The ability to keep a wild raptor in both good physical and mental health while in captivity is no small feat. It requires expert skill in addition to tireless amounts of time and dedication. This skill is not easily obtained by oneself, and it is only through expert oversight in the form of a falconry Master/Sponsor, and the continued addition of experiences, that the novice is able to excel. It cannot be understated that the success or failure of one’s falconry experience hinges on good raptor husbandry. It is often said that “Murphy’s Law” was penned with falconry in mind. If the falconer lets his/her guard down for even the shortest amount of time, disaster can and often does strike.
In order for a bird of prey to be useful as a hunting companion, it must be in top physical form. Raptors used for the purpose of falconry need to be thought of as Olympic athletes; they require daily exercise as well as an excellent source of food/water. Obese, as well as malnourished individuals, simply will not be effective in pursuing wild game. Bent or broken feathers greatly inhibit a raptor’s ability to function to their fullest, and dull talons are an obvious handicap. Properly functioning equipment, housing, and constant supervision are the only ways to keep birds of prey in good physical condition while in captivity.
In addition to having a physically sound raptor, the mental health of the bird used for falconry is of the utmost importance as well. This is often times an overlooked aspect of our sport, but if neglected, will result in a poor falconry specimen or worse… Differing species of raptors will tolerate varying levels of visual and auditory stimulation. Each species and even individuals within species need a customized approach. Keeping a hawk/falcon/eagle calm and composed while in the falconer’s facilities is a must, and there are many ways to accomplish this. The simplest way to keep her in a sound mental state is through the use of a properly fitting hood. Being able to effectively hood a falconry bird greatly increases the falconer’s ability to control the mental well-being of his/her charge.