Falcons for Hire

01/01/2009 02:00:00 AM

Christian also has seen interest from apple growers, particularly growers of the newer honeycrisp variety. And in the spring of 2007, he spoke to a group of blueberry growers in Florida who were considering falconry.

So you want to hire a falconer...

If you grow any number of delicate crops that often become lunch or dinner for birds seeking sweet treats, you might want to give a falconer a call. But how? And what do you need to know about using falcons?

First you need to find someone who has birds and is trained in using them for bird abatement. Ottoway says there are 342 active falconer permits in Florida, but that doesn’t mean they all are actively flying birds or have valid permits any longer. However, there are 64 active members in the Florida Hawking Fraternity, which also is affiliated with the North American Falconers Association. A person can be a general falconer or a master falconer. To become a master falconer, one has to obtain a sponsor, be an apprentice for two years, and then spend five years as a general falconer. Christian has been a master falconer for 10 years, and his sponsor has been working with falcons since the 1960s.

Growers can contract with an individual falconer or with a company who places falconers on the job. Growers also could contact the Florida Hawking Fraternity to be put in touch with falconers who can work in agriculture.

Christian says most falconers who would work in the industry have their own birds. In December when he was working in New York for a company who handles commercial accounts, he was using nine falcons, some of which he owned. To protect fruit crops, he says it usually requires flying the birds many times for a short period of time. One falcon can cover anywhere from 20 to 100 acres but it depends on how many times the birds need to fly before a falconer can determine how many falcons he will need for the job.

“I had one bird capable of flying 20 times a day so I didn’t need very much backup for him. Most birds only fly two to three times a day though. If you need 20 flights a day to keep the birds away, you will need more. Most people who do this have five to 10 birds to do a contract,” Christian says.

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