|Kestrel Bullet Points - Things I have Learned|
- Avoid Accipiters at all costs - especially, but not only Cooper's hawks. Don't be fooled by your bird's apparent calmness and ability to deal with them. A Cooper's can kill your bird and a sharp-shin may drive her off;
- Use sparrows as food, not as quarry, unless your bird is truly a non-carrier;
- Having bagged game, especially starlings, is as important as having a kestrel. Trap your "baggies" ahead of time;
- Watch carefully for leg scale damage. The wide jesses used on kestrels can fool you;
- Don't overdo the amount of fur eaten. Casting is not that important;
- Especially when retrapping your own kestrel, don't deploy your trap unless it is in good working condition with plenty of good nooses;
- Don't assume that it will be a delay before the kestrel attacks your trap. Set the trap out and clear the area;
- If your bird has carried, and is showing signs of wildness, get the trap out. Don't waste time or he may hunt on his own;
- When a bird is trapped, run, don't walk to the trap. Walking gives the bird time to flex the nooses. If you run, the bird will cower, and you have a better chance of recovery;
- If your bird is high in weight, discipline yourself and don't fly him;Get the bird lure trained. In borderline situations, he is more likely to go after the lure than your fist;
- Never retract food once offered to the bird. I suspect that even turning your back on the bird when you have food may encourage bad (mantling, carrying) behavior;
- When hunting, use field jesses (just a bootlace with a knot). Keep spares as he might get them off while you are out hunting. These are important for the bird's safety should he escape;
- If keeping a bird in a hawk box, especially a new bird, ensure that the box is completely dark, but also well ventilated and cool. This combination is not always easy, but vitally important;
- In the mews, if your kestrel is yanking his jesses out, use a small tie-wrap right at each anklet. Important! You must remove this when you take him to the field.
- Instead of tying a string to a tethered bagged bird's leg, use a small tie wrap. Put a knot on the end of the string, then slip the string under the tie wrap and pull snug. This is very easy and much cleaner and quicker than tying.
My Experience With Redtails (Added 2/18/2006)
is the first really successful field bird that I have flown, though I
trained my first hawk more than forty years ago, in 1965." My two
kestrels last year both came close. Alex was actively chasing sparrows,
but was driven off, and I hope not killed by a sharp-shinned hawk just
as she was getting good. Apollo caught his first wild sparrow on the
evening before he disappeared. That sparrow was the first 100%
legitimate field quarry ever caught by one of my hawks. He followed
that kill with another in the morning as I was trying to lure him down.
As kids we had no sponsors, considered the RT to be the American
equivalent of the European common buzzard, did not practice weight
control, and had no vehicles to go hawking with. Hence we had limited
success. At the time we did not know that we had such potentially good game hawks
nesting within a half mile of our houses. The RT was considered a bird to practice on, not the capable game hawk that is known today.
Below is the list of redtail hawks that I have possessed:
1965- A downy chick that I had to euthenize, being terminally afflicted
with "cramp," after apparently getting a chill. The nest mate,
possessed by Mark Reindel shared the same fate. The ignorance of 14
2) 1965 - Eyas hen called Aerial. Chased a cock pheasant,
killed a fox squirrel that we had flushed with a pellet gun. Footed me in
the eye the evening before she broke loose in October of that year.
1965 - We ended up with a very crippled eyas RT that had been attacked
by a dog. This bird hopped around the yard like a chicken, got along
with our animals, but sadly fell into the pool and drowned.
- An eyas tiercel named Cully that I flew to the fist, then I traded to
Mark for a tiercel kestrel named Alex (the first Alex).
5) 1966 - A
large hen called "Jezebel" - nestmate of Cully. I flew to fist and
lure, tried to hunt - she ended up killing a rooster at my school
(oops). I lent her to Mark who took her to Colorado after Christmas.
She escaped, killed a black-tail jack rabbit. I had her molting in the
yard in Illinois, July of 1967 when she broke loose while I was at work.
2005 - Passage tiercel, "Bravo." Trapped in Ft Worth on 10/9/2005.
Trained and just beginning to hunt when he disappeared after apparently
dealing with a resident haggard RT. I lost him because I had no
telemetry and spent important time chasing the resident bird,
misidentified in the early morning light.
7) Cisco - Currently, and I hope for years, in my possession