Falconry Equipment: What's Used and Why
Despite the sports extremely high difficulty level, falconry equipment is fairly simple and all has a clear purpose. Although the small details are important, its easy to understand each bit of equipment and its role in the hunt. I'm going to try and make it as simple as possible and explain what each part does without going into the level of detail most people do. Its just not needed because the equipment can be so varied it blows your mind!
Properly the most iconic bit of equipment in the sport, the hood is extremely important in the early training of any bird. While the trainer is getting the bird used to being handled and trusting humans (or the Manning stage), the hood is used to stop the bird from panicking or just flying away. By covering the eyes the bird would be unable to live in the wild and it removes the temptation of freedom. It also calms the bird because it blinds the animal and removes the immediate fear of seeing a human.
The hoods are all carefully hand made in different shapes and ways to fit the different species and to suit the hunters needs. Falcon hoods are made from strong leather like kangaroo and are very carefully made to best suit the birds head.
Another key piece of falconry equipment, the glove is about as important as it gets. Falconry means using raptors to hunt with their claws, so only a fool would let one land on their bare hand. And because the sport depends on the bird landing on their handlers hand or arm it has to be right.
We call them gloves but they are more like gauntlets, normally covering the wrist and some of the forearm with a huge amount of padding. For larger birds the glove can go past the elbow and some even cover the shoulder. Well you wouldn’t want a eagles claw to dig into you.
Normally made from strong leathers, the gloves take a lot of abuse and can became the most expensive piece of falconry equipment because of the need to keep replacing it. The important of using the right sized glove can not be stressed enough as it is used to control the bird almost entirely.
The jesses are strips tied just above the birds feet. They are used to hold the bird to the glove (like in the photo showing the gloves) and for attaching to a creance (see below). There are many types of jesses used, most are made from leather but some are made of strong rubber to allow a little give.
Many people think using jesses can be cruel as they weight down the bird and restrict its movements. But they are very light and must be very hard for the bird to notice. Some people think the singular of jesses is a jesse, but it is in fact a jess. A great bit of near useless information there for you.
A creance is a long line that is used during the very early training of birds. It is tied to the birds jesses and is held in the owners hand. It is normally wrapped around a spindle so the hawker can let more line off and allow the bird a little more freedom. The spindle part is normally weighted to stop the bird flying if the handler drops it.
The Creance is used to ensure the bird doesn’t fly away while its being trained to fly from a perch to the glove. Which is a really important stage as it teaches the bird to work with its owner and that flying back earns it food.
Bells, Identity tags and Trackers
To help find lost birds (or to help track down the owner), birds are equipped with a few things. The most simple being bells on the feet so the bird can be heard and therefore easier to find. A much more modern solution is a telemetry transmitter. It works a lot like a ferret finder. A small portable device receives a signal from the tracker and gets stronger as it gets closer. Some modern trackers are very high tech and show the distance.
An identity tag is a 100% must have for any bird. A small band on the birds foot can be the only thing the means a bird is returned and there is no reason to not use one! There is no reason to buy all the other falconry equipment and miss this.
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