Falconry Jargon


The Mews







Rusty's Page


As a sport handed down from antiquity, falconry comes with a large set of ... intriguing ... jargon. I'm starting with a few terms, and will add more as time and memory permit.

n. A raptor of the genus Accipiter, including the Goshawk, Cooper's Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Accipiters are noted for intense acceleration and high maneuverability, which they need for taking bird quarry in the air in near-level chase.

n. A newly permitted falconer, and the level of permit which such a falconer receives. The new falconer must be under the tutelage of, and thus is apprenticed to, an experienced falconer holding a general or master's permit. Apprenticeship lasts for two years. Apprentice falconers are severely restricted in both the number of birds they can hold on their permit, and in the species of bird which they may keep. In Florida, the number is one bird, and the species permissible to capture and keep are Red-Shouldered Hawks, Red-Tailed Hawks, and American Kestrels.

n. A fungal respiratory infection affecting raptors, especially accipiters, which causes rapid decline and death if not caught early and acted upon.

n. A person who trains and hunts accipiters and buteoine hawks; a shortwinger.

np. A type of trap often employed in capturing {passage} raptors, which consists of a wire cage holding a prey item, where the cage is covered in lines with slip knots. A raptor landing upon the cage is likely to put a foot or toe through one or more of the slip knots. The falconer can then approach the raptor. Bal-chatri traps must be watched continuously when deployed to avoid having the raptor be tied too long to the trap; panicked raptors could damage themselves if left unattended on the trap.

n. The hard chitinous part of the bird extending outward from the upper and lower jaws. Often mistaken for the dangerous part of a raptor's armament, although most raptors have far less power in operation of the beak than do parrots. In other words, a parrot bite is much more to be feared than a raptor bite. The typical hooked shape of the upper beak allows the raptor to pull apart meat and sinew from bones. This is necessary, since raptors don't have teeth to cut up their food.

 n. A juvenile raptor that has its flight feathers, but has not yet learned how to fly. So named for the habit of exploring branches near a nest.

n. Dreaded foot infection which can lead to the destruction of the raptor affected. Recovery tends to be long and slow, due to the fact that the feet are needed for perching.

:Buteoine hawks:
np. Hawks of the genera Buteo and Parabuteo, usually mammal-eating hawks which catch prey on the ground.

vt. Of a raptor, taking a prey item and then moving away from the falconer. This is a serious breach of manners, and a matter for retraining the bird so that the falconer can reliably {make in}.


n. A group of raptors hunted simultaneously. The usual number is two, although falconers using Harris' Hawks may fly more. The 1994 NAFA meet included the opportunity to fly Harris' Hawks in a cast of about a dozen birds.

vt. To regurgitate the crop contents. Raptors eat fur, feathers, and bones of prey items. The indigestible fur and feather material remains in the crop. Casting up this material does two things: 1. Empties the crop for more food, and 2. helps keep the crop walls cleaned of bacterial growth. Failure to provide material for proper casting in raptors can, and usually does, lead to "crop ill", a serious illness in raptors. This is a common failing in the illegal practice of non-permitted attempted rehabilitation of raptors. That is, many well-meaning people who do not know better have attempted to "help" an orphaned, sick, or injured raptor by feeding it on a diet of hamburger, liver, or other cuts of meat, without the bones, fur, or feathers that are also needed in the diet. Even when such birds do not die from the "assistance", they usually end up as non-releasable birds due to continuing health problems.

vt. To reshape the {beak} of a raptor using a knife, abrasive stone, or other implement. Raptor beaks sometimes grow longer or asymmetrically, which requires human intervention to correct. Providing the raptor with hard surfaces to {feek} on can reduce the frequency at which coping is required.

