Friday, December 25, 2009

Falconry Weight Management Ups and Downs; Literally

These past few days I have been getting antsy because I would rather be hunting with my hawk, instead of just waiting for his wait to drop. The key to hunting with birds of prey is proper weight management. There are several trains of thought on this idea, but everyone agrees that weight reduction is key to hunting with your bird of prey. Birds used for falconry like my Passage Red tail Hawk are motivated by food and the drive to hunt. But when they are full, they don't have much desire to do anything except sit there and look into space. When Delta was trapped he was 1020 grams, in order to get him to respond to me I had to drop his weight gradually. Everyday I would weigh him and record his behavior. He didn't respond to me until he lost 120 grams which put him at 900g. It was only then that delta accepted me as his provider and source of food and at this weight he was very keen and making unbelievable progress. This training came to a temporary halt when I had to travel to Oklahoma. I had my wife feed Delta for 3 chicken necks every other day. I figured this would be enough feeding for him to maintain his health and still keep the keen hunting spirit I desired for a hunting hawk. Ohh Boyyyyyyy to the contrary; when I got back Delta was Hog Fat, He was a whopping 1160 grams, that's right ELEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY GRAMS!!!!!!!! I just shook my head. I thought at this weight It will take forever to bring his weight down. He was trapped at 1020g and he had to go all the way down to 900g to even want to eat and now he was 1160g. This was fatter than he was trapped. But something happened over the course of several days that led me to rethink my position on weight loss. Even though Delta was Hog Fat he was still responding to the fist when bigger pieces of meat were presented. Of course I didn't give him the reward of a big hunk of meat, but I did reward him with a tidbit once he came to the fist. So over the course of several days I offered him a mix bag of small tidbits, tirings of fur and feather that can't be digested but will give him that sense of fullness as though he has eaten and washed meat; meat that has been rinsed in cold water over a period of 24 to 48 hrs in order to pull out all of the nutrients so that he can still eat and lose weight. (Maybe this can work for me too) So finally I got Delta back down to his Trap weight which is 1020g and although he is not as keen as he was at 900g he is definitely showing interest, by flying to the fist when called. This leaves me a bit perplexed about weight management because conventional thinking would suggest that he must reach the magic number of 900g in order to respond as his hunting weight. I have a feeling that Mr. Delta may start flying way before the 900g mark. But then again I really don't know, he is still truly a wild hawk I don't know if we will ever share the same relationship as I did with my other hawks. Ours may just be a mutual respect that predators share amongst one another and nothing else. If Delta could talk he would probably say to me " Hey buddy, Don't take this personal, It's just Business."

8 comments:

The Beneficial Bee said...

Fascinating stuff ATW. Delta is a handsome guy. I'm looking forward to seeing more pics of him!

ATW said...

Thanks BB- I took him out yesterday for some training and he did ok, still has to come down in weight. He is a powerful little hawk. I have high expectations for him. When I get Mr stubborn going-eventually-in this lifetime- I will post more about him in action

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Sean said...

I am having an extremely tough time with weight management of my female red tail. Can anyone help me out??

ATW said...

Sean-- can you provide me a little more information? Type of bird? Trap weight? How long have you had her? What class falconers are you? Sponsor? I can get you in the right direction very fast...

Sean said...

Thanks ! Sent you an email with my contact info. Would love to talk.

Sean said...

Hi atw. Never heard from you Did u get my email?

thomen said...

Hi i was just wondering if anyone had good resources on weight management?

I will be receiving a young captive bred barn owl and I wanted to work out how to safely calculate a weight range where I know the safety and health of the bird are not compromised but the bird is responsive. I know for smaller birds a few grams can kill and I was keen to understand how to undertake the process safely