[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: With ancient roots in Mesopotamia and Central Asia, falconry also finds impassioned practitioners in North America. At an April 2014 talk at Mann Library, writer, wildlife photographer, and falconer Timothy Gallagher presents a history of this art, touching in particular on its current practice in the US. Currently editor-in-chief of Living Bird, the flagship publication of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Gallagher has had a lifelong interest in wilderness exploration in falcons.
This talk was presented in conjunction with Mann's April 2014 exhibit, An Extreme Stir Up of Passions-- Falconry at Cornell and Beyond, which put a spotlight on ancient, yet still vibrant world of falconry with gorgeous photography, fascinating artifacts, and items from Cornell University Library's extensive falconry collection.
TIMOTHY GALLAGHER: It's great to be back here at Mann Library. I've spent a lot of time here doing research here in the Olin Library, so it feels like home. And I've given a couple of talks here before. So an ancient sport lives on in America. I don't usually read what's on a-- I don't usually like it when people read stuff from PowerPoint, but I'm going to read some of these quotes when they come up, just for the video people.
This is Roger Tory Peterson. "Man has emerged from the shadows of antiquity with a peregrine on his wrist. Its dispassionate brown eyes, more than any other bird, have been witness to the struggle for civilization from the squalid tents on the steppes of Asia thousands of years ago to the marbled halls of European kings in the 17th century."
I particularly like this quote, because it's from Roger Tory Peterson, one of the most famous birders who ever lived. And I think often with a lot of birders, there's a knee-jerk reaction against falconry. And it's been weird for me, because I've been a lifelong birder and a lifelong falconer.
So I've got this weird schizophrenic thing. So I really-- I try to tell people we're actually really good for the birds. We care about raptors, and we care about their conservation. And we've done a lot to help them over the years. And I hope by the end of this talk, you'll see all we've done.
I also wanted to have a local connection here. Because Cornell, and Ithaca, and New York in general-- a lot of falconry has gone over here over the years. And there's been a lot of influential people and Louis Agassiz Fuertes in particular. He was like John James Audubon.
He was the John James Audubon of the late 19th and early 20th century, only he took it a step higher. I mean, his birds really came to life. Audubon's tended to be kind of stiff. But he was a lifelong resident of Ithaca. And his father was a Cornell professor.
And at the Lab of Ornithology, we've got one of the best Fuertes' collections in the world. We've got his stuff all over the Fuertes Room-- these paintings he did. So it's wonderful to have. And here's a picture of him with a juvenile peregrine falcon.
Now, when I started in falconry at the age of 12, there was very little written-- very little things you could get your hands on to read about falconry. And one of the first things I found was this article that Fuertes wrote for National Geographic in 1920. And he just-- it was very long and detailed.
He talks all about the history of the sport, did all these beautiful paintings. And here you'll see he sketched out all the equipment-- the hoods that people have been using for a thousand years to keep their birds calm and the bells to find the birds-- and both to find the birds in the field when they're in a kill.
And also, so that you hear where they are when they're flying around above them and a lure, which is like a leather pouch with wings on it or meat that you swing around your head.
And you can call a bird in. Or in the case of falcons, you can have them dive back and forth. And it's called stooping to the lure. And he also described basically the two types of birds that people flew traditionally in Europe. The true falcons are called long wings.
They have long, tapered wings. And then there are short wings, which are goshawks. And goshawks and European sparrow hawks. They're like our Cooper's hawks, goshawks, and sharp-shins here. And they are flown from the fist and called back to the fist, whereas falcons have a more aerial style, which I'll show you.
And this is a painting he did. This is in Scotland. People-- falconers hunting red grouse, which they've been doing for a couple of centuries there. And it's a waiting-on flight. That is, they let the birds go. And they circle high above the falconer. Sometimes they're well over 1,000 feet.
They're disappearing in and out of the cumulus clouds. But they're just focused on the falconer, knowing that he will flush the game. And I've been to Scotland and gone hawking with a few different groups of falconers there. And they still do it much the same way they were doing it a couple hundred years ago or even longer.
This is called a cadge-- what the birds are on. And they're something you carry on your shoulders with birds perched on it. And of course, in America we're more likely-- we might have a cadge, but it's something you keep in the car or drive out to the field to fly. But in Scotland, you've got these vast moors, and there's no roads on it.
