Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Falcon Butlers

This, I believe, is a Gyrfalcon. If it is, it is the largest species of falcon out there. This particular falcon lives in and around my parents' backyard. I say "in" because our gyrfalcon has been seen a) floating on a raft in the pool, b) doing a mating dance on the ground, c) with talons stuck in screen door, and d) heckling my sister, Eliza.

It has taken me two years to obtain documentation of this guy. I've been researching hawks and falcons to try to identify our feathered friend, mostly basing my findings on whether or not the species look like they're wearing pants or not. (Ours has pants.)

The gyrfalcon circles its prey, hence the name. (A gyre is a concept represented by a continuously widening to an eventual narrowing spiral, thrown back down into itself.) Back in the day, gyrfalcons were used for falconry, literally fit for kings because of their difficulty in capturing, (so of course all the kings just had to have gyrfalcons.) I'm fascinated by falconry: here you have this huge bird of prey that you've trained to go kill things for you. Pretty crazy.

I researched what it takes to become a falconer, and the response to the question, "How do you train a falcon?" is about as succinct and one-minded as that to "How do you raise bees?" meaning, not at all. I'm wondering if I've found a new hobby...

If I had a gyrfalcon, I wouldn't train it to hunt for me, because it would make me feel like I was smack dab in the middle of Yeats' The Second Coming. I'd fear that as soon as the falcon couldn't hear me, the falconer, things would imminently fall apart. And if they didn't fall apart at that moment, they would fall apart at a later date; waiting for this day to come would inevitably drive me insane.

Instead, I would train my gyrfalcon to fetch me things like burritos, rather than prey. Or, perhaps you consider a burrito to be prey? (I can think of a few burrito hunters...)

More monkey butler than vulture, my gyrfalcon would be named either Yeats or Willie, depending on its personality.

I believe I might have found a new hobby. Anyone got a trained gyrfalcon? I think I need to start a falcon blog.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world


  1. Sorry, not a gyrfalcon, best I can tell from the photos its some species of buteo.


  2. Oh well, it was fun to imagine it was a gyrfalcon while it lasted! Thanks for the identification.

  3. Luckily for you buteo sounds a lot more like burrito so it might be more inclined to do the kind of work that you are interested in.

    In addition to that bad boy getting his tallons stuck in the screen and screaming at me I have also seen him fly into the window! Imagine that, really imagine that! It was terrifying! I thought that someone shot a cannon at the house! I´m still amazed that the window didn´t break.