Archive for the ‘Falconry’ Tag


Wicker Bill And Friend

Swooping down, Bronte captures her prey in the air above the grasslands nearPierre,South Dakota.  Bronte is a young Anatum peregrine falcon from theNorthwest Territories.  She is the hunting partner of Bruce Crist.  Crist and his English pointer find the quarry and it is up to Bronte to capture it.

I was recently reminded of the day I spent with Crist and his partner on the grasslands of South Dakota near Pierre.  I was fishing near home and saw an osprey dive and recover a fish from the lake.  As the bird rose, it turned the fish so that its head was forward allowing a more streamlined flight.  The raptors are a fascinating bird and that day in the open inSouth Dakotaremains vivid in my mind.

Crist, a taxidermist and guide fromPierre, spends countless hours working with and caring for the bird.  His car has the rear seat removed and perches installed to carry his falcons.  Where Bruce travels, so do his birds.  At home, he has been known to keep the birds in the studio or his bedroom.

At present, on that day he had Bronte and a Gyr‑peregrine hybrid called Cyrus.  Cyrus was conceived using artificial insemination in a Minnesota program.  He likes falcons due to their tendency to fly high and swoop down on their prey as speeds from 160 to 200 miles per hour.

Falconers must first apprentice to a master for many years.  Crist apprenticed to four great falconers prior to becoming a master himself.  He will take on an apprentice at some time in the future to help ensure the future of the sport.

Falconers get their birds from one of three sources:  capture in the wild, raised from eggs, or purchased from a breeder.  The sport is heavily regulated by state and national governmental organizations.  The purpose is to ensure the health of the birds.  Pesticides are the greatest enemy of the falcon and hawks.  Approximately 60 percent of captive reared birds test positive for some pesticides and 100 percent of wild birds.

The sport requires considerable time commitment on the part of the falconer.  Only the falconer can feed and exercise the birds.  The exercise, or conditioning, of the birds is vital.  They must be flown regularly to maintain good strong muscles.  Crist spends three to four hours per day training his birds so that he can then hunt them three to seven hours per day.

Watching these magnificent birds do what comes naturally was an inspiring experience.

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