:Crop up:
np. Letting a raptor eat to satiation, as it fills its crop. This is often done to encourage the raptor to take certain prey species.

 n. A juvenile raptor taken from the nest. Falconry birds are referred to as the age at which the falconer acquires the bird, so an adult falconry bird could still be referred to as "a wild caught eyas". See also {brancher}, {passage}, {haggard}, and {intermewed}.

n. 1. A bird of the genus Falco. 2. A female falcon (see tiercel). 3. A raptor.

vt. To wipe a {beak} upon a surface. Raptors often do this following completion of a meal.

n. Of {permits}, indicates that the falconer holding such a permit has completed their apprentice phase, but has not yet accumulated five years of falconry experience.

 n. An adult raptor taken from the wild. Permitting regulations prohibit the taking of haggard birds with only a few exceptions. In general, training a haggard bird ranges from difficult to impossible. Cf. {passage}.

:Harris' Hawk:
n. Parabuteo unicinctus, species named for a friend of Audubon's. One of two group hunting raptor species in the world (the other is the Galapagos Hawk). The Harris' Hawk has lately revolutionized/destroyed falconry, depending on whether you talk to a shortwinger or a longwinger, respectively. Rusty, Diane Blackwood's female Harris' Hawk, has taken these game species: Pheasant, mallard duck, American widgeon, pintail duck, bobwhite quail, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, swamp rabbit, and grey squirrel. The range of prey items which the Harris' Hawk will fly on make it highly adaptable and a great field companion.

vt. To replace a broken or damaged feather with a similar feather. The process requires that the base of the feather still be available to attach to the undamaged end of the replacement feather.

adj. Having been kept through a molt. With a number, an indication of how long a bird has been used for falconry, e.g., "Rusty is a four times intermewed Harris' Hawk." The term stems from standard falconry practice of keeping the bird in the {mews} through the molting process to encourage quick feather replacement and to reduce the chance of feather damage as the feathers come in.

n. One who keeps and hunts falcons in preference to accipiters and buteoine hawks. A falconer, in the strict sense.

n. Usually a leather bag, sometimes with winglike extensions, attached to the end of a line, and swung to attract a falcon. Training to the lure provides another method of recalling a trained raptor, and also keeps the bird in condition for hunting.

:Making in:
 The falconer attempts to come close to the falcon or hawk while the bird is sitting on prey. The object is to be able to leash the bird without the bird {carrying} its prey.

n. Level of permit which indicates that a falconer has at least five years of experience in the sport of falconry. Often confers upon the master permit holder the privilege to take and keep more raptors, or raptors of more species than either general or apprentice permittees.

n. A gathering of falconers and their birds for the purpose of hunting game, swapping stories, and learning more about the art of falconry. National and local organizations hold meets regularly.

n. A quiet, dark enclosure for the protection and keeping of falcons or hawks.

 n. "Hawk whitewash". Hawks can project fecal matter a considerable distance. The resulting streaks and splatters on surrounding objects are referred to as mutes.

 adj. A raptor taken in its first year.

n. Those pieces of paper which, in the USA, can spell the difference between 'falconry' and 'felony'. The keeping of raptors is captivity is protected and regulated under federal and state statutes, which if not adhered to can result in confiscation of birds, vehicles, other equipment, hefty chunks of money in fines, and maybe a good chunk of quality time (as in 'doing time'). There are permits needed for falconry, and separate permits needed for rehabilitation or propagation. Depending on where you live, the law may be interpreted such that one will need another 'education' permit in order to use a falconry bird as the focus of a talk or presentation on falconry, even if done strictly on a volunteer basis (Texas falconers beware...). Did I mention that permits are needed to do falconry?

vt. To shake feathers into place. n. The act of rousing. The rouse is a whole body movement where the feathers are lifted away from the body, shook, and then flattened back closer to the body.

n. One who keeps and hunts the accipiters or buteoine hawks; an austringer. As contrasted with {longwinger}.

n. The hard, sharp, chitinous extensions from the toes of raptors. These are the dangerous parts of the raptor's armament. Combined with the great strength of the feet in raptors, the talons can penetrate deeply into prey items, or incautious falconers who rely on short or thin gloves, or no gloves at all.

n. A male raptor. (Toyota's Tercel is a corrupted spelling of this term. Look at the logo of the Tercel and you'll see that that is so.) Raptors are mostly sexually dimorphic species, with the females being larger than the males. The females tend to take larger or different species of prey items than the males.