Falconry Friday! Falconry Furniture Part 3

March 03, 2017  •  2 Comments

Hi Again everyone!  This will be the third and final installment of the Falconry Furniture series.  In Part 1 we talked about anklets, jesses, leash extenders, and swivels. Part 2 was mostly about leashes and leash attachment mechanisms.  Today we'll finish up with a couple comments about carrying leashed raptors and round out the series with bells & bewits, transmitters, and hoods.




Gloves are pretty self-explanatory and we won't spend a ton of time on them. They're sold in singles (left or right), half-length or full-length, insulated or not, several thicknesses, and all the usual hand sizes. They're most often made from elk, deer, or cowhide.  What I do want to focus on regarding gloves is shown in the picture below. See that D ring ?  That's for tying your bird off so it doesn't escape.  Use this EVERY SINGLE TIME you're out with the bird and it's not okay if she takes off.




Laziness gets the best of us all and the tendency is to wrap the leash a few turns around your ring and pinky finger, calling it good.  I mean, you're holding on, right?  Well, I can guarantee you WILL let go when she spooks and has all 8 talons buried in your face.  Sooner or later, it will happen to you so get in the habit of clipping in. Every time.




Now she's loose,  with her legs tied together by the swivel and trailing a three foot leash behind her.  This is a death sentence, and a pretty gruesome one at that.


Traditionally (and still a valid option) you'd tie the leash off to the D ring with a falconer's knot.  Better yet is a clip system as shown below.


On the left is a commercial French style clip and on the right is a standard carabiner-style clip.

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These clips make it easy enough that there's no excuse for you to fail to have the hawk clipped in when she's not actively flying.  Clip in every time!.


This clip is what those pin holes in the flying jesses mentioned in Part 1 are for.  They're small enough openings that they do not snag on branches but are  just big enough to accommodate the clip. In this scenario, her legs are not tied together by a swivel with flight jesses, but it sure saves you from the chase you'd have if she took off with a full crop on the way back to the car!

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With a leashed bird, clipping in to the D ring is absolutely imperative. Do it every time!  Regardless of the leash system you're using, clip into the BOTTOM ring of the swivel. This gives you a solid anchor point yet still allows the swivel to do it's thing and keep the jesses from tangling.


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While not technically "furniture", the creance (training long-line) is tied to the jesses (never a swivel) the same way -- with a falconer' knot.  The creance is most likely to fail at the attachment point and if it's tied to a swivel we now have a loose bird with her legs tied together. Not good.  If it's tied directly to the jesses, she may be loose but at least she can survive!





Bells and Bewits.


Bells are a great help in locating an out-of-sight bird in the field. Pakistani style bells are the most popular.  They're sold in pairs, with one a slightly higher tone than the other.  This theoretically aids in sound transmission over distance but I find two bells to be overkill and assign one tone per bird so I can tell who's who and who's where even if I can't see them. (Guess which two bells are the used ones in this picture!)


Those funny little leather strips on the left of the above picture are called Bewits. They're essentially miniature removable Aylmeri anklets for attaching bells, transmitters, I.D. tags, etc. on a raptor's leg above the main anklet.  Here's how they work:


Feed the pointed end through the loop on the bell


Then pass the pointed end through the small hole closest to the button end of the bewit

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When tightened, it firmly incorporates the object (bell) yet at the same time prevents the object (bell) from contacting the leg itself. This is important not only it terms of preventing rubbing, but also frostbite -- metal gets really cold in the winter and can freeze skin on contact.


Next, wrap the bewit around the leg and feed the button through the slit.  Presto!  It's attached!


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The downsides of using the bewit for attachment:  (a) bulk - weights adds up fast with things on both legs and (b) they're easily undone by the bird and you'll spend a lot of time searching for your $250 transmitter(s) in the brush.


An alternative is to use small zip ties to attach the bell (and transmitter) to the main anklets.  Not super stylish, but lightweight and fast.

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Keep in mind that you'll want to zip tie in to one arm only if you're using true Aylmeri anklets. If you zip tie both arms, you're effectively defeating the purpose of using true Aylmeri anklets in the first place!


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We've already seen above how we'll attach a transmitter using the leg mount method and here's an in-the-field view of that (using a true bewit, before she learned to unhook them):



The two other common transmitter attachment mechanisms are back pack (Marshall Track Pack) and tail mount.  Let's look at the back pack first.

Most of us have seen that transmitter magically floating on a raptors back like so:



The backpack is basically a plastic plate that's about 3/4" x 1-1/2".  It's permanently attached to the bird with a piece of teflon tubing. With the plate held along the back, the teflon tubing loops over the head, crosses in the front, and is fed under the wings to the back, where it's crimped in place with a little brass ring. The bird preens the tubing under the feathers and the plate rides on the back immediately between the wings.



The spring arms seen attached to the back of the transmitter above fit through, and catch on, a hole in the top of the backplate like so (this is how you take the transmitter on and off while leaving the backpack on the bird):

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Here is a short video showing track pack installation on a raptor:

The tail mount attaches in much the same way (using the same spring arms on the transmitter side) except the loop the spring arms slip through is much smaller and is crimped onto a tail feather as seen in this video:


The tail mount is my least favorite as the transmitter is a (relatively) large weight on that particular tail feather and pulling the feather out in the brush is a real possibility.




The hood is the last piece of furniture we'll look at, and the one I'm probably least qualified to discuss at length so we'll keep this pretty basic.  The main function of the hood is to keep the bird calm. Vision is the diurnal raptor's primary sense and no sight = no stress.



 Fit is, of course, very important and hoods come in about 40-50 different sizes. They're measured in terms of the greatest distance across the head (the eyes) when looking down at the bird from above. In the U.S. / English system, this means size 000 (sharpie) to 00 (kestrel) on up t o 24 (large red tail), then up to 39 for the largest eagles.  In the metric system, this translates as size 35mm (kestrels) up to 66mm (ferugies), then on to 80mm for the eagles.   Confused yet?  Here's a chart showing the differing measuring systems.


There's some trial and error in finding the proper fit and some hood styles even have adjustable chin straps to fine tune the hood to the individual bird.

 Having said that, there are many styles of hood with the Arabian (solid back), Pakistani (sometimes solid back), and Dutch (inverted "V" closure in the back) being most popular.  Dutch style hoods are, in my experience, the most common style in the U.S.  The Dutch (and Arabian) hoods are glued or stitched using forming blocks called Mollen blocks.  We'll talk mostly about Dutch style hoods for the remainder of this, but here's a good explanation of some of the other styles if you're interested. Well-made hoods are a fine art and a number of falconers have become well known worldwide for their craftsmanship.


Here we see two open Dutch hoods, size 0 (kestrel) on the left and size 24 (red tail) on the right.  Note that on each side is one strap (called a brace) with a knot and one without.


Open DRAWS the braces (closes them) by pulling on the knots and one STRIKES the braces (opens them) by pulling on the braces without the knots.  How do you do that one handed?  You use your free hand for one side and your teeth for the other --- you really do need to like the people you share hoods with!

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Here we see both hoods in the closed position DSC08240DSC08240


Frontal view of the beak opening.  Fine tuning can be accomplished here by trimming or curling the leather on the sides of this triangle.  We can also see the top knot well in this photo - more that just decoration, this serves as a "handle" to guide the hood on and off the bird's head. DSC08241DSC08241


There we go!  That rounds out this series on Furniture!  Thanks for seeing it through to the end, so to speak!   :)








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