It might be 40 or 50,000 acres. And basically, these wealthy people lease the whole place and use it for their hawking. But you just walk miles up and down these things, carrying these hawks. And when a dog finally goes on point, you stop, take your equipment off the bird, undo his swivel and leash, and put telemetry on it, and then release it.
So it'll go circling up high above you. And when it's up really high, you flush the grouse. And they come flying out under the bird. And then they turn over into a power dive called a stoop. And sometimes it's really extreme where they just do like a mummy tuck and come down.
And I've seen it where birds are-- it's almost like a meteor. It doesn't even look like a bird. And you can hear the wind blowing through their feathers and making this humming noise. And if they connect on the prey like that, it sounds like a Major League Baseball player hitting a home run.
It just-- crack. And the thing will just fall dead. Or the bird will swoop up and go down on the bird and bite its neck. They've got like a serrated edge on their bill, and it just kills the prey instantly. Of course, I don't want to make it seem like the game doesn't have a chance. Because it's maybe only one 1 of 10 flights you actually kill the thing.
But it's not about catching a lot of game. It's about the style of flight and the beauty of it. And here he is picking the bird up off the kill. A lot of people think that the birds retrieve to you, but they don't. They actually-- you have to find them on a kill.
And that's where somewhere you can lose them. They'll be off somewhere and fill up. And really those bells-- you can only hear them for 100 yards, couple of hundred yards maybe. And now, most of us use telemetry, which is good for like a mile on the ground and several miles when they're up in the air.
And to me, it's like a high-tech bell. And the waiting-on flight is what I do mostly. This is actually a picture of me in the 1970s with a peregrine I had in Colorado when I had more hair and it was darker. And this is a bird I flew here MacDuff. I flew him for 14 years around the Ithaca area.
And I was mostly hunting at ducks. So I didn't need to have a pointing dog. I just had a flushing dog to help me. And it was basically drive all over, checking ponds before dawn or just barely after dawn. And I was always-- with falcons, you're always checking the weather report, seeing the wind direction, and the intensity of wind, and the visibility.
If it's foggy or not. So it's very involved, but he did do pretty well. And there's another kind of flying you can do with falcons called a ringing flight. And that was really popular several hundred years ago when there were more wide open spaces like in Britain and Europe. And they'd usually be on horseback.
And they'd release-- they'd flush something. Or they'd see-- in heron hawking, they see herons flying by high overhead and they'd release their birds. And right away it would become a battle for altitude with-- and they'd both be circling, sometimes not even looking at each other, just the falcon trying as best as it could to get above the heron.
And these flights would go for miles. And these guys would be galloping full out to keep up with the flight. But in the late 18th century, someone invented barbed wire. And it just made the whole thing very dangerous looking up, galloping full speed, looking up at a bird.
So that kind of killed a lot of the ringing flights, except for Major Hawkins Fisher. He really got into flying long wings at crows and rooks in Northern England. And there were also people doing that down in the Salisbury Plain in England. And there's one person who's still doing that-- Nick Fox.
And I spent some time with him several years ago and went out hawking. So it was all on horseback. And he was going after crows. And he was just like a general or something. He'd tell people what to do. If the crows go over my head-- those trees-- I want you to go over there and head them off.
And it'd be five miles away, and you'd have to gallop over there. And I'd finally-- we'd see a flock of crows on a distant hillside, and he'd let the bird go. And it would just take 10 or 15 minutes of flying with the crows just circling up and the falcons trying to get higher. And then all the action began.
And it's funny. This one in particular-- after chasing that crow for about 20 minutes, and out flying it, and chasing it down to the ground, the crow escaped. The bird just grabbed at it and lost all its momentum. And that's what happens. That's part of the game. But it was very spectacular-- the whole thing.
I mean, people galloping along, and falling in muddy ditches, and getting unhorsed. This is actually another kind of ringing flight people did traditionally-- was with merlins. Merlin is a real small falcon. It's almost as small as a kestrel. And they were-- in the Middle Ages, they were considered the lady's hawk.
These aristocratic noble women would fly these birds. And they'd fly them at skylarks. And it was just like miniature heron hawking. And it's a really beautiful sport. So this is when I was about 19. And I finally got my first merlin. I'd always wanted one. And so I was even hairier then.
But over here, we don't have skylarks. So I was trying to find other kinds of prey. And this was in the early-- this was about 1970. And I really wanted to see. That's one thing about America. We have different kinds of prey to fly at. So we're kind of breaking new ground here all the time.
