Module C7. Species characteristics and types

Please read these notes carefully!

  1. This is the lesson and assessment module for ‘C7. Species and types of bird of prey’.
  2. You can study this module on its own, or as part of a larger course – your Raptor Awards Instructor will advise you about this.
  3. The notes and references are here to help you understand the implications on suitability for training that the species or method of rearing plays in birds of prey.  Birds that have been raised in the natural environment will be expected to behave in specific well-understood ways, and you can use this knowledge to safely train them to fly free.  On the other hand, birds raised in a non-natural environment may display unusual characteristics that require a different approach when training them.
  4. The lesson ‘quiz’ at the bottom of this page will help you demonstrate that you have the correct knowledge to safely handle most birds of prey.  Your Instructor will give you more guidance about demonstrating your competence.
  5. This assessment of your knowledge (lesson quiz) will help provide evidence that you are ready to receive your Certificate from Raptor Awards
  6. Completion of the Assessment Worksheet will help to demonstrate your knowledge and skills: Assessment Worksheet_C7

Which Bird of Prey for which role?

The University of Minnesota states that there are 482 species of Raptor worldwide, plus a further 7 species of new world vultures.  Their list includes many Owl species.  Although they are taxonomically different, Owls share many of the same characteristics as true raptors and it is common to include Owls and Raptors together when discussing them.

All species of Owls and Raptors can be kept in Zoos and Collections although there are strict International Regulations on the trade in some species, and some National and Local laws also place restrictions on ownership and use of Birds of Prey.   You must ensure that your local or national legal framework enables you to keep / fly or display Birds of Prey.  In many countries Falconry is not a permitted activity.

Of the total number of raptor species only a few are used for falconry (hunting live quarry) or Pest Control (abatement).  A wider range of species is used for flying Displays and for Education.

This lesson is about species suitability and focusses on the use of free flying birds for falconry.

Redtail on gloveYou may consider the following types as suitable for your requirements:

  • Eagles
  • Hawks
  • Falcons
  • Owls

How do you choose between them?

How much time can I devote to my bird/s?

This is an important consideration – even a single hawk can take a significant amount of time each day to feed, examine and maintain.  The workload is less whilst the bird is in moult, but is still significant.  The time requirements increase considerably when you have a Hawk in training and she needs flying exercise each day.

Some hawks need more work than others – for example Goshawks in the Hunting season ideally should be flown at quarry every second day as a minimum.  Do you have the time and resources to meet this need?

Emma Ford gives useful descriptions of the Broadwing and Shortwing Species used for Falconry,

Jemima Parry – Jones recommends choosing one of the Buzzard species as a first bird for an inexperienced keeper.

Access to land 

In most countries in the world where Birds of Prey are flown free there is an abundance of good open land where you should be able to get permission to fly.  In the UK, good land can be hard to come by and your choice of bird may be limited by the type of land you have available and any quarry species you have on it.

If you live in a crowded urban area it is still possible to keep and fly birds of prey, but you must ensure that you have easy access each day to suitable open spaces where the hawk will not be distracted or tempted by domestic animals.

The type of land available is also a key factor in choosing your flying companion.   Wide open spaces are needed for falcons, whilst enclosed land with trees and other obstructions is more suited to the broadwing and shortwing hawks.


If you intend to actively hunt with your bird of prey then you must make your choice based upon the quarry to have available on your hunting land.

Ground game usually suggests one of the Buzzard Family (although Saker Falcons and their hybrids can be used).  Fast flying game birds on open land suggests falcons.

In his book ‘Falconry and Hawking’ Phillip Glasier devotes more than 20 pages to descriptions of the Hawks and Falcons most likely to be used for Falconry purposes.

Imprint versus parent reared.

What is an imprint – how does its temperament differ from a bird that has been raised by its parents?

The advice for most first timers is to take a parent reared bird as its temperament should be predictable.  The correct imprinting of birds during its early life will produce different behaviour characteristics, and if imprinting is carried out badly the bird can be difficult or even dangerous to work with.

The best text on this subject is without doubt ‘Understanding the Bird of Prey’ by Nick Fox.  Chapter 4.  In fact the whole of this Chapter is invaluable for anyone wishing to train Birds of Prey for free flying regardless of whether they will eventually be used for falconry, pest control or display.

Birds of Prey and the Law

There are National, Local and International laws governing the trade and use of Birds of Prey.  It is your responsibility to ensure that you know the laws that relate to you and adhere to them at all times.

In general legislation will apply to:

  • Owning / breeding and hunting
  • Game laws
  • Access to land
  • Purchase and sale
  • Transport and animal welfare

The position in the UK is summarised by Jemima Parry – Jones in her book ‘Falconry.  Care, Captive Breeding and Conservation.

Role of Defra

In the UK Defra is the principle Government Ministry with responsibility in the area.  The UK Hawk Board represents the interests of UK falconers to the Government through formal meetings with Defra.

More information on the role of Defra can be found here – Link to Defra 

Recommended reading:

  1. Relevant parts of the Defra website – Link to Defra 
  2. Falconry. Care, Captive Breeding and Conservation.  Jemima Parry-Jones.  Chapter 7
  3. Understanding the Bird of Prey.  Nick Fox – Chapter 4.
  4. The Modern falconer.  Diana Durman-Walters. Chapter 20
  5. Falconry Art and Practice.  Emma Ford. