My Latest Endeavor...

Tom

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So, Tom- If you hear the rabbit they've caught screaming, does that mean they don't always successfully kill the rabbits they catch? Or do you just hear the rabbit scream as they kill it; and you get over to them to sort out what they've caught and determine how much you let them eat?
They don't usually kill the rabbits. They just grab it and hold on until I get there. One of the things we learn as apprentices is how to safely, quickly, and humanely dispatch the prey.
 

Ray--Opo

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The best way is to use BOTH a good dog and a hawk.
Oh yes! That would be the ultimate. I would just get frustrated when I would get a beagle that I couldn't break from getting a scent on a deer.
 

maggie3fan

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@Tom...what kind of bird is this...He dive bombs my feeder stations and catches and eats the Towhee's and others...
Towhees are the abt the size of Robins...thx


018.JPG 016.JPG
 

Tom

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@Tom...what kind of bird is this...He dive bombs my feeder stations and catches and eats the Towhee's and others...
Towhees are the abt the size of Robins...thx
I can't tell from the pics. Judging from the behavior you describe, I'd guess it to be a small accipiter of one sort or another.
 

maggie3fan

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I 'thought' it was some species of hawk, but research says they don't eat other birds, but peregrine falcons do, I was hoping you might recognize the silhouette...I'm not good enough to recognize birds of prey in my freakin yard...
 

Calaveras

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I can't tell from the pics. Judging from the behavior you describe, I'd guess it to be a small accipiter of one sort or another.
Yep,
It is either a small male coopers hawk or more likely it is a Sharpshin hawk. They are deadly to small birds. They can't compete with house cats so you do not see as many in urban areas.

For the record, all raptors eat other birds including raptors. I had a red-tail that loved to fight with great-horned owls and chase burrowing owls to the point I had to stop hunting in any area where there were ground squirrel burrows because they might have one hiding there. I had a Harris's hawk that was nearly killed by a red-tail hawk.
 

maggie3fan

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Yep,
It is either a small male coopers hawk or more likely it is a Sharpshin hawk. They are deadly to small birds. They can't compete with house cats so you do not see as many in urban areas.

For the record, all raptors eat other birds including raptors. I had a red-tail that loved to fight with great-horned owls and chase burrowing owls to the point I had to stop hunting in any area where there were ground squirrel burrows because they might have one hiding there. I had a Harris's hawk that was nearly killed by a red-tail hawk.
that's just really interesting...I knew that owls ate other birds but I didn't think that bird eating bird was a common thing...I'm kinda new at birds...
 

Tom

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that's just really interesting...I knew that owls ate other birds but I didn't think that bird eating bird was a common thing...I'm kinda new at birds...
It does depend on the species, but all raptors are pretty opportunistic. Peregrin falcons, merlins, and the sharp shins that Calaveras mentioned are bird catching specialists. Not that they wouldn't take a lizard or small snake if the opportunity presented itself. Harris hawks and redtails are considered generalists, and will eat just about anything they can catch to include mammals, reptiles, and birds. In addition to rabbits, my boys caught a lizard, four ground squirrels, and a quail this year. We weren't trying for any of those, and in fact, I tried to discourage them from the lizards and squirrels. Quail are fine, but tougher to catch unless that is what you are really trying for.
 

Viola B

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I just found this Thread. Tom, what a wonderful adventure you have had! It thrills me to read all these posts. Thank you for sharing your on going adventure. I love raptors, they are so beautiful!!
You have a gift for writing. Writing is not my cup of tea. I appreciate your talent. I can feel your great love for these birds, all of them.
When we lived in the mother lode of California we had a visit from a young red tail hawk. I had many hanging baskets of flowers outside with drippers on each one. One warm day a young red tail hawk come and landed under the handing baskets while the water was dripping down. It had a good shower getting it's feathers good and wet, coming back again and again. It was young and not too good at flying, yet. It tired to fly up onto our roof when very wet, but missed and was hanging onto the screen of our window. Needless to say, the screen was shredded! It stayed in the area for sometime. It was a joy to watch.
 

wellington

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Just seen the inventors of the sling shot and Wham-o company were Faulkner's and invented the sling shot to fling food into the air too feed their birds.
Have you done that?
 

