to "come to" when she begins to get tame.
Coping. - Cutting the beak or talons of a hawk.
Crab. - To fight.
Creance. - A long line or string.
Crop, to put away. - A hawk is said to "put away her crop" when the food passes out of the crop into the stomach.
Deck feathers. - The two centre tail-feathers.
Eyas. - A hawk which has been brought up from the nest (nyas, from Fr. niais).
Eyry. - The nest of a hawk.
Foot. - A hawk is said to "foot" well or to be a "good footer" when she is successful in killing. Many hawks are very fine fliers without being "good footers."
Frounce. - A disease in the mouth and throat of hawks.
Get in. - To go up to a hawk when she has killed her quarry.
Hack. - The state of partial liberty in which young hawks must always at first be kept.
Haggard. - A wild-caught hawk in the adult plumage.
Hood. - (See fig.)
Hoodshy. - A hawk is said to be "hoodshy" when she is afraid of, or resists, having her hood put on.
Hunger trace. - A mark, and a defect, in the tail feathers, denoting a weak point; generally due to temporary starvation as a nestling.
Imping. - The process of mending broken feathers is called "imping." (See fig.)
Imping needle. - A piece of tough soft iron wire from about 1 to 2 in. long, rough filed so as to be three-sided and tapering from the middle to the ends. (See fig.)
Intermewed. - A hawk moulted in confinement is said to be "intermewed."
Jack. - Mate of the merlin.
Jerkin. - Mate of the jerfalcon.
Jesses. - Strips of light but very tough leather, some 6 to 8 in. long, which always remain on a hawk's legs - one on each leg. (See fig.)
Jonk. - To sleep.
Leash. - A strong leathern thong, some 2 or 3 ft. long, with a knot or button at one end, used to secure a hawk. (See fig.)
Lure. - The instrument used for calling long-winged hawks - a dead pigeon, or an artificial lure made of leather and feathers or wings of birds, tied to a string, with meat attached to it.
Mail. - The breast feathers.
Make hawk. - A hawk is called a "make hawk" when, as a thoroughly trained and steady hawk, she is flown with young ones to teach them their work.
Man a hawk. - To tame a hawk and accustom her to strangers.
Implements used in Falconry.
2. Back view of hood, showing braces a, a, b, b; by drawing the braces b, b, the hood, now open, is closed.
3. Rufter hood.
5. Jess; d is the space for the hawk's leg; the point and slit a, a are brought round the leg, and passed through slit b, after which the point c and slit c, and also the whole remaining length of jess, are pulled through slits a and b; c is the slit to which the upper ring of swivel is attached.
6. Hawk's leg with bell a, bewit b, jess c.
7. Jesses, swivel and leash.
8. Portion of first wing-feather of male peregrine falcon, "tiercel," half natural size, in process of imping; a, the living hawk's feather; b, piece supplied from another tiercel, with the imping needle c pushed half its length into it and ready to be pushed home into the living bird's feather.
Mantle. - A hawk is said to "mantle" when she stretches out a leg and a wing simultaneously, a common action of hawks when at ease; also when she spreads out her wings and feathers to hide any quarry or food she may have seized from another hawk, or from man. In the last case it is a fault.
Mew. - A hawk is said to "mew" when she moults. The place where a hawk was kept to moult was in olden times called her "mew." Buildings where establishments of hawks were kept were called "mews."
Musket. - Male of the sparrow-hawk.
Mutes (mutings). - Excrement of hawk.
Pannel. - The stomach of a hawk, corresponding with the gizzard of a fowl, is called her pannel. In it the casting is formed.
Passage. - The line herons take over a tract of country on their way to and from the heronry when procuring food in the breeding season.
Passage hawks. - Hawks captured when on their passage or migration.
Pelt. - The dead body of any quarry the hawk has killed.
Pitch. - The height to which a hawk, when waiting for game to be flushed, rises in the air.
Plume. - A hawk is said to "plume" a bird when she pulls off the feathers.
Point. - A hawk "makes her point" when she rises in the air over the spot where quarry has saved itself from capture by dashing into a hedge, or has otherwise secreted itself.
