Falconry

Like all registered raptors (birds of prey) in Britain, many are captive-bred and hand-reared from days-old chicks.

Landlord Kevin, who is a keen amateur falconer along with his family – is delighted to announce the new arrival of a 3 year old Harris Hawk, Cleo.

Harris Hawks are related to the buzzard family, and they are very intelligent and sociable by nature with a dark brown and chestnut plumage, and white-tipped tail.

The aviary at Ringlestone Inn does have room for more birds, so we hope other birds will be introduced in future.

Bing up close

Accurate scales are used to weigh the bird and its food. The scale must be reliable. This is especially important when dealing with small birds, as they may be endangered by even small weight differences when at flying weight. The successful hunting weight of the bird may vary, usually increasing as the bird is flown and develops more muscle (which weighs more than fat), but there is a relatively narrow range which the falconer seeks. Below that weight, the bird will be unnecessarily (and perhaps even dangerously) slow and weak. Above that range, the bird will be unresponsive in the field, lacking in motivation to hunt or return to the falconer.

A Gauntlet or glove is worn by the falconer to turn the arm into a suitable perching surface, and to protect it from the bird’s sharp talons.

A creance is a long light line which is tied to the jesses. This is used when training the bird to fly between a perch and the fist, to ensure the bird will not be lost in these early stages. The end away from the bird is often wound around the spindle like a kite string; the creance can be wound or unwound with a single hand.

More about Barn Owls

The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed species of owl, and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as Common Barn Owl, to distinguish it from other species in the barn-owl family Tytonidae.

These form one of the two living main lineage groups of owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). T. alba is found almost anywhere in the world except for polar and desert regions, most of northern Asia Indonesia, and the Pacific islands.

It is known by many other names, which may refer to the appearance, call, habitat or the eerie, silent flight: White Owl, Silver Owl, Demon Owl, Ghost Owl, Death Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Church Owl, Cave Owl, Stone Owl, Monkey-faced Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Dobby Owl, Golden Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl and Delicate Owl.

“Golden Owl” might also refer to the related Golden Masked Owl (T. aurantia). “Hissing Owl” and, particularly in the USA, “screech owl” refer to the piercing calls of these birds, but the latter term usually refers to typical owls of the genus Megascops. The scientific name, established by G.A. Scopoli in 1769, literally means “white owl”, from the Ancient Greek tyto (t?t?) for an owl and Latin alba, “white”.

The Barn Owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short squarish tail. Depending on subspecies, it measures about 25–45 cm (9.8–18 in) in overall length, with a wingspan of some 75–110 cm (30–43 in).

Tail shape is a way of distinguishing the Barn Owl from true owls when seen in flight, as are the wavering motions and the open dangling feathered legs. The light face with its peculiar shape and the black eyes give the flying bird an odd and startling appearance, like a flat mask with oversized oblique black eye slits, the ridge of feathers above the bill somewhat resembling a nose.

Falconry

Bing in jessies, ready to fly

You may see birds wearing bits of equipment

A hood, which is used in the manning process (acclimatising to humans and the human world) and to keep the raptor in a calm state, both in the early part of its training and throughout its falconry career. Out of all the falconer’s aids the hood is the most important piece of equipment.

Bing’s hood is hand made, from kangaroo leather and designed to best represent the shape of the raptor’s head, also allowing space for the eyes with an adequate neck width. It is essential that the hood fits comfortably or the raptor will reject the hood outright, making training very difficult.

A bell, or pair of bells, on her legs (attached via small leather strips called bewits), which can be heard from a surprising distance.

Jesses, strips of strong leather (again Kevin makes these from Kangaroo leather) on both legs. The singular of “jessies” is correctly “jess”, but one jess is often mistakenly called a “jessie”.

An identity ring on the leg, with her registration number.

Bing flying in the garden

Its head and upper parts are a mixture of buff and grey (especially on the forehead and back) feathers in most subspecies. Some are purer richer brown instead, and all have fine black-and-white speckles except on the remiges (wing feathers) and rectrices (tail feathers), which are light brown with darker bands.

The heart-shaped face is usually bright white, but in some subspecies it is browner. The under parts (including the tarsometatarsus feathers) vary from white to reddish buff among the subspecies, and are either mostly unpatterned or bear a varying amount of tiny blackish-brown speckles. It was found that at least in the continental European populations, females with more spotting are healthier on average. This does not hold true for European males by contrast, where the spotting varies according to subspecies.

The bill varies from pale horn to dark buff, corresponding to the general plumage hue. The iris is blackish brown. The toes, as the bill, vary in colour; their colour ranges from pinkish to dark pinkish-grey. The talons are black.

On average, within any one population males tend to be less spotted on the underside than females. The latter are also larger, as is common for owls. A strong female T. alba of a large subspecies may weigh over 550 g (19.4 oz), while males are typically about 10% lighter. Nestlings are covered in white down all over, but the heart-shaped facial disk is visible soon after hatching.

Contrary to popular belief, barn owls don’t hoot (such calls are made by typical owls, like the Tawny Owl or other Strix). It instead produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range. Males in courtship give a shrill twitter. It can hiss like a snake to scare away intruders, and when captured or cornered, it throws itself on its back and flails with sharp-taloned feet, making for an effective defence. Also given in such situations is a rasp and a clicking snap, produced by the bill or tongue.