By Shawn Hayes
Hacking falcons is a practice that was developed by falconers. It was intended to be used as a method of reintroducing the peregrine falcon back in to the wild. In the Elizabethan era falconers placed young falcons in a wagon or “hack” and took them to the top of a hill. They fed them daily and the falcons could come and go as they pleased. Over several weeks the young birds developed muscle tone, flying and hunting abilities. Once they were able to capture birds on their own they were trapped and used for falconry.
The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group and others adopted the falconers hacking technique and it was used to help re-introduce the once endangered peregrine falcon back in to the wild.
The hack box is designed to simulate a falcon’s eyrie (nest). The hack box can be placed on a cliff ledge and in some cases a hack tower can be built to be placed in the foothills or an open meadow. Gravel is placed on the bottom of the box. The box has bars on the front to protect them from predators like raccoons, martins, and cats. There is a food chute placed in the back of the box so the attendant can covertly drop food to the falcons.
The falcons are placed in the box at about 4-5 weeks old for about a week. At 6-7 weeks old the young are usually ready to fly. At this time the bars are removed and the box is opened allowing the young falcons to fledge, or fly, for the first time. The falcons are closely observed during daylight hours and continue to be fed. Once fledged, the falcons do something which is called sibling flights. They chase each other and play in flight which helps them to develop skills that they will soon use for hunting. Once the falcons start showing signs of independence and start catching food for themselves they are re-captured and used for falconry.
Here’s a video of Shawn and his falconry