Tom

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Just seen the inventors of the sling shot and Wham-o company were Faulkner's and invented the sling shot to fling food into the air too feed their birds.
Have you done that?
I never have. I've never heard of that. Falconers back east use sling shots and marbles to keep the squirrels moving for their birds up in the tree tops. I've seen one falconer that uses it in rapid succession with pinpoint accuracy!
 

Tom

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It's a Coopers Hawk diving my feeders...you were right on that Tom...now...how do I make him go away...
Hmmm... If there is prey, there will be predators. Its a federal crime to mess with wild raptors too... You might try placing some of those plastic owls around. Predators don't like larger predators.
 

Tom

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We've finished our first hunting season together. Here is the final tally:
83 cottontails
25 jacks
5 ground squirrels
1 lizard
1 quail

It was an amazing first season for these boys. So many close calls, so many near misses, triumphs, victories, defeats, so much learning both for me and for them, and full time non-stop adventure. They will be a year old next month, and they'll be fat and happy by then. We're moving on to the next chapter of their lives that will establish an annual pattern. Hunt daily and hard for the entire hunting season, and then take the hot summer months off to molt, recover, heal and relax. We left A LOT of rabbits in those fields. It seems like we caught so many when its all tallied up, but those numbers are from dozens of hunting fields, totaling hundreds of acres, spread out all over Southern CA, and we missed at least 20-30 for every one that we caught. I hope the rabbits also have a good off season with an abundance of food and shelter. We'll look for them again next season!

I was trying to take a photo of Rick sitting on a dirt berm, and Morty photo bombed us:
IMG_1338.JPG
 

Viola B

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Don't you just love to watch those beautiful birds fly. Their wings are beautiful to watch glide through the air, catching the wind, going this way and that.
 

Tom

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Don't you just love to watch those beautiful birds fly. Their wings are beautiful to watch glide through the air, catching the wind, going this way and that.
Their maneuverability is truly amazing. They can change direction instantaneously in mid air, and the acceleration when they dive is scary. It is a privilege and a thrill to watch them fly and hunt.
 

Tom

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Tom, you will keep these two forever now and no releasing after the season?
If so, why didnt you keep the others?
The other birds were all wild caught passage red tail hawks. They were raised by their parents in the wild and learned to fend for themselves for months before I trapped them for falconry. This being the case, they already know their area, and have all the necessary survival skills to make it out there. They wouldn't have survived to the fall trapping season if they were unfit or unlucky in any way. "Passage" meaning they hatch in the same spring of the year we trap them. Meaning Minerva hatched spring of 2016, and I trapped her in Fall of 2016. After their first year, they molt into the adult plumage with the red tail and tan breast, and these are called "haggard" birds in falconry terms. We only trap passage birds, never hags. The only time someone would be doing falconry with a haggard redtail would be if they had trapped it as a passage and kept it for more than one hunting season, like I did with Minerva.

This experience of doing an apprenticeship and being licensed to catch and train wild juvenile raptors is pretty unique to America, and we are so much the better for it. Its not allowed in most other countries. It benefits both the individual bird AND the species over the long term in more ways than can be counted. We are allowed to keep them if we want to, but most people prefer the experience of rescuing and working with new birds on a regular basis. Most of the wild redtails that are trapped for falconry would have died if left alone out in the wild, so it truly is a rescue situation. According to my avian vet, Minerva would have died from the coccidia that she was carrying had I not trapped her and brought into captivity. She also had three types of ecto parasites and two types of endo parasites. My first bird, Toothless, DID die from the Aspergillosis that he had contracted from living wild. There was nothing we could do to save him. The little male, "Chicken", that I trapped before Tacoma died from eating a poisoned rodent. If I had just trapped him a day or two earlier, he'd still be alive, living wild again, and free of parasites and disease.

