Falconry Books – Fiction

These are some of the books that I have either read or will be reading and some of my thoughts on them from a Falconer’s perspective. These are fiction books, there seem to be 100 times as many self-help falconry books that I would like to catalog later.

I mostly consume these falconry books by listening to the audiobooks. Often times while manning, training, driving to fields or even while hunting with my hawk.

My Side of the Mountain (Mountain, #1)
by Jean Craighead George
Good Reads Rating 4.05 — 58,114 ratings
published 1959
My Side of the Montain Book Cover by Jean Craighead GeorgeThis book follows a boy named Sam who runs away and becomes self-sufficient in the mountains and learns and trains a peregrine falcon. Later turned into a movie, My Side of the Mountain has some basic falconry knowledge but is mostly about Sam’s adventures in the woods, the animals and the few interactions with other humans. Also, this internet meme.
My Rating: ???/5 (I probably should give it 3.5, It just wasn’t exciting enough for me).

On the Far Side of the Mountain (Mountain, #2)
by Jean Craighead George
Good Reads Rating 3.89 — 7,992 ratings
published 1990 (31 years after the first book)
On The Far Side of the Montain Book Cover by Jean Craighead George2 years later Sam goes looking for his sister and Frightful his falcon. Frightful is also the name of a falcon in the book Hawkmaiden (Spellmonger Cadet, #1). I wonder what’s going on there.
My Rating: ????/5

The Goshawk
by T.H. White
Good Reads Rating 3.89 — 1,104 ratings
published 1951
The Goshawk T.H. White 1951 Book CoverT.H. White is the same author who wrote The Once and Future King, Sword in the Stone and other literary classics. I wouldn’t call this a manual, nor is it fiction. It is a non-fiction book that has amazing realistic insight into what it is like to man, train, free-fly, and hunt with a goshawk. The imagery in White’s words is right on. I can perfectly see the bird’s reactions and mannerisms as if looking at my own bird’s mannerisms. T.H. doesn’t embellish or vier from what actually happened. It took him years of convincing by others to publish this. He was embarrassed by the numerous mistakes he made training his first hawk. Bonus points for that White.
My Rating: ?????/5

H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
Good Reads Rating 3.73 — 51,663 ratings
published 2014
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald book coverHelen has been a bird nerd and had dabbled in falconry since she was a little girl. Since the passing of her father, she tries her hand at becoming an austringer. Buys a tiercel passage goshawk and begins to train this semi-difficult accipiter. The most interesting part about this book isn’t her relationship with her past father, it’s the love/hatred for T.H. White’s book The Goshawk. The only thing you can get two falconers to agree on is that the third falconer is doing it wrong.
I learned some falconry history and some of the stories were interesting. I didn’t feel for her the hawk, her depression or solitude. Reading The Goshawk prior to reading H is for Hawk is something I would suggest as it was referenced a lot. She does an excellent job of describing the bird’s mannerisms, her vocabulary and writing style is top-notch. I just feel like Macdonald was trying to outdo T.H. White’s experience with his goshawk in the 1930s. An updated version of The Goshawk with a twist of depression. Valliant effort Helen! Congratulations on the number of awards, this book deserves them.

Toast the Red Tailed Hawk mimicking the Goshawk from the cover of H is for Hawk book
Toast the red-tailed hawk is doing his best to mimic the goshawk on the cover of H is for Hawk

Also: Helen Macdonald and PBS put on a great series about training a Goshawk for falconry with a new second goshawk years after this book.
MyRating: ????/5

Hawkmaiden Spellmonger Cadet, Book 1
by Terry Mancour
Good Reads Rating 4.33 — 560 ratings
Published 2015
Hawkmaiden Spellmonger Cadet Book CoverA story about a young girl who gets enamored by a ‘Silver Headed Raptor’ (I’m pretty sure this was modeled after a peregrine falcon.) Dara has to have this bird, yet she would have to get it from an impossible location and if she manages that, she will have to train the bird in secret. Dara of Westwood may have a made up hawk but, she uses a lot of real-world falconry techniques to train her bird. Dara also finds out that she has other talents that are non-falconry related.
My Rating ???/5

Hawklady Spellmonger Cadet, Book 2
by Terry Mancour
Good Reads Rating: 4.49 — 319 ratings

Hawklady Spellmonger Cadet, Book 2 CoverA continuation of the first book Hawkmaiden. I started reading it, less about falconry and more about magic so far.
My Rating: ❓/5 (I haven’t read it yet)

Sky Rider Spellmonger Cadet #3
by Terry Mancour
Good Reads Rating: 4.57 — 207 ratings
A continuation of the first series Hawkmaiden. I have yet to read it.
My Rating: ❓/5 (I haven’t read it yet)

Let me know if there are any books that you think deserve to be on this list. I’m always looking for a good recommendation. Drop a comment if you have falconry book suggestions or a differing opinion from my succinct/brief reviews.