And I started flying them at cowbirds. There was a big pepper patch that had cowbirds feeding. And it was pretty open, except for the place where the peppers were growing. And these flocks of them would take off. And my bird had just chased them up into the sky, until usually one or two would panic and go dropping down.
And then the bird would go stooping after it. And I flew at starlings. So there's a lot of stuff. Birds that were considered pests anyway, so it was good. And so I kind of was the first person to do a lot of that. And I also started doing waiting-on flights with merlins that people hadn't done before.
And that worked well, too. Here's another Fuertes painting of goshawks. And as I said, this is a bird that you fly, usually fly to the fist. You call it. If it misses prey, you whistle and call it back to your fist. And you fly it from the fist at rabbits and pheasants that flush or things like that.
They're very versatile. They take a lot of different prey-- ducks that you flush along a channel or something. And some people will fly them, let them go up into a tree and go from tree to tree. So these were the birds that people in Europe had to work with. But here, yet another picture when I was about 14.
But here we've got the red-tailed hawk, which is something. They didn't have anything really comparable in Europe. They had the common buzzard in England, which is a Buteo, similar kind of hawk. But they're really just mousers, and they're not aggressive like-- red tails are really good game hawks.
They take a wide range of game-- cottontails, and jack rabbits, and snowshoe hare, and squirrels. A lot of people in New York hunt them at squirrels. And this is what-- and another one they have-- and this is Abby, who did a lot of the work on this project and who-- most of the-- about half are-- more of the pictures are hers.
This is a Harris hawk, which is a Southwestern bird. And it has proven to be so great for falconry. I mean, they train quickly. They're really excellent hunters. They'll even catch birds. I mean, people catch quail with them out West and things like that and jack rabbits, whatever.
And they've just taken over the world. I mean, you can go over to Britain or Europe, and they'll be people flying Harris hawks. And this is a bird like from West Texas, Arizona, and down in New Mexico. It's very much a New World bird. So anyway, those are the birds that we fly now.
But I thought I'd go back in the past a little bit to see, where did falconry come from? Peterson mentioned about it dating back to the steppes of Asia. And it probably does. It's probably an eagle. This is a petroglyph. And the person appears to have a very large bird on his hand.
And this is probably some of the earliest people that were flying these birds. And they're still doing it in the same way-- those eagle trainers. They'll catch these birds and keep them for several years. And they live right with them in their yurts. And they'll even share their tea with them and everything.
And they catch foxes, and hare, and things like that. But people have been fascinated with birds of prey for millennia. I don't think the Egyptians ever flew them, but they worshipped them. I mean, Horus the god is a falcon. And they find many of these in tombs in Egypt. I think this was probably a lanner falcon.
This is one of the earliest quotes I found, someone who was really describing something as falconry. People are going out, putting bird falcons or hawks up and beating the brush, flushing game. And the hawks are coming down and attacking them. And he goes on to say they would share the food with the birds they caught.
And this is Aristotle. And I found a similar account by Pliny the Elder, the Roman. Now, the Greeks and the Romans really didn't fly. There's no tradition of falconry with them. But they witnessed it in Thrace, which is now Bulgaria. That's sort of in the Balkans.
And so there was certainly in places like that and in the Indian subcontinent. And the Arabs started very early in it too and became masters of it. And a lot of what happened with the Arabs came back to Europe during the Crusades. This is the earliest evidence of falconry I found in Britain. It's Bewcastle Cross.
And it was like in the sixth or seventh century that they estimate. And it seems the first is obviously holding a bird of prey in their fist. And this in Northern England, not far from the Roman wall-- Hadrian's Wall. And I've actually gone hawking within about five miles of there.
But falconry is as we know it really began in the Middle Ages, I think, where you can look at this. This is from Frederick II's book, De Arte Venandi cum Avibus, on the art of hunting with birds. And they're hooding the birds. And this is a tome. I mean, it's huge.
And the interesting thing to me about this was when I was a kid and I couldn't find-- I found a couple of National Geographic articles and that was it. But then I found in the library-- they had a translation of his book, translated in the 1940s. And I thought, geez. I checked it out in the library and I started.
And I said, I'm going to read this thing cover to cover. And then I'll go back and read the parts that I really like. And so I was just-- week after week, I was going in there and checking the book out. And finally, the librarian says, well, you can't just keep checking this out. I mean, there are limits.
