Falconry (or hawking) is the art of rearing, training and using birds of prey, like falcons, hawks and eagles. Falconers were commonly in the employ of major households, but falconry was seen as a sport or recreational activity in a similar way to hunting. Period art displays the lords and ladies walking and riding with a bird on their glove. The bird would be released to hunt for other birds or small animals to the joy of the nobility, but it was the falconer's job to look after and train the raptor. The chief falconer was a respected position within the household. Birds were given as gifts between royalty and prey was bred to hunt with.
Falconry was widespread across Europe and the Middle East. There are some claims that it was introduced during the Crusades, but there are early references to it by writers like Aristotle and the Romans certainly had falconers. In Japan, Takagari was practised by the nobility and the military.
Writings on falconry
Those familiar with the modern novel "Kes" or "Kestrel for a Knave" by Barry Hines may remember the poem that ranked the birds of prey according to the rank of those who used them. The poem was found in the Boke of St Albans (1486). However, the ranking is more a reflection of reality than a set of rules. Falconry was expensive. Some of the large birds are rarer, harder to get eggs of and harder to train. Accordingly, it was the greater nobility who were able to use these birds for falconry.
- 'An Eagle for an Emperor, a Gyrfalcon for a King:
- a Peregrine for a Prince, & a Saker for a Knight,
- a Merlin for a lady, a Goshawk for a Yeoman,
- a Sparrowhawk for a Priest, & a Kestrel for a Knave.'
The full list of the falconry Laws of Ownership from the book is:
- King: Gyr Falcon (male & female)
- Prince: Peregrine Falcon
- Duke: Rock Falcon (subspecies of Peregrine)
- Earl: Tiercel Peregrine Falcon (male)
- Baron: Bastarde Hawk (is this a buzzard?)
- Knight: Saker
- Squire: Lanner
- Lady: Female Merlin
- Yeoman: Goshawk or Hobby
- Priest: Female Sparrowhawk
- Holy water Clerk: Male Sparrowhawk
- Knaves, servants, children: Kestrel
According to William Gryndall in his book Hawking, Hunting, Fouling and Fishing (1596), the appropriate bird for ones station is as follows:
- These Hawkes belong to an Emperour, and these be their names: An Eagle, a Bautere, a Melion: The simplest of these three will flea a Calfe, a Fawne, a Roe, a Kid, a Crane, a Bustards, a Stroke, a Swanne, or a Foxe on the plaine ground: and these are not in lure nor reclaimed, because they be so ponderous to the Perch protatife: and these three by their nature belongs to an Emperour.
- These Haukes belong to a King
- A Gerfaulcon, a Tercell of a Gerfaulcon, are due to a King.
- For a Prince.
- There is a Faulcon gentle, and a Tercell gentle, and these be for a Prince.
- For a Duke.
- There is a Faulcon of the Rocke, and that is for a Duke.
- For an Earle.
- There is the Faulcon Peregrine, and that is for an Earle.
- For a Baron.
- There is the basterd and that is for a Baron.
- Haukes for a Knight.
- There is a Sacre and a Sacret, and those be for a Knight.
- Haukes for a Squier.
- There is a Lauer and a Laueret, and those be for a Squier.
- For a Lady.
- There is a Merlion, and that Hawke is for a Lady.
- An Hauke for a young man.
- There is the Hobbie, and that is for a young man.
- And these bee Hawkes of the Tower, and be both lured and reclaimed.
Edmund Bert said in his "Treatise of Hawks and Hawking" (1619)
- "Whatsoever he be that undertaketh this profession I will wish him an able body, a quicke and most of all an earnest love and delight thereunto; to such a man a hawke will quickly teach knowledge, but of him that wanteth wit she will make a foole, and of a dull spirit a true pack-horse."
Falconry in the SCA
Falconry is not commonly seen in the SCA. The Society does not have any laws relating to this craft which is not surprising due to the wide range of mundane laws that may be found. For instance, in Australia the native birds are all protected by federal laws but it is the states who manage their use and keeping. In the state of Victoria, falconry is only allowed for the purposes of education and rehabilitation by licensed wildlife officers, so it is rarely seen outside of wildlife centres. Other countries, like the United Kingdom, do allow amateur falconers and falconry clubs.
- Relevant modern European legislation, laws and forms
- More Danish regulations
- US regulations: