Total Raptor Experience

A Falconry Lesson in 2018

By Courtney Daly-Pavone August 3, 2018

Once upon a time, Falconry referred to using a bird of prey as a tool for catching food for the table. These days Falconers are busy using raptors like Falcons and Hawks for abatement.  Raptors are utilized to prevent seagulls from disrupting aircraft.  They are used in vineyards to keep birds like starlings from eating the grapes, and Raptors are even used to control the rodent population in some neighborhoods, a more environmentally sound choice compared to pesticides.  Raptors play an important ecological role by controlling populations of rodents and other small mammals.

On a personal level, Falcons play a big role in my son's life.  Ever since he saw the film "My Side of The Mountain," which tells the story of a young boy who runs away from his home in the city to live in the mountains by himself and uses a Peregrine Falcon to catch his dinner, my boy has dreamed of having a Falcon as his personal shopper.  Falconry seemed like something fictional to me.  I had to see it to believe it.  So on an early summer morning, my family enrolled in a class at Total Raptor Experience: Falconry School | San Diego. The name summed it up, we were going to learn everything there is to know about raptors. Little did we know it was going to be better than a Hollywood production!

The classes are held at Torrey Pines Gliderport once used by Charles Lindbergh and his wife to fly sailplanes (gliders) over Torrey Pines in the early 1920’s. Our instructors Master Falconer Terry Lockwood and Falconer David Metzgar introduced us to a Harris Hawk.  After donning long sleeved gloves and forming a circle the bird flew from one person in the group to the next eating quail meat that was smeared on each participants glove.  It was incredible to see this bird that eats other birds seem so comfortable around people.  The instructors gave the group a general lesson on handling Falcons and some background information. 

It was awe-inspiring to see the birds up close and make eye contact with them, they were gorgeous from head to talon, but the best was for last.  A Lanner Falcon elegantly named Sophie won everyone's heart.  Not only was she exquisite, but we had the chance to see her soar above Torrey Pines Glider Park with the Pacific Ocean beneath her, she extended her wings and just glided barely flapping.  It distinguished her from the Seagulls that flew nearby.  We watched Sophie swoop down to eat June Bugs, and then return to the group where she flew to every participant.  It was an animal encounter we will never forget. 


I always say that children need animal connections to realize their important role in the environment.  It might be surprising to say that we bonded with raptors, but I believe we did.  It was a day we will never forget.  The birds didn't bring us dinner, but they gave us so much more.

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