Other people might want it. And I opened it up for her. And I said, well, look, I'm the only person who's checked it out in 15 years. So she finally just didn't even-- I didn't have to renew it. I just kept it for about a year, and I read the whole thing. And I always felt like I learned falconry directly from Frederick II.
And he was an amazing character anyway. He was like a Renaissance man 200 years before the Renaissance. The pope basically sent him on a crusade to go down and conquer the Arabs. But he loved the Arabs so much, because they were great falconers. And he wanted to learn from them. Then instead, he established a 10-year truce.
And it was like Jews, Arabs, Christians-- they could all go to all their holy sites. I mean, it was like Jerusalem was an open city and all that. And it was very interesting. And the pope was so furious, that first he started a rumor that Frederick had been killed. And then he sent an army down to conquer his kingdom.
But when Frederick came back from the Crusades and unfurled his banners and everything, the people just got so excited, just the word spread before him. And the pope's army not only had to retreat all the way to Rome, but the pope left Rome for a while. So this is Pope Gregory IX, I believe. But anyway, so I was always fascinated by him.
And the interesting to me-- we're still using perches like this. These are block perches. And there's a ring. And you tie a falconer's knot. We tie the same knots today. And here's how to make traditional jesses. And it was Frederick who said taking game-- taking a lot of game is just secondary.
I mean, you're doing this. This is an art. He considered it an art, not just a sport or something. You're doing this. You learn so much about humans and life in general by working with these birds and getting them to-- it's not like you make them do what you want to do.
I always think with birds of prey-- well, for one thing with falconry, you're going to do with them what they like to do best in the world. They love to hunt and fly around and all that. And that's all you want them to do. You just got to convince them that, yeah, we're doing this together, and I can help you.
I'll always put you out where there's game. I'll flush it for you. And they really-- they get to-- they hone in on you. And you get a real intuitive bond, where I've had birds that are up so high, you can't see them or anything. But I just sort of-- I know my bird is there. And I just flush.
And you hear as the bird is coming down. So it's an interesting and hard to explain-- what it's like. Now, just by-- when my bird killed this mallard, I didn't think of this at the time, till I was sitting there while I'm feeding him and everything. And I suddenly realized this was the anniversary of Frederick II's death.
And while I was sitting there, I just thought, I should have a Frederick here. I should go-- as often as I can, go over to Italy and other places where Frederick was and follow in his footsteps. And I did that. And I went to where he was born. And I went to major places where he was in his life.
And I went to where he died and where he lay in state. And it was really fascinating. Because I'd gathered all this material from these chroniclers who were alive at the same time as him, who described what it was like when his funeral came by. And all his Arab falconers who were escorting his funeral [INAUDIBLE].
They were all crying. And it just-- it was a touching thing for me. I even sat on his throne at one point. That was funny. Because I went in a castle in Italy. And I wanted to see a his throne room. He had laid in state there before they took his body to Palermo in Sicily.
And I didn't speak Italian. I couldn't-- people didn't understand me who worked there. And so I just-- I walked around upstairs. And I was kind of trying to open doors. And I finally went in this dark-- And I go, geez, this is where he lay in state. And I saw his throne with the falcons carved in the marble.
And I sat there. It was very spooky and sad. That's the most depressed I got on the trip, even more than when I got robbed later. And they took all my camera equipment. And so that's what Falcon Fever is about. I mean, it's about growing up as a falconer, but also my fascination with Frederick in my Frederick year.
"A falconer must be diligent and persevering, so much so that as old age approaches, he will still pursue the sport out of true love of it, persisting in its practice while he lives, so that he may bring the sport itself nearer to perfection." I've been thinking about that a lot as I get older.
But I didn't know. Frederick-- he just was an amazing person. Now, I know because of the topic of this talk, I've got to bring it back to America. So now, the first person I found is Thomas Morton of Massachusetts.
And he was another free spirit. I mean, he was there living with the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony. And he was a complete libertine. And he loved the Native Americans. He thought it was terrible what was going on with them. But he'd been-- and he almost got it-- was lucky he didn't get executed, actually.
But in this book he wrote, The New English Canaan, there's a part in there where he's talking about birds he saw. And he mentions how he used to fly falcons in England. And then he came here and he flew-- and he said he flew-- he talked about all the American birds they had.
