Most species of this genus, to some extent, catch and eat fish, some almost exclusively. However, in countries where they are not protected, some have been effectively used in hunting for ground quarry. They are also carrion eaters, particularly in areas with a lot of domestic livestock such as sheep. Here they will scavenge the corpses of dead animals. This behaviour has often led to them having a bad and ill-deserved reputation for killing livestock.
This genus has a worldwide distribution. When used in falconry, this large powerful bird has been used to hunt wolves in Kazakhstan, and other large prey such as roe deer and foxes. They are primarily ground oriented but will occasionally take birds. Golden eagles have been observed snatching young falcons from their clifftop nests.
This genus has worldwide distribution but is particularly well represented in North America. The Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk are all types of this genus that are used in falconry today. Of these the Red tailed hawk is most commonly used in the UK as its size makes it ideal for hunting rabbits and pheasants, the most common quarry species in the United Kingdom.
The European or common Buzzard is also widely owned but is not a particularly good bird for hunting with. Some falconers report more interest in feeding upon worms than chasing large quarry in this species. Of course, this mimics the natural behaviour of these raptors whose natural diet includes a lot of invertebrates and carrion as well as live prey.
This is the sole representative of the Parabuteo genus worldwide. This is arguably the very best rabbit raptor available anywhere. The Harris’ Hawk is extremely popular in the UK because of its temperament and ability. They are gregarious birds: they are the only semi-social raptor; all others are not social except with their mate, so they can hunt in groups, a behaviour that is common for family groups in the wild, particularly in more harsh environments. This genus is native to the Americas in areas with a warm climate.
This genus of raptor is also found worldwide. Many members of the hawking fraternity are only “turned on” by accipters. People exclusively flying hawks, particularly accipiters are correctly referred to as “austringers” not “falconers”. The most commonly kept and flown species in the UK are the diminutive song-bird specialist the sparrow-hawk and the larger and more powerful goshawk. Their relatively short , broad wings endow them with fast flight and high manoeuvrability. They can catch prey in the air or on the ground.
This genus is found worldwide. Much falconry is concerned with species of this group of birds. True falcons are generally oriented towards birds as prey, catching or killing the prey on the wing. The peregrine falcon is now recognised as the fasted animal on earth. When in a “stoop”, the fast downward dive from an elevated height that is used to build up speed prior to striking a bird in the air with an outstretched talon, peregrines have been clocked in excess of 200 miles per hour.
Owls are not closely related to hawks or falcons. There is little written in classic falconry that discusses the use of Owls in falconry. However, there are at least two species that have successfully been used, the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Great Horned Owl. The eurasian eagle owl is the largest species of owl in the world with adult females weighing up to 5 kilos and having very large talons.
This medium sized, heavily built bird is the archetypal falcon. Preying almost exclusively upon birds, it’s powers of flight have captivated falconers for centuries. A worldwide species that declined sharply due to pesticide poisoning in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Peregrine has made a good recovery and Britain has the most significant population in Europe. In falconry this species sets the standard against which all other trained falcons are measured.
This strong and robust hawk has been the mainstay of falconry for many years. Once known as the ‘cooks hawk’ or “butcher’s bird” because of its’ ability to catch a wide variety of quarry for the larder. The Goshawk is the shortwing par excellence capable of taking quarry such as pheasant, rabbit and hare. It can be flown in enclosed country and its versatility has made it much coveted. In the 19th century Britain it was persecuted out of existence, however today it has been re-established with a small but steadily increasing population.
The smallest European falcon, the Merlin was the ‘ladies falcon’ in mediaeval times. It hunts small birds and in it’s trained state is used to pursue skylarks. This is done under license from DEFRA with the number of larks taken strictly controlled. It is small but versatile falcon with the male commonly known as a ‘Jack’.
This North American buzzard has proved to be an excellent falconry bird. It is an aggressive and powerful hunter of rabbit and hare. Whilst closely related to our own common buzzard, the Redtail is bigger and more predatory.