Tourists Experience the Ancient Sport of Falconry

15 June, 2018

Falconry is an old tradition in many parts of the world, including Western Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. Now, it is becoming a tourist activity at hotels and other places in the United States, from Vermont to Colorado to California.

The ancient sport of using birds of prey to hunt wild animals has existed for at least 4,000 years. Experiences designed for the tourism industry do not usually involve hunting. They center on the flight of the birds and their return to their human trainers.

During a demonstration for visitors to the Woodstock Inn in Vermont, a professional falconer teaches about birds of prey and the history of falconry. He also flies a trained Harris's hawk. Then, he helps interested observers fly the hawk themselves.

Bouchaine Vineyards in California started using falconers in 2016 to stop birds from eating their crops. Vineyard visitors were pleased to see the hawks fly and work with their trainer. So, the company decided to offer guests that experience as part of a wine-tasting and lunch.

"It's amazing to showcase the birds, and to be able to actually hold a glove out and have a falcon land on your hand," said employee Chris Kajani. He said the falconry program also gives the vineyard good publicity.

In this May 16, 2018, photo, a Harris's hawk spreads its wings while perched on the hand of falconer Jessica Snyder at New England Falconry in Woodstock, Vt.
In this May 16, 2018, photo, a Harris's hawk spreads its wings while perched on the hand of falconer Jessica Snyder at New England Falconry in Woodstock, Vt.

At New England Falconry in Vermont recently, a young Harris's hawk named Audubon launched from a high place. He flew through the wind, over a grassy field, straight to falconer Jessica Snyder's hand. She then treated the 1-year-old hawk to a piece of meat.

"He has fun out here," she said. She also noted that the bird "has about 10 times the sight ability of an average human."

The Harris's hawk has brown feathers and yellow legs with long black talons. Its strong eyesight enables it to spot prey on the ground below. The Harris's hawk, which hunts in groups, is considered the most social bird of prey. However, each has its own personality, Snyder said. Falconers attach an electronic device to their birds so they can be found if they do not return from a flight.

Growth in the use of hunting guns almost ended falconry, which arrived in the U.S. in the early 1900s. Sheldon Nicolle, president of the North American Falconers Association, said it is generally an activity of wealthy people. But, Nicolle said there are now 20 or 30 places to enjoy falconry experiences in the U.S.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

falconry- n. the sport of hunting with hawks

tourist – n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure

prey – n. an animal that is hunted or killed by another animal for food

vineyardn. a field where grapes are grown

gloven. a covering for the hand that has separate parts for each finger

hawkn. a kind of bird that kills other birds and animals for food

platformn. a flat surface that is raised higher than the floor or ground

feathern. one of the light growths that make up the outer covering of the body of a bird

talonn. one of the sharp claws on the feet of some birds

antenna – n. a device (such as a wire or a metal rod) for sending or receiving radio or television signals