And he said he flew a lanneret, which really struck me. That's a male lanner falcon. And they don't have them in North America. But then I thought, well, he's living on the Massachusetts coast. And he even said the day he caught it, during Michael Mass, which is September 29.
And it just-- like lights went off in my head. And he talked about how easy to train the bird was and well mannered. And he was flying it free in two weeks. And I realized he was talking about a tundrius peregrine. It's a peregrine falcon. They nest in Greenland and across Northern Canada.
And they're very pale. They don't have much markings on their face like regular-- not on peregrines. And I could see how someone would think, oh, this is a lanner. And they are really easy to train. My first peregrine I ever had was a Tundra peregrine that I trapped during migration.
And they don't know anything about people. They're just tame. They sit on your fist right after you get them. And I thought, this guy-- in 1637, he flew a peregrine. And then here's this other one-- John Baptiste, the Dutchman. He sent for his falcon to be sent to him and flew it in the Hudson Valley.
Now, this is an auspicious start for falconry in North America, but then not much happened after that. In the 1700s and the 1800s, I can't even find any mention of people flying birds here. In England, it was going really strong. The Old Hawking Club was doing a lot of hawking in Scotland and plus hawking crows on Salisbury Plain.
This is an interesting picture to me. This is probably up in Scotland. The man sitting down beside the cadge is George Blackall Simonds, who is the person-- he was also an artisan sculptor. And he created that statue of the falconer that's now in Central Park.
It was installed there in 1875. So it's interesting. Now, people are always talking about who's the father of falconry or something in America? And there are- lots of different names come out. But for me, it's Frank and John Craighead, these twins who grew up in the Washington, DC area.
When they were still in high school, they were getting birds, climbing down cliffs, getting peregrines and getting Cooper's hawks and things, and training them, taking game. And they were avid photographers, too. And they took all these black and white glossy prints to the National Geographic.
And they talked to the editor. And he decided to run an article with them-- "Adventures with Birds of Prey." And I used to read this as a kid. I read it over and over. I'd go to the school library. And they had the bound copies of National Geographic. This was in 1937.
And the article was such a big hit that Houghton Mifflin gave him a contract to write this book, Hawks in the Hand-- Adventures in Photography And Falconry. And I'm sure that's where I got so interested in falconry, too. These guys-- I mean, they were like the all-American boys.
It was like anyone growing up wanted to do the kinds of things they were doing. And there was a prince in India who read their article in National Geographic. And he invited him to India. And this was like the final years of the raj. This was right before-- this was in 1940, right before America got into World War II.
And they spent a year over there. And National Geographic paid for it, because they wrote an article at the end about their time in India. And they just-- they lived like kings there. They're flying falcons and in much the same way as Frederick had. I mean, it was really wide open then.
They had cheetahs. They were going out and hunting with cheetahs. And another milestone was the publication of North American Falconry & Hunting Hawks by a Canadian falconer, Frank Lyman Beebe and the American, Harold Melvin Webster, from Colorado.
And this really celebrated the hawks we have here in America. And it kind of gave-- there was a how-to aspect to it and everything. They had theories about how to train these birds, which was funny, because they differed. Harold Webster and Frank Beebe had different ideas about how things should be done.
And one guy would say something, and there'd be footnote at the bottom. Yeah, but actually, I think it should be done this way. That's pretty typical of falconers. So that happened. And that was like 1964 that came out. And just around that time, just a little earlier, North American Falcons Association started.
And this is a more recent issue. I was the editor of this publication for a few years. This is one of the ones I put out. But anyway, so back there in about 1964, '65, it looked like things were going really well. But then it turned out-- and it was falconers who discovered this. But the peregrine falcons' population was crashing all across the country, especially in the East.
And by 1964, they are-- pretty much had been extirpated as a breeding species east of the Mississippi. So suddenly, it seemed like we were going to lose this bird, like it was going to go extinct. And actually this is where Cornell comes in. Because Tom Cade come to Cornell in the 1960s to be a professor of ornithology.
And he decided he wanted to try to breed these birds to save them from going extinct. And before that, all those centuries, people were flying these birds. They had never really tried to breed them. There was one guy in Germany in the 1940s who had a crippled peregrine and had a couple together and produced one young.
And there were a couple people after that in the '60s, but that was it. And Tom just decided to really experiment with it, to try artificial insemination and also some natural breeding. And really, they created more or less a factory.
