New Rules for Falconry

The US Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed change to the Migratory Bird Permits regulations. This is a full reworking of the Federal regulations on falconry in the United States. The FWS has been working on these for a number of years. The official comment period ends May 10, 2005.

Changes include:

  1. Single permitting system. Falconers would obtain a permit from their state or tribe of residence, and no Federal permit would be required.
  2. “Electronic reporting of acquisition, capture, or loss of birds.”
  3. “Apprentice falconers will be allowed to possess Harris’s hawks.”
  4. “Apprentice falconers may possess non-imprinted captive-bred birds of the species they are allowed to possess.”
  5. “Master falconers will be allowed to keep five raptors for use in falconry, though only three of the raptors may be taken from the wild.”
  6. “The required examination for apprentice falconers and new residents may be developed and administered by each State or Tribe.”
  7. “A new resident of the United States can qualify for a falconry permit appropriate for his or her experience.”
  8. “Facilities and equipment requirements are simplified and rewritten to make them easier to understand.”
  9. “Possession of facilities for housing raptors will not be a prerequisite for obtaining a permit.”
  10. “The 180-day-per-year limit on take of raptors from the wild is removed. Raptors may be taken for falconry during periods specified by the States or Tribes.”
  11. “Hybrid raptors must be imprinted on humans or be surgically sterilized if they are to be used in falconry.”
  12. “All falconers will be responsible for treatment and rehabilitation costs of falconry raptors injured in trapping efforts.”
  13. “Banding of all goshawks taken from the wild will be required.”
  14. “Temporary release of falconry raptors to the wild (‘‘hacking’’) will be allowed.”
  15. “General and master falconers may use suitable raptors in raptor propagation if the propagator has a raptor propagation permit.”
  16. “A falconer may transfer a wild raptor captured under a falconry permit to a propagation permit after the raptor has been used in falconry for at least 2 years.”
  17. “General and master falconers may use suitable raptors they hold (except golden eagles) in conservation education programs without an additional permit.”
  18. “The age for apprentice falconers is lowered from 14 to 12.”
  19. “General and master falconers may assist Federal- and State-permitted wildlife rehabilitators in conditioning of raptors for release to the wild.”
  20. “A visitor to the United States with a falconry permit from his or her country may practice falconry in the United States if the State in which he or she wishes to do so allows it.”
  21. “Requirements for capture and possession of golden eagles for use in falconry by master falconers with sufficient experience are added to these regulations.”

DATES: Send comments on this proposal
by May 10, 2005.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments,
identified by RIN 1018–AG11, by any of
the following methods:

• Federal eRulemaking Portal: . Follow the
instructions for submitting comments.

• Agency Web site: . Follow the links
to submit a comment.

• E-mail address for comments: Include
RIN number 1018–AG11 in the subject
line of the message.

• Fax: 703–358–2217.

• Mail: Chief, Division of Migratory
Bird Management, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax
Drive, Mail Stop MBSP–4107,
Arlington, Virginia 22203–1610.

• Hand Delivery: Division of
Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, 4501 North Fairfax
Drive, Room 4091, Arlington, Virginia

Instructions: All submissions received
must include Regulatory Information
Number (RIN) 1018–AG11 at the
beginning. All comments received,
including any personal information
provided, will be available for public
inspection at the address given above
for hand delivery of comments. For
detailed instructions on submitting
comments and additional information
on the rulemaking process, see the
‘‘Public Participation’’ heading in the
this document.

Brian Millsap, Chief, Division of
Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, 703–358–1714, or
Dr. George T. Allen, Wildlife Biologist,

The big change here is the elimination of the Federal falconry permitting system. This has plusses and minuses. On the one hand, the elimination of a bunch of bureaucracy is not to be sneered at. Having just one permitting fee is another plus. On the other hand, having a federal permit in hand is a reminder to authorities in other states that falconry is something with national oversight.

When commenting on these proposed changes, keep in mind that these regulations implement policy with respect to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and that everything not specifically permitted is prohibited. So if you can think of something related to conventional falconry practice that is not covered in these regulations, you need to make sure that Dr. Allen is made aware of it via your comments. The proposed changes along these lines include the specific mention of hacking and permitting the falconry use of golden eagles.

Apprentice rules have changed significantly. The age at which one can obtain an apprentice permit is dropped to 12 from 14. The list of species approved for apprentices under the federal regulations is expanded to include Harris’s hawks. In addition to the list of four wild-caught species suitable for apprentices, the regulations permit apprentices of any captive-bred birds of species approved by one’s state or tribe for falconry. Apprentices are barred from use of eyas or imprinted birds.

The readability of the regulations has improved dramatically. The form taken in the new regulations is that of questions and answers.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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

11 thoughts on “New Rules for Falconry

  • Pingback: The Austringer » Falconry Reg Change Comment Period Ends 05/10!

  • 2005/12/22 at 12:18 pm

    thank you for this valuble information.I am 14 and thinking about becomeing a falconer.I live in missouri and I have heard that you can have american Kestrel and red tailed hawk. is this correct?is there any more species I could own as an apprentice?
    thanks for ur time

  • 2005/12/22 at 3:47 pm

    Bridget, The apprentice species list does vary from state to state. But an online source seems to confirm your information:

    Falconry permits are issued by classes as follows:

    (A) Apprentice Class—Permittees shall be at least fourteen (14) years old and shall have a sponsor holding a general or master falconry permit. A sponsor shall have no more than three (3) apprentices at any one (1) time. An apprentice may possess only one (1) American kestrel (Falco sparverius) or one (1) red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and may obtain not more than one (1) replacement raptor during any twelve (12)- month period.


    If the new regulations stick with adding Harris hawks, it is possible (though not certain) that Missouri could add Harris hawks to the list. But it may be a couple of years before that would happen anyway, so if you have some support at home it would probably be better to simply proceed. I’d recommend the red-tail hawk over the kestrel simply on husbandry issues.

  • 2006/01/01 at 4:37 pm

    thank you for this info as well,I have checked, and on some older Missouri Falconry Regulations, it says that you can own and American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, or Red-Shouldered Hawk, but it dated 2001…I cant find the Missouri Falconry Regulations for 2005…

  • 2006/01/01 at 4:40 pm

    oh, there is a pair of Red-taileds that nest and hunt within a mile of my house.. I think if I become a falconer, I might take one of them.

  • 2006/01/01 at 4:42 pm

    ..uh..sorry to bug you once more, but are you allowed to take a bird from the wild and keep it until it dies, if you have you’re permits up to date?

  • 2006/01/28 at 11:28 am

    Yes to continue to keep your bird you must keep your permit up to date. Also if there is a pair of birds nesting and hunting they are adults. You can only trap birds for falconry when they are less than a year old. You could trap one of the off spring of that pair – after they fledge – during the fall in the trapping season. We call these “passage” birds. Traditionally they were trappped in the passage or fall migration.

  • 2006/01/31 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you so much for this information. I have studied so much since I asked that question, and now I know that I wouldnt have had to ask those questions. Thanks again

    P.S. I sent my letter to the Missouri Conservation Agency requesting a falconry information packet many weeks ago, and I havent got a response. Is it supposed to take this long?

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