Should these books inspire you to think about starting falconry

Power lines will kill your falconry bird

You, as a falconer has come across all sorts of obstacles when hunting in a field. Your hawk has perched on all sorts of things that will give it a height advantage to survey a field for game. Most of the time the hawk will perch on trees, lamp posts, buildings, or the T-perch you carry to give your bird a better view as you move through the field.

Peregrine on high voltage overhead transmission lines
Peregrine at the top of a high voltage overhead transmission tower.

Sometimes the perch is a power pole. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) are required to make it difficult for birds of prey to get electrocuted with their “Bird-Safe Poles“. However, not all are completely safe.

It is said that red-tailed hawks are more abundant in modern times because of man-made utility poles. Giving hawks a place to perch with an unobstructed view of hunting fields. Before man-made poles, hawks were limited to tree snags or other natural perches. Power poles, lines, and transformers still pose a significant threat to eagles, hawks, falcons and other birds.

Gus landing on an unsafe power pole
Gus landing on an unsafe power pole. You can see the triangle metal bars were installed, but aren’t installed in a useful way.

Not all are safe and it is up to the falconer to recognize unsafe power poles before our birds perch on them. This is easier said than done. There are lots of dangers to look out for when hunting in the field, this is just another one.

Gus the Red Tailed Hawk is fried by power pole. power lines electrocution
Gus, the Red-Tailed Hawk is electrocuted by this unsafe power pole. His right tarsus and left-wing contacted 2 different wires and killed him instantly.

If you talk to enough falconers, you will find electrocution is an all too common. Stay safe out there. ??

More links on bird-safe power lines

Don’t Trust What I Say

This is The Worst Source for Falconry but, I will try my best

(Intro to Falconry 1 of 4)

You know how some people talk a lot on a given subject, seem very knowledgeable and you can tell the information comes from experience? That’s not this blog.

The best falconry knowledge is passed down from sponsor to apprentice. Falconry can be learned from a book, YouTube and from other falconers. However, hands on guided experience has always been best. Every falconer has their own way of doing falconry just different enough to declare what the other one is doing wrong. I am that other falconer.

So don’t take what I say as law, hell, don’t take it as a good idea without running it past a falconer you trust (your sponsor).

This blog is likely going to piss off other falconers in a number of ways. I’m giving instructions in a way that differs from others and I’m releasing secrets that were told to me in confidence.

That being said, these articles are mostly a collection of knowledge I am attempting to somewhat organize. These are processes I am often asked about by non-falconers and also thoughts I wanted to get down as to not lose them to time.

Falconry is Not What You Think It Is

And Falconry is What You Don’t Think It Is

(Intro to Falconry 2 of 4)

My own personal definition of falconry:

fal·con·ry noun
The sport of trapping a wild bird of prey, manning, training to the fist, entering on game and hunting with your raptor using their natural God-given instincts and releasing back to the wild.

Here are some cavorts to my definition, but I feel that it still the purest definition of falconry.

  1. You aren’t required to trap a bird at later stages of falconry, you can buy a raptor from a breeder. If the species you would like to fly, isn’t available for wild take, then finding a breeder for your choice of raptor will due, and nobody will deny you the title of falconer.
  2. You aren’t required to, and in some cases aren’t allowed to, release a raptor back to the wild. A bird that was bred in captivity didn’t come from the wild and therefore doesn’t belong back in the wild.

    An imprinted bird, likely doesn’t have the skill of a wild raised bird and shouldn’t be released back to the wild. They may not be able to hunt for themselves even though they hunt fine with the falconer. The bird might also try to food beg with other random humans, attempting to land on them, probably scaring the humans and worse case, footing them.
  3. Finally, can you keep your raptor on your license as long as you feel, releasing it years later or until they pass on due to old age.

What Falconry is Not

Falconry is not pet-keeping. It is not a sport to be abused for the purpose of having a cool bird. This is generally frowned upon and often times not fair to the bird.*

Falconry is a hunting sport. It is dirty, gritty, bloody, painful, difficult, trying and rewarding. They say you will experience your highest highs and your lowest lows. This is true for me.