I mean, they just cranked these birds out. And he was also the director of raptor research at the Lab of Ornithology. And in fact, the facility they built was on right by Sapsucker Woods. And during the time that was there in the-- I mean, through the '70s and '80s, they produced 7,000 birds in that facility and released them all over the East,
And they also had another facility in the West at Fort Collins at that time and then later at Boise. And they started releasing these birds. And they were building these hack towers, which this is another falconry technique in the Middle Ages, even-- they'd take young falcons, and they'd build a hack tower.
And they'd put the birds up there and let them fly around loose, until they were just about to start catching prey. And then they'd trap them. And if they didn't trap them soon enough, they'd go off and hunt by themselves and disperse. So he sort of did it like in a backwards way like, we're not trying to take them back. We're just-- this is the way to have them disperse.
So they were doing that all over. And this one is out West. And for another local connection, when I was 12 years old, I stumbled across this picture by Arthur Allen who founded the Lab of Ornithology where I work. And he was at Cornell. He was the first ornithology professor in the country.
And I saw this both in an old National Geographic and in this Life Histories of North American Birds of Prey by Arthur Cleveland Bent. And it was just the most-- it's still the most beautiful picture of a peregrine nest I've ever seen. I mean, I love the young falcons there on the cliff.
And sadly, when all the birds were vanishing, they of course vanished from Taughannock Falls. And in fact, when I came to interview for my job more than 20 years ago at the Lab of Ornithology, the first thing I did after my interview, I said, could someone take me to Taughannock Falls? I've always wanted to go there.
But this was a special place to lots of falconers, lots who'd never seen it. And people say now, well, why didn't they release peregrines there? How come they didn't do that? Well, actually, they did. It was one of the first places where they had releases.
It's Tom Cade with Jim Weaver, who is another avid lifelong falconer and was his right-hand man all through this effort, the peregrine reintroduction. And they actually built a hack site inset into the clay Can you imagine doing that now at Taughannock? But they were able to do it back then. And you see there's sort of a gate that comes down.
And they would put the birds in there. And there's a pipe going down to feed them. And they dropped quail down there, so they never associated with people. They just-- a dead quail would pop out of the hole. And birds would jump on it. And after a few days like that, they opened the thing, so the birds can fly around and come back.
And they had telemetry on them, so they could track them. Unfortunately, this nest failed. There were a lot more great horned owls living in that area than there had been. Horned owls do really good around farms and houses and suburbia.
And there were a lot more. And plus, the young birds didn't have parents to protect them or anything. And they all got killed by great horned owls. And in fact, they even-- they went out to the telemetry. And they found an owl pellet that had telemetry in it.
So this sort of changed the whole-- and some were getting also killed by golden eagles in the West. And this is when they started releasing a lot of them in cities. And the idea was, OK, there's not as many of those kind of dangers in the cities.
And maybe if enough of them nest there, the population will spread out into their traditional sites. And that's what ultimately happened. We now have the nesting in the Adirondacks on cliffs, and the Catskills, and a lot of other places in New York and other places around the country.
And we also, though-- I mean, the biggest density anywhere is like in Manhattan. They're still nesting on all kinds of buildings there. But Tom Cade finally retired. And actually, I think it was 1989-- they left. The Peregrine Fund people all left and went to Boise, where they have the World Center For Birds of Prey.
But we still have a raptor program here, which John Parks-- who's here today-- he's a professor in animal science. And after The Peregrine Fund left, for a number of years we still had the Peregrine Palace and another barn over there near the lab.
And he had a lot of rehab birds and plus breeding birds he was experimenting with breeding Accipiters with Cooper's hawks, sharp-shins, goshawks. And it was a place where students-- undergraduates could learn about how to handle raptors, and how to propagate them, and how to rehabilitate them.
And it's still going on. But when we built the new Lab of Ornithology building about 12 years ago, they ended up knocking down those buildings. So now, there's a new facility by the game farm. And at Cornell, we have-- I'm sure a lot of you know about the bird cam. This is like the most unbelievably popular thing imaginable.
And the nest is right over here, too. Well, I don't know my direction here, but it's right-- yeah, there. OK. Yeah, I got turned around coming in here. I know it's right by the athletic field there on one of the light standards. And I don't know how many man-hours have been wasted-- work hour.
Yeah, but I walk past people who aren't even bird-- and see, oh, they got-- it's hypnotic. So we're still doing that. Now, I did want to mention-- oh, I did forget to say in the part about Tom Cade and The Peregrine Fund that when he first started that, falconers from all over were giving him their peregrines, saying, try to breed.