Pounces. - A hawk's claws.
Pull through the hood. - A hawk is said to pull through the hood when she eats with it on.
Put in. - A bird is said to "put in" when it saves itself from the hawk by dashing into covert or other place of security.
Quarry. - The bird or beast flown at.
Rake out. - A hawk is said to "rake out" when she flies, while "waiting on" (see Wait on), too far and wide from her master.
Ramage. - Wild.
Red hawk. - Hawks of the first year, in the young plumage, are called "red hawks."
Ringing. - A bird is said to "ring" when it rises spirally in the air.
Rufter hood. - An easy fitting hood, not, however, convenient for hooding and unhooding - used only for hawks when first captured. (See fig.)
Sails. - The wings of a hawk.
Seeling. - Closing the eyes by a fine thread drawn through the lid of each eye, the threads being then twisted together above the head - a practice long disused in England.
Serving a hawk. - Driving out quarry which has taken refuge, or has "put in."
Stoop. - The hawk's rapid plunge upon the quarry.
Take the air. - A bird is said to "take the air" when it seeks to escape by trying to rise higher than the falcon.
Tiercel. - The male of various falcons, particularly of the peregrine, also tarcell, tassell or tercel; the term is also applied to the male of the goshawk.
Trussing. - A hawk is said to "truss" a bird when she catches it in the air, and comes to the ground with it in her talons: this term is not applied to large quarry. (See Bind.)
Varvels. - Small rings, generally of silver, fastened to the end of the jesses, and engraved with the owner's name.
Wait on. - A hawk is said to "wait on" when she flies above her master waiting till game is sprung.
Weathering. - Hawks are "weathered" by being placed unhooded in the open air. Passage hawks which are not sufficiently reclaimed to be left out by themselves unhooded on blocks are "weathered" by being put out for an hour or two under the falconer's eye.
Yarak. - An Eastern term, generally applied to short-winged hawks. When a hawk is keen, and in hunting condition, she is said to be "in yarak."
The training of hawks affords much scope for judgment, experience and skill on the part of the falconer, who must carefully observe the temper and disposition as well as the constitution of each bird. It is through the appetite principally that hawks, like most wild animals, are tamed; but to fit them for use in the field much patience, gentleness and care must be used. Slovenly taming necessitates starving, and low condition and weakness are the result. The aim of the falconer must be to have his hawks always keen, and the appetite when they are brought into the field should be such as would induce the bird in a state of nature to put forth its full powers to obtain its food, with, as near as possible, a corresponding condition as to flesh. The following is an outline of the process of training hawks, beginning with the management of a wild-caught peregrine falcon. When first taken, a rufter hood should be put on her head, and she must be furnished with jesses, swivel, leash and bell. A thick glove or rather gauntlet must be worn on the left hand (Eastern falconers always carry a hawk on the right), and she must be carried about as much as possible, late into the night, every day, being constantly stroked with a bird's wing or feather, very lightly at first. At night she should be tied to a perch in a room with the window darkened, so that no light can enter in the morning. The perch should be a padded pole placed across the room, about 4 ft. from the ground, with a canvas screen underneath. She will easily be induced to feed in most cases by drawing a piece of beefsteak over her feet, brushing her legs at the time with a wing, and now and then, as she snaps, slipping a morsel into her mouth. Care must be taken to make a peculiar sound with the lips or tongue, or to use a low whistle as she is in the act of swallowing; she will very soon learn to associate this sound with feeding, and it will be found that directly she hears it, she will gripe with her talons, and bend down to feel for food. When the falconer perceives this and other signs of her "coming to," that she no longer starts at the voice or touch, and steps quietly up from the perch when the hand is placed under her feet, it will be time to change her rufter hood for the ordinary hood. This latter should be very carefully chosen - an easy fitting one, in which the braces