Heckled By ParrotsBlue Sky WritingRebecca K. O'Connor

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First Trapped

Just a baby falconer...

Just a baby falconer...

I didn’t keep the first hawk I ever trapped, but I did take the second. I had waited nearly two years and didn’t see the sense in waiting another minute, let alone another hour to find some other hawk or worse wait for the next weekend. I needed a hawk that very moment and the only reason I turned down the first red-tailed hawk  was because it was a male. It was a small tiercel and I was like nearly every other apprentice that ever was. I wanted a great big bone crushing female hawk.

The first bird was trapped on a harnessed pigeon, a pigeon that was retreived without a scratch. I should have kept that bird, the one that couldn’t resist the flapping of wings along the roadside, even though he obviously wasn’t hungry. He was probably a good healthy versatile hawk. He probably would have come around quickly and was probably in no danger of sucummbing to aspergillosis. But I rejected him on the size of his feet and then never gave him a second thought. At least not until now.

I should have kept that hawk.  He probably would have been well-mannered and respectful of my size, ignoring the tenderness of my fleshy hands and thinned skinned skull. He probably never would have pinned me to the floor of the mews, muscled a talon through my palm or knocked me in the back of the head when he missed rabbits in the field.  I wish I could say it was because I was greedier and stupider when I was younger, but he was just the first in 15 years of knowing what I should do and following my desire instead. I suppose that desire is central to this sport. Still, I should have kept that hawk.

What about you? What was the first hawk you ever trapped?


  1. Cyndi says:

    I remember chasing a passage female Redtail around Mt. Rubidoux for a couple of hours with my parents until she finally came down. After the moult she turned out to be melanistic.(sp?) I had the pleasure of picking her name (Trixie) and my Mom flew her for a few years. Great bird.

    As I sit as my home office desk I’m listening to our resident redtail screaming in the tree across the street. She nests every year in the eucalyptus tree next door. Which brings me to my question – Does screaming begin in captivity? I don’t recall hearing many wild birds scream. (Since I’m on Dad’s Sh** list I can’t call to ask.)

  2. Isaac says:

    Female kestrel. I didn’t keep her either because my sponsor wanted me to get a red-tail and there were a couple days left in the trapping season. I let her go and of course, didn’t catch a red-tail that season. I kept the first one I caught the next season though! And guess what I’m flying now? A female kestrel.

  3. rebecca says:

    Cyndi– Breeding redtails can be crazy noisy. Wait until the parents “cut off” the babies. OMG– it’s imprint hawk hell. My mom is living in my house in Banning now and I can’t wait to hear her complain about the fledgling from the nest in the pines behind the Banning house. My African grey parrot does a pitch perfect red-tailed hawk imitation. My mom’s already talking about the female chatting up the male.

    Isaac — that’s funny. I trapped a kestrel with my merlin once. (She caught the kestrela and the sparrow. Damn near had all three…) And I ran one down a few years ago when his sisters kicked him out of the nest. Damn near kept him too. One of these days…

  4. Russ London says:


    I kept my first trapped male redtail even though my sponsor wanted me to catch a big female. I was greedy for a hawk no matter how small his feet were. Kept him for more than a year.

    He would grab my free hand repeatedly (best description: nutcracker with claws), refused to come back often when stangers were in the field, cut my scalp on occasional flybys, and ultimately walked up my leg, arm, and face nearly taking my left eye when I “invaded his mews”. “Chirped” like a song bird the whole way up. I, on the other hand. made other noises.

    Flew the bird one more time to control my fear and released him.

    Nearly two decades later and after and many hawks, good and none so bad, I never look back.

  5. rebecca says:


    Suuure, just ruin my imaginings of that fine first bird I COULD have had. Surely it couldn’t have been that I would have screwed any bird just as bad that first time. 😉

    Frightening how much your first hawk sounds like mine. There’s been plenty more mistakes made since, but surely none of the birds that followed have been so aggressive in my direction…

  6. Doug Potter says:

    I kept my first. I even wrote an article about him for NA falconry. 33 oz. tiercel male Red Tail that was larger than life and indestructible. Sure I made mistakes,talons through my hands, hats knocked off, low weights, but that was one of my best seasons ever. I kept him two years, and he is still the red tail to which I compare all others.

    He was a great bird.
    I’m flying my two Harris’ Hawks now. and am having a blast with their calmer dispositions.

    Ahhh – good times.
    Harris’ Hawk Blog

  7. Ryan says:

    That porch looks familar…..Is it a certain “ranch” in Florida? I remember driving nearly 1000 miles in Florida to only see one passage RT that we trapped for my friend’s girlfriend because “we’ll see more” and we never did. The first RT I trapped was a little male (750 gm flying weight). Who turned out great caught a bunch of rabbits and a couple of squirrels. I threw the trap under him and it landed upside down. He grabbed the trap flew with it about 10 feet and dropped it right side up. Then he flew to right back to it and got snared. I guess he knew life in the wild was too hard so he wanted to get trapped 🙂


  8. rebecca says:

    Damn it. I knew someone was going to blow my cover. That’s actually a photo of my second redtail. I think Phung took it. You can’t see my black hair because it’s under the baseball cap. Steve and I trapped her my second year in Florida. I can’t believe how long ago that was now…

    I need to find a photo of the blonde version of me with my first bird.

    Thanks, Ryan. 🙂

  9. Therese says:

    I flew the first bird I ever caught- a small female RT that slammed the trap with a full crop. I decided to keep her turned out to be a great gamehawk. There’s an article in the British Falconry Club’s journal this past summer.

    I actually had a really easy time of it with her (might have been the fact by that point I’d manned a passage prairie falcon and a haggard Mississippi kite, that prairie has made every bird since feel like a cakewalk, the pluses of working at a rehab center…), really no battles of any kind with her, the hardest thing i had to deal with was the fact she would hop off a kill for a tidbit. Lost a few rabbits before I caught on that she litterally was just holding them down for me to deal with and all she wanted was the tidbit I had.