I recently went to a falconry experience day with my partner, as it’s something he’s always wanted to try. As someone who has studied the pros and cons of animal captivity, I was feeling slightly apprehensive about what lay ahead. What would the enclosures be like? Where were the birds from? How are they being treated? Are they exhibiting signs of stress/boredom?
However, my fears rapidly dissipated. We quickly discovered that the majority of the birds at the centre we visited had in fact been rescued; whether from zoos that had been shut down, or from people’s homes where they’d been neglected. They had a beautiful snowy owl; Harry Potter fans flocked to purchase these majestic creatures, not realising that they can be somewhat hostile and live for up to 40 years.
This immediately made me feel more at ease, as these birds wouldn’t be alive if they hadn’t been rescued, and I could quickly see that the education they provide outweighs the implications involved; the centre often visit schools to raise awareness, which in my opinion, is well worth doing.
Furthermore, the birds which were able to exhibit natural behaviours were allowed to do so. Many of them were free flying, and one even went hunting and caught a mouse! The enclosures were also of acceptable size, and birds which may have been stressed by their neighbours were considered carefully. The handler clearly loves his birds and has dedicated his life to falconry and ensuring that the birds have the best quality of life achievable.
The day itself was engaging, and allowed us to learn the best ways of behaving around the birds to keep them at ease. There was a maximum of 6 people per day, making it an intimate learning experience as well as minimising stress to the birds.
Everyone left knowing more about birds of prey, and my partner will no doubt admire red kites and buzzards with me more now that he’s experienced them close up. I’m sure that not all bird of prey centres have welfare as good as the one we visited, so I definitely think it’s important to be careful when booking these experiences!