draw closely and yet easily and without jerking. An old one previously worn is to be recommended. The hawk should be taken into a very dark room - one absolutely dark is best - and the change should be made if possible in total darkness. After this she must be brought to feed with her hood off; at first she must be fed every day in a darkened room, a gleam of light being admitted. The first day, the hawk having seized the food and begun to pull at it freely, the hood must be gently slipped off, and after she has eaten a moderate quantity, it must be replaced as slowly and gently as possible, and she should be allowed to finish her meal through the hood. Next day the hood may be twice removed, and so on; day by day the practice should be continued, and more light gradually admitted, until the hawk will feed freely in broad daylight, and suffer the hood to be taken off and replaced without opposition. Next she must be accustomed to see and feed in the presence of strangers and dogs, etc. A good plan is to carry her in the streets of a town at night, at first where the gas-light is not strong, and where persons passing by are few, unhooding and hooding her from time to time, but not letting her get frightened. Up to this time she should be fed on lean beefsteak with no castings, but as soon as she is tolerably tame and submits well to the hood, she must occasionally be fed with pigeons and other birds. This should be done not later than 3 or 4 P.M., and when she is placed on her perch for the night in the dark room, she must be unhooded and left so, of course being carefully tied up. The falconer should enter the room about 7 or 8 A.M. next day, admitting as little light as possible, or using a candle. He should first observe if she has thrown her casting; if so, he will at once take her to the fist, giving her a bite of food, and re-hood her. If her casting is not thrown it is better for him to retire, leaving the room quite dark, and come in again later. She must now be taught to know the voice - the shout that is used to call her in the field - and to jump to the fist for food, the voice being used every time she is fed. When she comes freely to the fist she must be made acquainted with the lure. Kneeling down with the hawk on his fist, and gently unhooding her, the falconer casts out a lure, which may be either a dead pigeon or an artificial lure garnished with beefsteak tied to a string, to a distance of a couple or three feet in front of her. When she jumps down to it, she should be allowed to eat a little on it - the voice being used - the while receiving morsels from the falconer's hand; and before her meal is finished she must be taken off to the hand, being induced to forsake the lure for the hand by a tempting piece of meat. This treatment will help to check her inclination hereafter to carry her quarry. This lesson is to be continued till the falcon feeds very boldly on the lure on the ground, in the falconer's presence - till she will suffer him to walk round her while she is feeding. All this time she will have been held by the leash only, but in the next step a strong, but light creance must be made fast to the leash, and an assistant holding the hawk should unhood her, as the falconer, standing at a distance of 5 to 10 yds., calls her by shouting and casting out the lure. Gradually day after day the distance is increased, till the hawk will come 30 yds. or so without hesitation; then she may be trusted to fly to the lure at liberty, and by degrees from any distance, say 1000 yds. This accomplished, she should learn to stoop at the lure. Instead of allowing the hawk to seize upon it as she comes up, the falconer should snatch the lure away and let her pass by, and immediately put it out that she may readily seize it when she turns round to look for it. This should be done at first only once, and then progressively until she will stoop backwards and forwards at the lure as often as desired. Next she should be entered at her quarry. Should she be intended for rooks or herons, two or three of these birds should be procured. One should be given her from the hand, then one should be released close to her, and a third at a considerable distance. If she take these keenly, she may be flown at a wild bird. Care must, however, be taken to let her have every possible advantage in her first flights - wind and weather, and the position of the quarry with regard to the surrounding country, must be considered.
