Heckled By ParrotsBlue Sky WritingRebecca K. O'Connor

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On Trapping

I received a comment on my First Trapped post from an individual who was absolutely horrified by the idea and the means of trapping. I deleted it because it has already been proven here that there are many who would comment without civility and I didn’t want this person to get flamed. I thought the reaction was fair, but that in fairness there should also be more information shared.  My response:

Yes, falconers trap birds. I sometimes wish we would all trap birds instead of
breeding them. The birds we trap survive when so many in the wild do not. We
are only allowed to trap first year hawks and falcons, of which more than 70
percent don’t survive their first year…that is, unless they happen to be
trapped and trained by a falconer. A falconer will always feed them whether
they are successful or not and will medicate them if they have one of the
many diseases, such as aspergillosis, that are common to young struggling
birds.

That season, likely October through February or March the bird is flown
without hindrance and chooses to come back or not to come back. A good
falconer, who treats his charge with care, kindness and clear communication
will have the bird return. The opportunity to make mistakes without the
repercussions being devastating is one that nature rarely affords, but a
falconer buffers. Missed quarry and run-ins’ with larger predators are
usually mitigated by the falconer. It’s a safer learning curve.

Although, this bond is very tenuous. The bird will revert to wild behavior
within a matter of days if left out. The falconer knows this and will likely
release the bird at the beginning of the migration, returning to the release
site to feed it until it is gone. This is generally only a few days.
[Editor: unless it’s a Merlin, of course.] By then, the bird has made it through the worst of its first year (winter when food is scarce) with the falconer’s help, is well fed for the migration and
has a much better chance of surviving the coming year in the wild.

And as I stated in the blog post, no birds were harmed in my trapping story.
Thousands of pigeons are killed on a daily basis in farms and cities. Mine
are well fed, medicated, named and adored. They also have far less stress
than any city bird who daily evades predators will ever have.

All of this said I haven’t trapped a bird since 1997. My falcons are captive
bred and would be illegal to intentionally release. It’s a shame they’re not
trapped though. I would much rather be a blip in a falcon’s long life, an
opportunity to bolster their survival and to better understand an amazing
creature and the world it inhabits, and then know that it is out there
somewhere wild and free.

I am sorry you feel this is all so offensive. You are absolutely entitled to
your opinion. I did, though, want to give you a bit more information. It may
not change your mind at all, but I would rather share it than dismiss you
entirely.

Respectfully,

Rebecca

12 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Rebecca,
    Your ability to communicate blows me away.

    Thank you.
    Joe

  2. Doug Potter says:

    I often find that so many people live in a Walt Disney version of the world, where animals never die in the wild (least of all violently). Being trapped and hunted in an environment where every mistake does not lead to death is a good thing for most birds.
    Doug

  3. Russ London says:

    Trapping Cruel?

    I normally trap with a BC. My gerbals have names, live for years, trained over time to enter the trap voluntarily, and seem to enjoy getting out of the cage from time to time. They never seem fearful even when “living death” is on the other side of the wire. They merely preen and wait for their next snack.

    No cruelty here.

    The new regs allowing beginners the use of Harris Hawks truly saddens me. Many novices will miss the experience, thrills, and disappointed that only trapping provides.

    I still fly redtails (or rather restarted) for the joys of trapping almost as much as the love of the birds.

    In south Louisiana, due to the late migration, hours and days are needed to acquire a early bird. In fall, my normal River Road route is full of sugarcane trucks, smoke from burning fields, dove hunters, and morning fog. It also means relatively cool temperature after our oven like summers, colorful sunrises, spirited conversation, poor boy sandwiches, and football on the radio.

    As the season progress, frustrations mount as there is still no perfect bird. Visual interest remains, however, as you become disoriented when cane fields are cleared and you suddenly can see for miles instead of feet. Other fields are plowed for winter crops and frost occurs. Happily, more migrant arrive and soon move from the fields to smaller hedge rows or ever neighborhoods.

    Beginners learn habitat, silhouettes, roost silection, colorations, behaviour and most of all patience. All very useful, if not essential, in ones falconry career.

    Thrills include spotting a beautiful hawk, watching attention turn toward your skillfully placed trap, viewing its approach, and the triumphant rush to secure your newly trapped prize.

