November 16 Is World Falconry Day

AUSTIN — Falconry associations worldwide, including members of the International Association for Falconry and Birds of Prey and the Texas Hawking Association, will be celebrating World Falconry Day November 16.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Hawking Association have been working together for 33 years to keep falconry vibrant in Texas,” says Steve Oleson, THA president.

Falconry, according to Oleson, is “a hunting tradition defined as ’taking quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of trained birds of prey.’”

State regulations provide the legal framework which allows individuals to practice falconry in the state. Texas law requires newly permitted falconers to serve a two-year apprenticeship, learning from a more experienced falconer. After that, permit holders are free to practice their sport any time of the year. Falcons may be used to hunt ducks during the regular waterfowl season plus an extended season: January 26 to February 9.

“This year marks the fourth anniversary of the Nov. 16, 2010 recognition of falconry as a living human heritage by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization),” Oleson says.

The UNESCO action recognized falconry as a part of the world’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” that is worth preserving. Other examples of intangible cultural heritage include: the tango, Azerbaijani weaving, and Chinese calligraphy.

The IAF determined that November 16 would be remembered each year as World Falconry Day so that people may become more aware of falconry and its place in world culture.

“The Texas Hawking Association is a conservation-oriented organization that encourages the wise use of raptors in the sport of falconry,” Oleson says. “Formed in 1970, THA has served as an important communication forum for falconers and worked closely with TPWD to establish the falconry permit program for Texas and continues to work with the agency on issues important to birds of prey and their habitat.”

Archeological work indicates that falconry developed in the Mideast about 8000 BC. People knew how to train a hawk before they knew how to write. It has existed all this time because each generation cared enough about it to tell the next generation how to get a wild hawk to hunt with a person, for their mutual benefit.

Virtually a forgotten form of hunting, the sport was revived following World War II. About 300 Texans are involved in falconry.

“Preserving falconry,” Oleson continues, “involves maintaining not only the traditional culture that builds practical skills of empathy with animals, but also the conservation of raptors and their prey through preservation of natural habitats. That’s why we encourage falconry within the context of sustainable use of wildlife.”

He said the state and national associations also promote ecological studies and veterinary research on birds of prey. In addition, the two groups support domestic breeding of raptors for falconry, including such species as Peregrine falcons, Goshawks, Saker and Gyr falcons and all other species of raptors across the world that may be used for falconry and hunting.

“The legal framework and positive regulatory relationship we have with TPWD plays an important part in sustaining falconry through the evolution of American culture.” Oleson concludes. “The apprentice/sponsor program is vital, because it ensures that the complex skills and knowledge required to practice falconry is passed on to the next generation of falconers.”