For thousands of years, men have taken up alliance with raptors (as birds of prey are called,) engaging in the cooperative taking of quarry. In days gone by, this unlikely symbiotic pairing helped to feed the Western world even as it became the sport of kings and emperors. It is from these time-honored and noble roots that falconry finds its beginnings.

Falconry has always incited the greatest of passions in men. Just short of religion, in that men have not gone to war over the hawks, practitioners have dedicated their lives to the art. So it is today, and must be, for the falconer's dedication to his hawk is an absolute and sacred trust. He promises to keep the hawk fed and protected even in lean times when the bird might have starved in the wild. The bird returns his dedication with a strange bond that is something less than loyalty, yet greater than simple convenience.

With only one exception, raptors are all non-social. Since everything around us is a social animal and since man's desire for social interactions is so rudimentary and primal, dealing with a hawk is like having rapport with an alien being. Where men crave affection and physical comfort, the hawk wants none of it, finding touch somewhere between bare tolerance and disdain. Since they make no social bonds other than mating, they are fiercely territorial, and it is simply not in their nature to interact with amicably with creatures other than their mate. It is a great testimony indeed to the falconer's mettle that he is able to forge a bond with so foreign a creature.

The essence of the practice of falconry, and the reason it is referred to as an art, is that each individual falconer must find his own ways of interacting and communicating with each individual bird. A technique which works for one man with a hawk may not work for another man with the same bird, and not all techniques work with all hawks, even though they may be of the same gender and species.

Enormous amounts of work are involved in the keeping and care of raptors. From building housing and furniture for the birds to procuring the appropriate natural diet for them when they are put up for moult to grow a new set of feathers, from tending to their every minute need to searching for quarry-rich places at which to fly them, all things must be done for the hawk. In this sense, the falconer is a slave to his hawks, though the hawk is never a slave to the man. Again, it is simply against their nature to be subservient to another. With this knowledge, which falconers have determined and confirmed through millenia of interactions with these creatures, the falconer is able to rest assured that the hawk continues to return to him of it's own volition, even though it is daily demonstrating that it is quite capable of caring for itself. We do not know precisely why they choose to do so. Perhaps it merely for the pleasure of having its needs tended to with consistency, or perhaps they do indeed sense the reverence with which we approach these magnificent creatures. In any event, we are most grateful to them for that they share their aerial prowess and intensity with us. There may be more selfish pursuits but, to the falconer, there is none more rewarding.



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