*What about Cosmos? Your Great Horned Owl doesn’t hunt. This is true, however not for a lack of trying. I wish I was a more skilled falconer / owlerer. Cosmos is trained to the fist, lure trained and has taken rats. At the end of the day, Cosmos is a well-trained owl pet. I love him and will continue to give him the best life he can live since he can’t be released back to the wild, since he is imprinted. He will continue to be an education bird as well.

Never Become a Falconer

6 Reasons why not to become a falconer

(Intro to Falconry 3 of 4)

If you think you have passion for birds of prey, falconry will test you. Here are a few of the reason not become a falconer.

  1. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
    This is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle, the trapping process, the manning process, the training will suck all of your free time and then will consume time from other aspects of your life. More and more of your life will become consumed with falconry and your bird(s). Those who are in falconry will become more a part of your life and if those who aren’t part of falconry or get what it’s about will drift further. Beware, once you are on the inside of falconry, it’s gravitational pull is so strong, you may never escape. That sounds funny, there are friends who swore it off yet, I see them time and time again at events, sometimes with new birds.
  2. Sacrifice is commanded.
    Once you have a beautiful red tailed hawk or a feisty kestrel, you may find yourself doing anything for them. I have seen falconers sacrifice lifestyles to step up their falconry game. These are conditions that you would never have seen seen yourself in just 1 year earlier. (Example, living in a small trailer with a dozen raptors in Central California for months at a time, away from family, I seen this first hand.)
  3. Your Bird Might be Free But, there are so many other expenses.
    • Trapping – Basically costs you gas money.
    • Leather making Equipment + leather – Depending on how involved you get, the leather working equipment can be in the low hundreds of dollars.
    • Hoods aren’t cheap – My opinion is every falcon and hawk needs their on well fit hood. And then a good trapping hood set consisting of 10 to 20 sizes of hoods. Falconry hoods range from $60 to hundreds of dollars, depending on how fancy you want to go for your precious birds.
    • The mews…
      A mews (bird enclosure, at least 8’ x 8’ x 8’) requires some skill to build, large area of your yard and a chunk of change. I have heard of some building these on a budget for less than a grand. I have spent roughly $9-grand on mews thus far and I only have 3. Some well-to-do falconers pour concrete, plumbing and electricity for their mews. Probably running over $10,000 per enclosure.
    • Food is expensive – and not so easy to get. These are some types of protein you will have to have on hand before you get your first bird. You can’t get these from the local pet food stores.
      • Quail
      • DOC (Day Old Chicks)
      • Mice*
      • Rats*
      • Starlings
      • Pigeons
      • etc.
        *While you can get mice and rats from the pet store, they are quite costly in quantities that you require. There are online sources that will ship some of these frozen to you for slightly better rates.
    • We bought a new truck
      You might try to make your existing car work for falconry. You might hold out for a year or to. Soon, you will get a whole new hawking vehicle, with all new payments to make and that vehicle won’t stay pristine for very long.
    • Falconry bag + Equipment
      Your entire wardrobe might change. Hunting boots (multiple pairs) pants/chaps, bags, bells, gloves, scale, the swivel collection and the perches can rack up a pretty penny.
    • Telemetry
      Why do I have so many transmitters and receivers? I only fly 1 bird at a time! These transmitters range from $100 to 1,000. Receivers range from $400 to $700. There are less expensive options but it’s not that much less.
    • Freezers
      I used to have only 1 freezer for my frozen dinners and making Ice. Now I have 2 freezers and no room for human food. Sad.
  4. Falconry is Not as glamorous or romantic as you might think.
    There is a glamorous side and there is a gritty side. But, mostly there is a gritty side.
    • Preparing and handling food
      This is skinning mice, mincing rats, gutting pigeons, dipping our fingers into a bag full of random guts and slapping it onto your glove. When your bird decides it doesn’t want these gooey bits on their beak, they shake their head and flick said parts onto your face, hopefully you are wearing protective glasses.
    • Getting Bit and footed
      It’s said you have to watch for how a raptor kills. Falcons kill with their specialized beak. Falcons can strike fast and do some REAL DAMAGE with their beaks.
      Hawks kill by hooking prey with their front 3 talons then like a hydraulic press push their hallux talon clean through the organs of it’s prey… or your arm/face. To make things worse, these are their meat hooks, covered in raw meat bacteria, and to take it up one more level… Hawks have ratcheting system where they will keep that pressure pushing through your body with no effort on their part. Until their foot (not their brain) thinks that what they are squeezing is dead, they will continue to foot.
      Every falconer has been footed. Some say, you aren’t a falconer until you been footed at least once.
    • Killing and cleaning prey
      First you hear a rabbit’s scream (yes they do scram and it is jarring to the core). Then you have to dispatch that rabbit while your hawk is on said rabbit trying to foot you to keep from taking their catch. It gets many multiples worse from here. If you manage to grab the rabbit, screaming for it’s life, you pull your kill stick from your bag and pierce the rabbit’s skull clean through to the dirt. The rabbit still kicking and screaming louder than before you opt for the lawn-mower spinal disconnect method that takes up to 3-4 times before you hear that pop.
      Next, before you can rest, you will want to help your hawk enjoy the fruits of its labor. You reach for your carpet sheers, cutting into the rib cage exposing the flesh. This is where your hawk plunges their head into the body cavity to drink the blood first.
      By now, your hands, every article of clothing and face are covered in blood. Who’s blood? It doesn’t matter at this point. Your sadistic bird has its kill and seems to be in heaven while you try to relax and begin to contemplate explaining this situation to St. Peter.
    • Cleanup
      After trying to clean the blood and pulling the ticks off your close and body, you realize, you should clean the mews of all of mutes that have been plastered over the floor and walls. Hope you have a power washer and mask.
    • The smells
      A falcon’s mutes are some of the most putrefied I have smelt next to that of owl’s cecum release. Rat is the worse smell I have encountered on a daily basis, the oils in their body produce a stench that will burn into your olfactory for the rest of your life.
    • Diseases that can be contracted
      I won’t get into this now, there are a number of diseases you can catch by being around your birds and out hunting in the field. Lyme could mess you up for life.
    • The opposite of glamorous is calling your unresponsive bird from a tree for hours on end.
  5. You will be tested. Falconry will test you heart, you will fall in love with the birds and they won’t love you back. You will release them back to the wild and you will suffer tragedy.

