of the hawks used for falconry in the UK are mentioned below.
You will not see Ferruginous Hawks, Lugger Falcons, Common Buzzards,
Kestrels, eagles etc. These are the mostly commonly used hawks used by falconers
in the BFC (British Falconers' Club) and indeed any other club
in the UK.
PEREGRINE (Falco peregrinus) This medium sized, heavily built bird
is the archetypal falcon. Preying almost exclusively upon birds,
its' powers of flight have captivated falcones for centuries.
A worldwide species that declined sharply due to pesticide poising
in the 1950's and 1960's, the peregrine has made a good recovery
and Britain has the most significant population in Europe. In
falconry this species sets the standard against which all
other trained falcons are measured.
GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis)
This strong and robust hawk has been the mainstay of falconry
for many years. Once known as the 'Cooks hawk' because of its'
ability to catch a wide variety of quarry for the larder. The
goshawk is the shortwing par excellence capable of taking quarry
such as pheasant, rabbit and hare. It can be flown in enclosed
country and its versatility has made it much coveted. In the
19th century Britain it was persecuted out of existence, however
toady it is reestablished with a small but steadily increasing
Harris Hawk (Parabuteo
unicinctus) First trained
for falconry in the 1960's the Harris has become very popular.
It is intelligent, versatile and naturally sociable. This enables
the falconers to build an enviable relationship with the hawk.
They come from the southern United States and central America.
Predominantly a desert species of raptor they have adapted well
to British conditions.
SPARROWHAWK (Accipiter nisus)
A small dashing hawk that was a favourite
amongst the ladies in mediaeval nobility. It has great powers
of acceleration and maneuverability and is capable of taking
quarry up to the size of a magpie or partridge. This is the
most common British hawk and can be seen in most country districts.
As a falconry bird it is both delicate and temperamental and
should be left to the very experienced falconer.
Redtail Hawk (Buteo
North American buzzard has proved to be an excellent falconry
bird. It is an aggressive and powerful hunter of rabbit and hare.
Whilst closely related to our own common buzzard, the redtail
is bigger and more predatory.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
The smallest European falcon, the merlin
was the 'ladies falcon' in mediaeval times. It hunts small birds
and in its' trained state is used to pursue skylarks. This is
done under license from the D.o.E with the number of larks taken
strictly controlled. It is small but versatile falcon with the
male commonly known as a 'Jack'.
( Gyr X Saker illustrated ) Whilst still the
subject of some controversy in UK falconry circles the obvious
advantages of hawking with hybrid falcons is born out by the popularity
of these hawks with many falconers. The merits of crossing various
species of falcon to obtain the best all round capabilities of
both the parents can be argued for hours by both the purist and
the progressive amongst us. I will not go into the pros and cons
of this argument in this short description but would say that
this type of hawk should only be considered with falconers with
some degree of experience with other longwings.
Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmiscus).
The Lanner is the falcon that most people will usually see at
falconry displays around the UK. Slightly smaller than a peregrine
they are beautiful falcons with a gentle temperament. Many people
interested in flying longwings and Peregrines in particular,
gain experience with this this bird as their first falcon. Not
many falconers can regularly take quarry with a Lanner but it
is probable underestimated as a hunting hawk in the UK. It certainly
excels in the arena as a display falcon putting up many stoops
to the lure to the delight of the watching crowds.