    Disappointments, of course, include botched placement, “flybys”, adult birds, trap malfunctions and worse, a hawk that simply ignors your trap.

    Personally, perhaps the most unexpected disappointment, however, occurred recently: I trapped that perfect hawk in less than two hours on the first day.

    Russ

  4. rebecca says:

    Thanks a lot, Russ. Now I’m dying to go out trapping.

    What a wonderful response, by the way!

  5. Scott McNeff says:

    Rebecca,

    Very nicely put. Thank you for explaining what we do to those who don’t understand it. Well written response and very compassionate.

  6. JJ says:

    Rebecca,
    I really enjoyed reading this. This past Saturday, we were at the National Zoo for their Migratory Bird Day with some of our education birds. Someone asked me about trapping and I wished I had this in front of me. The point was made, and I think they were satisfied with the answer. But you say it much better than I was able to. I’m definitely referring people to this post!
    JJ

  7. […] Yes, falconers trap birds. I sometimes wish we would all trap birds instead of breeding them. The birds we trap survive when so many in the wild do not. We are only allowed to trap first year hawks and falcons, of which more than 70 percent don’t survive their first year…that is, unless they happen to be trapped and trained by a falconer. A falconer will always feed them whether they are successful or not and will medicate them if they have one of the many diseases, such as aspergillosis, that are common to young struggling birds. (to read more, click here . . .) […]

  8. Kevin Lenaghan says:

    It is absolutely fascinating to me how all of this comes about. Is part of the reason to trap or to take to refresh the gene pool?

    There is a bit of a stir going on right now since Fish and Wildife is looking to open taking a number of raptors this year in TX. At least, there seems to be a bit of a stir. Sorry, I should know more about it if I am going to mention it. I am trying to understand why they would do this after not doing it for 30-40 years. Are there too many in the wild like there are deer so that they are not having large enough foraging territories?

    Actually, I suppose I should ask you to refer me to something that would give me a basic understanding so I don’t waste your valuable time.

    Thanks Rebecca! I love the site.

    Kevin

  9. rebecca says:

    Peregrines were off limits for trapping because they nearly disappeared 30 years ago with the complications of DDT. There are other birds that we trap/train/hunt with and then release– redtailed hawks, prairie falcons, kestrels, merlins, etc

    The reason we (falconers) began to breed falcons in the first place was to save the peregrine. In the 70s breeding peregrines in captivity had never been done…it was falconers who figured it out, bred them and many of the guys helped with the re-introduction. Based on these efforts, the elmination of DDT and the hard work of many the peregrine came off the endangered species list in 1999. We’ve been working to get greenlit to trap peregrines again ever since.

    Many of us don’t want captive bred falcons. You must keep a captive bird for the rest of its life. A wild caught bird can be returned to the wild. It’s not about the breeding stock. There are plenty of nonreleasable peregrines (wild birds permanently injured in the wild).

    My best suggestion Kevin would be to read Rachel Dickinson’s book which just came out, “Falconer on the Edge” and my memoir, LIFT when it comes out in November. 🙂

  10. Lynn says:

    Terrific posts! I am a newby apprentice and though this is not new information it has been conveyed beautifully! As I encounter sideways looks this next week when I trap my redtail I will refer people to this post. ~Lynn

  11. Liz says:

    Aha, so *that’s* how people convince raptors to put up with us! I was wondering about that when I checked the FAQ. Thanks for the info! 🙂

    “By then, the bird has made it through the worst of its first year (winter when food is scarce) with the falconer’s help, is well fed for the migration and has a much better chance of surviving the coming year in the wild.”

    I wonder what the memories of that are like for a falcon who used to have a falconer and now lives all-wild.

    Maybe he or she would nest close to the falconer and nudge his or her fledglings in the direction of falconer traps? How would people find out if ex-falconry falcons do that? Is there a safe way to tag falcons before you release them for good, so that years later if you see the parents of local juveniles you can look for tags (and go “nope, that one’s untagged” or “that one has some wildlife conservation agency’s tag, let’s send them an update” or “hey, one of my falconer buddies used to hunt with that one!”)?

  12. Angela Cancilla Herschel says:

    Bravo! This explanation made me learn so much today!