Monday, August 10, 2009

Weight watchers

One of the most common questions I get about the hawks is "how do you get them to come back?"

It is pretty simple really. Like most animals, hawks respond well to food, and training a hawk is mostly about weight control. If you are told that the birds are starved, that is simply misinformation and would be counterproductive to the aim of falconry.

Falconry is an active sport. The main goal is to have the bird catch prey. An underweight bird cannot fly at its strongest.

When I was in high school I was a wrestler. We had to occasionally cut weight for a match. there were always those who tried to cut too much weight in too short of a time, and their performance suffered. The aim in wrestling is to be at a weight where the athletes strength is maximized with as little excess body fat as possible. You want a wrestler to be lean and strong, just like most athletes.

Hawks are the same way. You want the bird to be strong and lean. Just like a runner never does as well when he feels fat and lethargic, the hawks are the same. They need to be motivated to get of the perch and move.

Over the summer, the hawks gain weight and grow their new feathers. Yesterday, I noticed that Gonzo's anklet was riding high, and on closer inspection, I realized that it was rubbing his leg funny, requiring a bit of doctoring.

We brought him in the kitchen and sanitized the raw spot. I'm putting on a small dose of Betryl to make sure the raw spot doesn't get infected. It should heal just fine.

While I had him out I weighed him. He's at 760 grams. He will start hunting this season at around 630 grams. In about a week, I'm going to start trimming his weight by dropping a bit of his daily food ration and weighing him regularly. With the temperatures still being hot, he will lose weight very slowly, but that is the right way to drop weight.

Additionally, I need to start bringing the birds together with Gordon, hopefully, they will mesh into a great hunting team. I'll keep you posted.

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