Birders Practice Falconry Without a License in Illinois

The Chicago Tribune reports on the case of birders practicing falconry without a license.

The species—a burrowing owl and a Brant goose—were spotted about 9 a.m. Wednesday within 100 feet of each other in the wooded natural area. Within hours, however, the burrowing owl had been torn apart by a hungry Cooper’s hawk in front of chagrined bird-watchers.

By Thursday morning, local Web forums on birding were awash with discussions as to whether over-eager birders helped facilitate the doomed owl’s death by showing up in numbers and repeatedly flushing it into the air so it could be seen.

OK, guys, you seem to have stumbled upon one way that falconry may have gotten its start long, long ago, with opportunistic interactions with wild raptors. Repeatedly flushing prey is a key skill to have when giving a raptor slips over prey, so you’ve hit upon something useful there. Stylistically, though, you’ll find that falconers working birds often use a pointing or flushing dog. However, this isn’t pre-history, and we have the Migratory Bird Treaty Act nowadays. Unfortunately, the burrowing owl isn’t on anybody’s list of game birds, and there is no season for taking them. On the other hand, you guys seem to have stumbled upon the “leave it lay” concept all on your own. But do get yourselves falconry and hunting permits if you are going to practice falconry, even informally.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.