You can have my bird. They're giving up their bird, so that they could try to breed them in captivity. And also, sending in a lot of money. I mean, suddenly money is appearing. And they-- oh, what do we do with this? And they actually formed this, that made this bank account. And they called it The Peregrine Fund. And that ultimately became the organization.
So it all grew from originally the falconers' donation of their birds and their money. And then the people on the board of The Peregrine Fund were all falconers, so anyway. And this is the New York State Falconry Guide. This is actually the most restricted field sport there is. You have to jump through incredible hoops to become a falconer.
And it was falconers themselves who initiated this and worked it out with the federal and state Fish and Game, from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and everything. And you have to be an apprentice for a couple years. You have to take an exam. You have to build a structure for your bird to specs.
And it's not a cheap-- I mean, it's an elaborate structure. And it's got to be inspected. You can only fly wild-caught red tail. You can trap one a year and either a red tail or a wild-trapped kestrel. The idea being that if the bird is lost or you release it, it should be able to survive, because you took it from the wild.
And you serve an apprenticeship for at least two years, maybe more. It depends on when your sponsor wants to sign off on you. And eventually, you can apply to the state to become a master falconer. First, you become a general after being an apprentice and then a master falconer.
And actually, John Parks and I are on the advisory board that decides, that recommends whether people should become master falconers or not. And we take it very seriously. We don't want people who are harming birds or anything. And I think for the most part, these red-tailed hawks-- they have a very high mortality rate in their first year.
It's that first winter. It's just like a brick wall these birds have to go through. And something like 8 or 9 out of 10 don't make it. So I always feel like if I trap a red tail and I fly it that first-- for its first winter and let it go at the end, I've gotten it through its first winter. It's got a better chance now. It's more experienced.
And so I think it's a good sport. I think it's good for conservation. I'm going to end, just flipping through a few pictures of-- this is me with a couple of friends, Steve Chindgren and Gary Boberg in Wyoming. There are a lot of people who go to Wyoming every year.
And some are like-- for some, it's like real falconry bums where-- and [INAUDIBLE] is myself, where you just don't do anything for months, but go around and fly birds and camp out in cold places. Yeah, Steve Chindgren is the most hardcore falconer I've ever known.
And this is Tony Huston who's actually the son of the film director John Huston and Angelica Huston's brother. He's an avid falconer. He probably spends six months out of the year just living out of his pickup truck driving around New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana. Gyrfalcon.
This is actually a gyr-peregrine hybrid, but it was like 3/4 gyr. That's my bird on a mallard kill. That's another friend of mine. He's become like a real world traveler. It's like wherever I look-- if I'm on Facebook or anything, he's in some other country-- Africa, Arabia, Europe, hobnobbing with these guys. He's great.
And this is Lauren McGough, who's actually-- she got a Fulbright Fellowship to go to Mongolia and learn how to be an eagler with the Mongolian falconers. And she's the first woman who's ever done that. So I had to put my own quote.
And I have always thought that. I do. I'm out there flying a falcon. It's like the whole sky. It's like a painting and it's beautiful. It's something I couldn't recreate in the painting and just with the bird. And I'm just trying to-- I'm a facilitator. I'm trying to make it happen. People say when they see the stoop of a falcon, it's like the most unbelievable thing they've ever seen.
And they remember it for the rest of her life. And for me, I guess I'm addicted to it. Because when I'm in the middle of the flying season, I see that every day, and it's just like I never get enough of it. Well, that's the end of my official talk. But I'm glad to answer a few questions.
SPEAKER 1: This has been a production of Cornell University on the web at cornell.edu.
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With ancient roots in Mesopotamia and Central Asia, falconry also finds impassioned practitioners in North America. At an April 2014 talk at Mann Library, writer, wildlife photographer, and falconer Timothy Gallagher presents a history of this art and an overview of its current practice in the U.S.
Currently, editor-in-chief of "Living Bird," the flagship publication of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Gallagher has had a lifelong interest in wilderness exploration and falcons.
This talk was presented in conjunction with Mann's April 2014 exhibit "An Extreme Stirrer-Up of Passions: Falconry at Cornell and Beyond," which put a spotlight on the ancient, yet still vibrant world of falconry with gorgeous photography, fascinating artifacts, and items from Cornell University Library's extensive falconry collection.