Young hawks, on being received by the falconer before they can fly, must be put into a sheltered place, such as an outhouse or shed. Their basket or hamper should be filled with straw. A hamper is best, with the lid so placed as to form a platform for the young hawks to come out upon to feed. This should be fastened to a beam or prop a few feet from the ground. The young hawks must be most plentifully fed on the best fresh food obtainable - good beefsteak and fresh-killed birds; the falconer when feeding them should use his voice as in luring. As they grow old enough they will come out, and perch about the roof of their shed, by degrees extending their flights to neighbouring buildings or trees, never failing to come at feeding time to the place where they are fed. Soon they will be continually on the wing, playing or fighting with one another, and later the falconer will observe them chasing other birds, as pigeons and rooks, which may be passing by. As soon as one fails to come for a meal, it must be at once caught with a bow net or a snare the first time it comes back, or it will be lost. It must be borne in mind that the longer hawks can be left at hack the better they are likely to be for use in the field - those hawks being always the best which have preyed a few times for themselves before being caught. Of course there is great risk of losing hawks when they begin to prey for themselves. When a hawk is so caught she is said to be "taken up" from hack. She will not require a rufter hood, but a good deal of the management described for the passage falcon will be necessary. She must be carefully tamed and broken to the hood in the same manner, and so taught to know the lure; but, as might be expected, very much less difficulty will be experienced. As soon as the eyas knows the lure sufficiently well to come to it sharp and straight from a distance, she must be taught to "wait on." This is effected by letting the hawk loose in an open place, such as a down. It will be found that she will circle round the falconer looking for the lure she has been accustomed to see - perhaps mount a little in the air, and advantage must be taken of a favourable moment when the hawk is at a little height, her head being turned in towards the falconer, to let go a pigeon which she can easily catch. When the hawk has taken two or three pigeons in this way, and mounts immediately in expectation, in short, begins to wait on, she should see no more pigeons, but be tried at game as soon as possible. Young peregrines should be flown at grouse first in preference to partridges, not only because the season commences earlier, but because, grouse being the heavier birds, they are not so much tempted to "carry" as with partridges.
The training of the great northern falcons, as well as that of merlins and hobbies, is conducted much on the above principles, but the jerfalcons (gerfalcons or gyrfalcons) will seldom wait on well, and merlins will not do it at all.
The training of short-winged hawks is a simpler process. They must, like falcons, be provided with jesses, swivel, leash and bell. In these hawks a bell is sometimes fastened to the tail. Sparrow-hawks can, however, scarcely carry a bell big enough to be of any service. The hood is seldom used for short-winged hawks - never in the field. They must be made as tame as possible by carriage on the fist and the society of man, and taught to come to the fist freely when required - at first to jump to it in a room, and then out of doors. When the goshawk comes freely and without hesitation from short distances, she ought to be called from long distances from the hand of an assistant, but not oftener than twice in each meal, until she will come at least 1000 yds., on each occasion being well rewarded with some food she likes very much, as a fresh-killed bird, warm. When she does this freely, and endures the presence of strangers, dogs, etc., a few bagged rabbits should be given to her, and she will be ready to take the field. Some accustom the goshawk to the use of the lure, for the purpose of taking her if she will not come to the fist in the field when she has taken stand in a tree after being baulked of her quarry, but it ought not to be necessary to use it.
Falcons or long-winged hawks are either "flown out of the hood," i.e. unhooded and slipped when the quarry is in sight, or they are made to "wait on" till game is flushed. Herons and rooks are always taken by the former method. Passage hawks are generally employed for flying at these birds, though sometimes good eyases are quite equal to the work. For heron-hawking a well-stocked heronry is in the first place necessary. Next an open country which can be ridden over - over which herons are in the constant habit of passing to and from their heronry on their fishing excursions, or making their "passage." A heron found at his feeding-place at a brook or pond affords no sport whatever. If there be little water any peregrine falcon that will go straight at him will seize him soon after he rises. It is sometimes advisable to fly a young falcon at a heron so found, but it should not be repeated. If there be much water the heron will neither show sport nor be captured. It is quite a different affair when he is sighted winging his way at a height in the air over an open tract of country free from water. Though he has no chance whatever of competing with a falcon in straightforward flight, the heron has large concave wings, a very light body proportionately, and air-cells in his bones, and can rise with astonishing rapidity, more perpendicularly, or, in other words, in smaller rings, than the falcon can, with very little effort. As soon as he sees the approach of the falcon, which he usually does almost directly she is cast off, he makes play for the upper regions. Then the falcon commences to climb too to get above him, but in a very different style. She makes very large circles or rings, travelling at a high rate of speed, due to her strength and weight and power of flying, till she rises above the heron. Then she makes her attack by stooping with great force at the quarry, sometimes falling so far below it as the blow is evaded that she cannot spring up to the proper pitch for the next stoop, and has to make another ring to regain her lost command over the heron, which is ever rising, and so on - the "field" meanwhile galloping down wind in the direction the flight is taking till she seizes the heron aloft, "binds" to him, and both come down together. Absurd stories have been told and pictures drawn of the heron receiving the falcon on its beak in the air. It is, however, well known to all practical falconers that the heron has no power or inclination to fight with a falcon in the air; so long as he is flying he seeks safety solely from his wings. When on the ground, however, should the falcon be deficient in skill or strength, or have been mutilated by the coping of her beak and talons, as was sometimes formerly done in Holland with a view to saving the heron's life, the heron may use his dagger-like bill with dangerous effect, though it is very rare for a falcon to be injured. It is never safe to fly the goshawk at a heron of any description. Short-winged hawks do not immediately kill their quarry as falcons do, nor do they seem to know where the life lies, and seldom shift their hold once taken even to defend themselves; and they are therefore easily stabbed by a heron. Rooks are flown in the same manner as herons, but the flight is generally inferior. Although rooks fly very well, they seek shelter in trees or bushes as soon as possible.
