Raptors In Captivity

Food :
In captivity the birds will be fed on a mixture of day-old chicks, rats, mice, hamsters, quail & beef. If given a reasonably varied diet of these, the bird will get all of the nutrients that it needs to remain healthy. Excessive feeding on one particular food can cause problems. Day old chicks are normally fed whole. When flying the birds to the fist, they are fed on the legs of the chicks. Rodents are normally gutted before feeding & the feet of larger ones removed to avoid choking, similarly with the wings of quail. The majority of water that a bird needs will be obtained from its food, rather than from drinking water. Most often a bird will only drink water if it unwell or exceptionally hot. It is unwise to feed the birds any dead food found on the roads, such as rabbit or pheasant, it is impossible to be sure that the animal was healthy prior to being killed & if it has any lead pellets in it, these can be fatal to birds.

Longevity :
The larger birds (e.g. European Eagle Owl) can live up to 50 years or more in captivity. Sometimes more than doubling their normal lifespan in the wild. In general, the larger the bird, the longer it will live. In captivity, it may also take a little longer for the birds to achieve their full adult plumage.

Perches :
The birds are tethered on bow perches (hawks/buzzards) or blocks (falcons) in order to protect the birds, which often have a tendency to get excited when they see their owner & fly towards them. If in a pen they hit the wire & injure themselves. Hawks & buzzards tend to perch in trees, hence the use of bow perches, being more like branches. Falcons are more likely to be found on cliff tops or rocky outcrops, hence the flatter topped (cork or astroturf) blocks. The bow perches are covered in leather, astroturf or rope, to aid gripping & to avoid bumblefoot.


In falconry, the bird used are sometimes referred to in 3 groups :

Longwings :
These are the true falcons, such as peregrines, lanners & sakers. They have long, tapered, scythe-like wings, swept back from their bodies. Allows a fast turn of speed, cutting through the air.
Shortwings :
The true hawks : goshawks & sparrowhawks. The short wings & manoeuvrable tails enable them to steer & swerve through trees at high speeds. Primaries tend to splay out, giving more stability at low speeds.
Broadwings :
Eagles, buzzards & similar birds (e.g. Harris Hawks). Wings are short, broad & rounded. Like the shortwings, the primaries tend to splay out, giving more stability at low speeds.

Falconry Laws

In Britain, there are no laws on sale & ownership of captive-bred birds of prey (as long as the parents were legally in captivity at the time the egg was laid). Aside from the laws on protected species, any bird can be bought or sold. There are no requirements for training prior to ownership. (The laws on wild birds do seem at little harsh though, technically, it is an offence to be in possession of the feather of a wild bird that is protected, even if you found it on the ground or pulled it off a squashed dead one on the road.)

In America, there are very strict laws, requiring passing a initial examined training course, there then follows a two year period under the guidance (apprenticeship) of an experienced licensed falconer. Following that, there are other grades that have to be passed all under supervision. At each stage there are limits on the number & type of birds that can be own & even the number of times they may be changed. In the initial stages, the beginner is often limited to a single Red-Tailed Hawk or American Kestrel (this can vary between states). There are also spot checks that the birds are being kept correctly & the correct equipment is available (some states specify minimum numbers of pairs of jesses & swivels & so on), with the removal of the licence to keep raptors in the event of any failures. There are also stringent laws on transport of raptors, often making it illegal to cross state & even county borders with the birds, without appropriate licences.

Similarly, many other countries throughout the world have laws on ownership of raptors both as 'pets' & falconry birds.

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