All the usual warnings of images that contain material that may ‘offend’ some viewers, and the plea to be sure to contact the appropriate helpline.
Ahh, political correctness.
I have, it must be told not ever thought about Falconry as a pasttime.
Not the sport of the rich and regal, but rather the Falconer, and their intimate relationship with these amazing birds of prey.
That such a bird could in fact be domesticated in itself seems hard to grasp.
It is also true that I’ve never spent any more than a few glancing seconds with any of the falcon family (exception being Brown Falcons, but let’s face it, they don’t have the same mystic of the Peregrine or Hobby.)
So, to have a close encounter with a pair of Australian Hobbys (sic—my spelling of the plural) and their resulting young has been quite a thought provoking experience. Over the past few weeks EE and I, Mr An Onymous, and Neil A. have clocked up quite a few hours learning a little about their habits, character and approach to life.
In no particular order some bullet points from my field-notes. I must stress this is not scientific research, and is quite anecdotal-bordering on the anthropomorphic. (Again the usual warnings also apply)
- Hobbys seem to like to sit on the highest branches available. If there is a higher one, they will move to it.
- Hobbys seem to favour nesting in the tallest tree in the area. And they don’t build new nests, but rather inhabit existing, mostly magpie, nests.
- They have a wariness of humans, but at the same time seem to have developed an awareness of human habitation and used it for their benefit. We regularly see a pair hunting through a supermarket carpark. Hard not to be impressed with a bird at over 70kph skimming over the parked vehicles.
- This pair have used the same area, and I think the same nest for at least the past three seasons.
- The female sits the nest. The male brings in food. Unlike other raptors she does not complain until he arrives. She is usually quiet.
- He too is quiet on arrival. A couple of short croaky calls, and he then sits on an conspicuous branch and she quietly comes and removes the catch.
- They are both masters of efficiency. A glide will do instead of a wing-flap. The change over is precise and almost instant.
- He always carefully watches after she takes the food, I have concluded that if she were to slip and it fell away, he would be on it before it had dropped more than a metre.
- This pair have feasted on Wattlebirds, Starlings, occasional Welcome Swallows and quite a parade of young Fairy Martins. Also other larger birds that were unidentifiable as he had pre-plucked before arrival.
- Any passing raptor, or raven is chastised from afar, and if it still persists then one, or usually both, will take close quarter action. It consists of gaining height and rolling over into awesomely fast stoops on the interloper(s).
- I can’t find a reliable reference, but it seems they can clip along around 85-90 kph in a straight flight. In a stoop, the speed might be as much as 150kph or more. They are only short bursts, not the long running dive of the Peregrine.
- In Falconry, the male is called a “Tiercel”and Old English word meaning Third. Perhaps because he is as much as one third smaller than the female. Or is it she is one third larger?
From a bird I have had only the briefest of encounters with, it has given me quite an insight into why they could be trained and how much skill a falconer must have accumulated.
Here is an a couple of days activity before the young were flown.
Click on the Gallery for larger view and slide show.