For game-hawking eyases are generally used, though undoubtedly passage or wild-caught hawks are to be preferred. The best game hawks we have seen have been passage hawks, but there are difficulties attending the use of them. It may perhaps be fairly said that it is easy to make all passage hawks "wait on" in grand style, but until they have got over a season or two they are very liable to be lost. Among the advantages attending the use of eyases are the following: they are easier to obtain and to train and keep; they also moult far better and quicker than passage hawks, while if lost in the field they will often go home by themselves, or remain about the spot where they were liberated. Experience, and, we must add, some good fortune also, are requisite to make eyases good for waiting on for game. Slight mistakes on the part of the falconer, false points from dogs, or bad luck in serving, will cause a young hawk to acquire bad habits, such as sitting down on the ground, taking stand in a tree, raking out wide, skimming the ground, or lazily flying about at no height. A good game hawk in proper flying order goes up at once to a good pitch in the air - the higher she flies the better - and follows her master from field to field, always ready for a stoop when the quarry is sprung. Hawks that have been successfully broken and judiciously worked become wonderfully clever, and soon learn to regulate their flight by the movements of their master. Eyases were not held in esteem by the old falconers, and it is evident from their writings that these hawks have been very much better understood and managed in the 19th century than in the middle ages. It is probable that the old falconers procured their passage and wild-caught hawks with such facility, having at the same time more scope for their use in days when quarry was more abundant and there was more waste land than there now is, that they did not find it necessary to trouble themselves about eyases. Here may be quoted a few lines from one of the best of the old writers, which may be taken as giving a fair account of the estimation in which eyases were generally held, and from which it is evident that the old falconers did not understand flying hawks at hack. Simon Latham, writing in 1633, says of eyases:
They will be verie easily brought to familiaritie with the man, not in the house only, but also abroad, hooded or unhooded; nay, many of them will be more gentle and quiet when unhooded than when hooded, for if a man doe but stirre or speake in their hearing, they will crie and bate as though they did desire to see the man. Likewise some of them being unhooded, when they see the man will cowre and crie, shewing thereby their exceeding fondness and fawning love towards him....
... These kind of hawks be all (for the most part) taken out of the nest while verie young, even in the downe, from whence they are put into a close house, whereas they be alwaies fed and familiarly brought up by the man, untill they bee able to flie, when as the summer approaching verie suddenly they are continued and trained up in the same, the weather being alwaies warm and temperate; thus they are still inured to familiaritie with the man, not knowing from whence besides to fetch their relief or sustenance. When the summer is ended they bee commonly put up into a house again, or else kept in some warm place, for they cannot endure the cold wind to blow upon them.... But leaving to speak of these kind of scratching hawks that I never did love should come too neere my fingers, and to return unto the faire conditioned haggard faulcon....