    Leaning from other’s mistakes is key to being the best falconer you can be. (Iggy’s story, Sunny’s Story, Ryker’s story and Rango’s story).

How to Become a Falconer

If you are still reading, you might have what it takes to being your falconry journey.

(Intro to Falconry 4 of 4)

Here are the three stages of falconry as I see them.

  1. Preappentice
    When there is a hawk or falcon on your fist for the fist time, I have described it as a religious experience. Your first falconry meet with the birds in a weathering yard as your first day at Hogwarts. It’s pure magic! When in the preappentice stage of falconry, go to as many club meet ups, join Facebook groups, read all the books you can and especially the required reading from your state’s fish and game. Call their office ans ask them for the falconry packet, then study!

    While attending events, see who you can make friends with. Ask if there is an the apprentice chair for you to talk to and let them and everyone else know you are looking for a sponsor.

    Sponsors can’t be paid for their training, so they will have to spend their own time for the love of keeping the art of falconry alive for another generation. Choose wisely, not all sponsors are alike, inf act some can be down right bad.
  2. Apprentice
    This was my favorite stage of falconry. If I could forget what I know and go back and experience this again, I absolutely wold! First time trapping, manning, training, making mistakes, leaning, first free flight, first kill and first release back to the wild. There were more ups and downs in these 2 years than I expect to experience the rest of my life.
  3. General and Master Falconer
    Once your sponsor graduates you to general class, your are able to fly a wider variety of raptors. The difference between General and Master falconer is 8 years, that’s it. Don’t let anyone brag that they are master class, a general class can be amazing and a master can be a poor falconer. Once master has been reached, you are allowed to house even more birds.

How to Become a Falconer

  1. Get the study material. Ask your state for the books, they will mail all the material. Study it. It’s filled with great information.
  2. Join your state’s falconry club. A quick google search later, you will be on their website. Go to as many of their meets and mini meets as you can.
  3. Find a sponsor, find out who is the apprentice chair and let them know you are looking for a sponsor. Know the rules of sponsors. If you think they aren’t right for you, you are allowed to transfer at any time. Your sponsor is also able to drop you at any time. Remember, it’s not a rush to general class.
  4. Building the right facility and equipment. Before you can progress and get your license to start trapping, you will need the state to inspect your mews and equipment (furniture). Before any fish and game officer visits your residence, your sponsor will inspect these to make sure they are up to code.
  5. Trapping and training! This is it, time to spend some time with your sponsor scouting the prefect bird for you. Trapping is exhilarating and as incredible as it is, the first bird to stick to the trap might not be the right bird for you. Let your sponsor help you decide. This process could take days, weeks possibly months if conditions aren’t right. Once you have your bird, you are well on your way.

Remember to take your time, it’s the journey with these magnificent raptors. These are the stories that will stick with you for a lifetime. You will build friendships and experience things 99.9% of people will never get to experience.

Be sure to come back, I would love to hear your stories. Good luck and godspeed!