By contrast, Rick and Morty are captive bred birds. Their parents were raised and trained by a master falconer that lives two hours to the south of me. He hunted with mom and dad every year and then put them up for the molt and breeding. Rick and Morty and their two brothers hatched in spring of 2019, and were "chamber raised" by their parents in a large flight cage for the first four months before I drove down to pick them up. They had never hunted or learned the ways of the wild, and so they can never be released to the wild. I taught them everything that their parents and the elements of the wild would have taught them. I will keep them forever, or if something changes, I must transfer them to another licensed falconer. I don't plan on them dying and I don't plan on transferring them. Hopefully, we will have many happy years of hunting together.
 

wellington

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The other birds were all wild caught passage red tail hawks. They were raised by their parents in the wild and learned to fend for themselves for months before I trapped them for falconry. This being the case, they already know their area, and have all the necessary survival skills to make it out there. They wouldn't have survived to the fall trapping season if they were unfit or unlucky in any way. "Passage" meaning they hatch in the same spring of the year we trap them. Meaning Minerva hatched spring of 2016, and I trapped her in Fall of 2016. After their first year, they molt into the adult plumage with the red tail and tan breast, and these are called "haggard" birds in falconry terms. We only trap passage birds, never hags. The only time someone would be doing falconry with a haggard redtail would be if they had trapped it as a passage and kept it for more than one hunting season, like I did with Minerva.

This experience of doing an apprenticeship and being licensed to catch and train wild juvenile raptors is pretty unique to America, and we are so much the better for it. Its not allowed in most other countries. It benefits both the individual bird AND the species over the long term in more ways than can be counted. We are allowed to keep them if we want to, but most people prefer the experience of rescuing and working with new birds on a regular basis. Most of the wild redtails that are trapped for falconry would have died if left alone out in the wild, so it truly is a rescue situation. According to my avian vet, Minerva would have died from the coccidia that she was carrying had I not trapped her and brought into captivity. She also had three types of ecto parasites and two types of endo parasites. My first bird, Toothless, DID die from the Aspergillosis that he had contracted from living wild. There was nothing we could do to save him. The little male, "Chicken", that I trapped before Tacoma died from eating a poisoned rodent. If I had just trapped him a day or two earlier, he'd still be alive, living wild again, and free of parasites and disease.

By contrast, Rick and Morty are captive bred birds. Their parents were raised and trained by a master falconer that lives two hours to the south of me. He hunted with mom and dad every year and then put them up for the molt and breeding. Rick and Morty and their two brothers hatched in spring of 2019, and were "chamber raised" by their parents in a large flight cage for the first four months before I drove down to pick them up. They had never hunted or learned the ways of the wild, and so they can never be released to the wild. I taught them everything that their parents and the elements of the wild would have taught them. I will keep them forever, or if something changes, I must transfer them to another licensed falconer. I don't plan on them dying and I don't plan on transferring them. Hopefully, we will have many happy years of hunting together.
Interesting.
Will you still trap or is that now to dangerous too bring the wild within close care of your hand raised and obvious healthier ones?
Would never have thought that so many wilds would be so unhealthy and live such shorter lives. Very sad.
 

Tom

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Interesting.
Will you still trap or is that now to dangerous too bring the wild within close care of your hand raised and obvious healthier ones?
Would never have thought that so many wilds would be so unhealthy and live such shorter lives. Very sad.
95 out of 100 don't make it to their first birthday. Of the ones the do make it, most of them are hanging on by a thread. It is sad, and its one of the reasons I am okay with reasonable, sustainable numbers of some reptile species being taken from the wild for the pet trade. Life in the wild has been romanticized of late, but in reality it is a very very hard road for any animal.

It takes a TREMENDOUS amount of time to train, care for, and hunt with these birds. I have no plans to trap any new birds for the foreseeable future because I don't have any more time to devote to another bird. However, I'm really debating getting a kestrel this spring because I can hunt it easily every day without going anywhere. I have game for it on my ranch, at my house, and just about every where I travel each day. I wouldn't have to make any special trips to hunting fields with a little kestrel, although I could also hunt it in the same fields that I hunt Rick and Morty in.
 

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