The author here describes with accuracy the condition of unhacked eyases, which no modern falconer would trouble himself to keep. Many English falconers in modern times have had eyases which have killed grouse, ducks and other quarry in a style almost equalling that of passage hawks. Rooks also have been most successfully flown, and some herons on passage have been taken by eyases. No sport is to be had at game without hawks that wait on well. Moors, downs, open country where the hedges are low and weak are best suited to game hawking. Pointers or setters may be used to find game, or the hawk may be let go on coming to the ground where game is known to lie, and suffered, if an experienced one, to "wait on" till game is flushed. However, the best plan with most hawks, young ones especially, is to use a dog, and to let the hawk go when the dog points, and to flush the birds as soon as the hawk is at her pitch. It is not by any means necessary that the hawk should be near the birds when they rise, provided she is at a good height, and that she is watching; she will come at once with a rush out of the air at great speed, and either cut one down with the stoop, or the bird will save itself by putting in, when every exertion must be made, especially if the hawk be young and inexperienced, to "serve" her as soon as possible by driving out the bird again while she waits overhead. If this be successfully done she is nearly certain to kill it at the second flight. Perhaps falcons are best for grouse and tiercels for partridges.
Magpies afford much sport. Only tiercels should be used for hunting magpies. A field is necessary - at the very least 4 or 5 runners to beat the magpie out, and perhaps the presence of a horseman is an advantage. Of course in open flight a magpie would be almost immediately caught by a tiercel peregrine, and there would be no sport, but the magpie makes up for his want of power of wing by his cunning and shiftiness; and he is, moreover, never to be found except where he has shelter under his lee for security from a passing peregrine. Once in a hedge or tree he is perfectly safe from the wild falcon, but the case is otherwise when the falconer approaches with his trained tiercel, perhaps a cast of tiercels, waiting on in the air, with some active runners in his field. Then driven from hedge to hedge, from one kind of shelter to another, stooped at every instant when he shows himself ever so little away from cover by the watchful tiercels overhead, his egg-stealing days are brought to an end by a fatal stroke - sometimes not before the field is pretty well exhausted with running and shouting. The magpie always manœuvres towards some thick wood, from which it is the aim of the field to cut him off. At first hawks must be flown in easy country, but when they understand their work well they will kill magpies in very enclosed country - with a smart active field a magpie may even be pushed through a small wood. Magpie hawking affords excellent exercise, not only for those who run to serve the hawks, but for the hawks also; they get a great deal of flying, and learn to hunt in company with men - any number of people may be present. Blackbirds may be hunted with tiercels in the same way. Woodcock afford capital sport where the country is tolerably open. It will generally be found that after a hawk has made one stoop at a woodcock, the cock will at first try to escape by taking the air, and will show a very fine flight. When beaten in the air it will try to get back to covert again, but when once a hawk has outflown a woodcock, he is pretty sure to kill it. Hawks seem to pursue woodcock with great keenness; something in the flight of the cock tempts them to exertion. The laziest and most useless hawks - hawks that will scarcely follow a slow pigeon - will do their best at woodcock, and will very soon, if the sport is continued, be improved in their style of flying. Snipe may be killed by first-class tiercels in favourable localities. Wild duck and teal are only to be flown at when they can be found in small pools or brooks at a distance from much water - where the fowl can be suddenly flushed by men or dogs while the falcon is flying at her pitch overhead. For duck, falcons should be used; tiercels will kill teal well.
The merlin is used for flying at larks, and there does not seem to be any other use to which this pretty little falcon may fairly be put. It is very active, but far from being, as some authors have stated, the swiftest of all hawks. Its flight is greatly inferior in speed and power to that of the peregrine. Perhaps its diminutive size, causing it to be soon lost to view, and a limited acquaintance with the flight of the wild peregrine falcon, have led to the mistake.
The hobby is far swifter than the merlin, but cannot be said to be efficient in the field; it may be trained to wait on beautifully, and will sometimes take larks; it is very much given to the fault of "carrying."
The three great northern falcons are not easy to procure in proper condition for training. They are very difficult to break to the hood and to manage in the field. They are flown, like the peregrine, at herons and rooks, and in former days were used for kites and hares. Their style of flight is magnificent; they are considerably swifter than the peregrine, and are a most deadly "footers." They seem, however, to lack somewhat of the spirit and dash of the peregrine.
