“What a needy, desperate thing to claim what’s wild for oneself…”
Can a kept hawk ever be a *happy* hawk, I wonder?
Falconers will say their birds are well-loved and are cared for properly. I don’t doubt that.
Educators who work with non-releasable birds will say that many people who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to interact with a wild thing are touched by the lives of these captive birds. I don’t doubt that, either.
But keeping wild-caught birds for falconry? Purposely fishing the sky for a healthy hawk to catch and keep as one’s personal hunting partner?
How is that right?
Are captive-bred birds somehow less desirable for falconry?
I’m as guilty as the next person of enjoying the “horse and pony show” offered by the opportunity to be up close with a wild bird of prey, but I can’t help wondering that their souls aren’t somehow diminished by the contact; by being kept.
Non-releasable birds have to be thought of in a different context, I guess, because of their potential as champions and ambassadors of a species; were it not for them most people would never have the chance to see a Bald Eagle or a Screech Owl at arm’s length. Or to understand the impact we humans have on them.
But falconers and their healthy wild-caught birds?
I’m not so sure how I feel about that.
My issue is not with falconers, exactly. Falconry sounds like a very cool thing to do… there was a period of time where I read everything about falconry that I could get my hands on. Dan O’Brien’s books were particularly alluring to me… his stories of hunting grouse and ducks on the prairies of South Dakota with a dog and the constant sky…
Falconers are due credit, I believe, for the role they played in saving the Peregrine Falcon, among other species. The individual falconer with a couple birds that he flies on weekends as part of a greater lifestyle does not trouble me.
My issue is with those who turn to *education* to support a habit of acquiring birds. Maybe they need an educational component on their license to increase the number of birds they’re permitted to keep. I have no idea, really, but I’ve seen a number over the years who just don’t seem to be doing the right thing by the birds in their care.
Maybe I’m just being overly sentimental.
“… to be wild means nothing you do or have done needs to be explained.”
Photos: Harris’ Hawk at an upstate NY *raptor center*
Quotes from “Hawk” by Stephen Dunn