For the short-winged hawks an open country is not required; indeed they may be flown in a wood. Goshawks are flown at hares, rabbits, pheasants, partridges and wild-fowl. Only very strong females are able to take hares; rabbits are easy quarry for any female goshawk, and a little too strong for the male. A good female goshawk may kill from 10 to 15 rabbits in a day, or more. For pheasants the male is to be preferred, certainly for partridges; either sex will take duck and teal, but the falconer must get close to them before they are flushed, or the goshawk will stand a poor chance of killing. Rabbit hawking may be practised by ferreting, and flying the hawk as the rabbits bolt, but care must be taken or the hawk will kill the ferret. Where rabbits sit out on grass or in turnip fields, a goshawk may be used with success, even in a wood when the holes are not too near. From various causes it is impossible, or nearly so, to have goshawks in England in the perfection to which they are brought in the East. In India, for instance, there is a far greater variety of quarry suited to them, and wild birds are much more approachable; moreover, there are advantages for training which do not exist in England. Unmolested - and scarcely noticed except perhaps by others of his calling or tastes - the Eastern falconer carries his hawk by day and night in the crowded bazaars, till the bird becomes perfectly indifferent to men, horses, dogs, carriages, and, in short, becomes as tame as the domestic animals.
The management of sparrow-hawks is much the same as that of goshawks, but they are far more delicate than the latter. They are flown in England at blackbirds, thrushes and other small birds; good ones will take partridges well till the birds get too wild and strong with the advancing season. In the East large numbers of quail are taken with sparrow-hawks.
It is of course important that hawks from which work in the field is expected should be kept in the highest health, and they must be carefully fed; no bad or tainted meat must on any account be given to them - at any rate to hawks of the species used in England. Peregrines and the great northern falcons are best kept on beefsteak, with a frequent change in the shape of fresh-killed pigeons and other birds. The smaller falcons, the merlin and the hobby, require a great number of small birds to keep them in good health for any length of time. Goshawks should be fed like peregrines, but rats and rabbits are very good as change of food for them. The sparrow-hawk, like the small falcons, requires small birds. All hawks require castings frequently. It is true that hawks will exist, and often appear to thrive, on good food without castings, but the seeds of probable injury to their health are being sown the whole time they are so kept. If there is difficulty in procuring birds, and it is more convenient to feed the hawks on beefsteak, they should frequently get the wings and heads and necks of game and poultry. In addition to the castings which they swallow, tearing these is good exercise for them, and biting the bones prevents the beaks from overgrowing. Most hawks, peregrines especially, require the bath. The end of a cask, sawn off to give a depth of about 6 in., makes a very good bath. Peregrines which are used for waiting on require a bath at least twice a week. If this be neglected, they will not wait long before going off in search of water to bathe, however hungry they may be.
The most agreeable and the best way, where practicable, of keeping hawks is to have them on blocks on the lawn. Each hawk's block should stand in a circular bed of sand - about 8 ft. in diameter; this will be found very convenient for keeping them clean. Goshawks are generally placed on bow perches, which ought not to be more than 8 or 9 in. high at the highest part of the arc. It will be several months before passage or wild-caught falcons can be kept out of doors; they must be fastened to a perch in a darkened room, hooded, but by degrees as they get thoroughly tame may be brought to sit on the lawn. In England (especially in the south) peregrines, the northern falcons and goshawks may be kept out of doors all day and night in a sheltered situation. In very wild boisterous weather, or in snow or sharp frost, it will be advisable to move them to the shelter of a shed, the floor of which should be laid with sand to a depth of 3 or 4 in. Merlins and hobbies are too tender to be kept much out of doors. An eastern aspect is to be preferred - all birds enjoy the morning Sun, and it is very beneficial to them. The more hawks confined to blocks out of doors see of persons, dogs, horses, etc., moving about the better, but of course only when there is no danger of their being frightened or molested, or of food being given to them by strangers. Those who have only seen wretched ill-fed hawks in cages as in zoological gardens or menageries, pining for exercise, with battered plumage, torn shoulders and bleeding ceres, from dashing against their prison bars, and overgrown beaks from never getting bones to break, can have little idea of the beautiful and striking-looking birds to be seen pluming their feathers and stretching their wings at their ease at their blocks on the falconer's lawn, watching with their large bright keen eyes everything that moves in the sky and everywhere else within the limits of their view. Contrary to the prevailing notion, hawks show a good deal of attachment when they have been properly handled. It is true that by hunger they are in a great measure tamed and controlled, and the same may be said of all undomesticated and many domesticated animals. And instinct prompts all wild creatures when away from man's control to return to their former shyness, but hawks certainly retain their tameness for a long time, and their memory is remarkably retentive. Wild-caught hawks have been retaken, either by their coming to the lure or upon quarry, from 2 to 7 days after they had been lost, and eyases after 3 weeks. As one instance of retentiveness of memory displayed by hawks we may mention the case of a wild-caught falcon which was recaptured after being at liberty more than 3 years, still bearing the jesses which were cut short close to the leg at the time she was released; in five days she was flying at the lure again at liberty, and was found to retain the peculiar ways and habits she was observed to have in her former existence as a trained hawk. It is useless to bring a hawk into the field unless she has a keen appetite; if she has not, she will neither hunt effectually nor follow her master. Even wild-caught falcons, however, may sometimes be seen so attached to their owner that, when sitting on their blocks on a lawn with food in their crops, they will on his coming out of the house bate hard to get to him, till he either go up to them and allow them to jump up to his hand or withdraw from their sight. Goshawks are also known to evince attachment to their owner. Another prevailing error regarding hawks is that they are supposed to be lazy birds, requiring the stimulus of hunger to stir them to action. The reverse is the truth; they are birds of very active habits, and exceedingly restless, and the notion of their being lazy has been propagated by those who have seen little or nothing of hawks in their wild state. The wild falcon requires an immense deal of exercise, and to be in wind, in order to exert the speed and power of flight necessary to capture her prey when hungry; and to this end instinct prompts her to spend hours daily on the wing, soaring and playing about in the air in all weathers, often chasing birds merely for play or exercise. Sometimes she takes a siesta when much gorged, but unless she fills her crop late in the evening she is soon moving again - before half her crop is put over. Goshawks and sparrow-hawks, too, habitually soar in the air at about 9 or 10 A.M., and remain aloft a considerable time, but these birds are not of such active habits as the falcons. The frequent bating of thoroughly tame hawks from their blocks, even when not hungry or frightened, proves their restlessness and impatience of repose. So does the wretched condition of the caged falcon (before alluded to), while the really lazy buzzards and kites, which do not in a wild state depend on activity or power of wing for their sustenance, maintain themselves for years, even during confinement if properly fed, in good case and plumage. Such being the habits of the falcon in a state of nature, the falconer should endeavour to give the hawks under his care as much flying as possible, and he should avoid the very common mistake of keeping too many hawks. In this case a favoured few are sure to get all the work, and the others, possibly equally good if they had fair play, are spoiled for want of exercise.
The larger hawks may be kept in health and working order for several years - 15 or 20 - barring accidents. The writer has known peregrines, shaheens and goshawks to reach ages between 15 and 20 years. Goshawks, however, never fly well after 4 or 5 seasons, when they will no longer take difficult quarry; they may be used at rabbits as long as they live. Shaheens may be seen in the East at an advanced age, killing wild-fowl beautifully. The shaheen is a falcon of the peregrine type, which does not travel, like the peregrine, all over the world. It appears that the jerfalcons also may be worked to a good age. Old Simon Latham tells us of these birds - "I myself have known one of them an excellent Hearnor (killer of herons), and to continue her goodnesse very near twentie yeeres, or full out that time."
AUTHORITIES - Schlegel's Traité de fauconnerie contains a very large list of works on falconry in the languages of all the principal countries of the Old World. Bibliotheca accipitraria, by J.E. Harting (1891), gives a complete bibliography. See Coursing and Falconry in the Badminton Library; and The Art and Practice of Hawking, by E.B. Michell (1900), the best modern book on the subject. Perhaps the most useful of the old works are The Booke of Faulconrie or Hawking, by George Turberville (1575), and The Faulcon's Lure and Cure, by Simon Latham (1633).
(E. D. R.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)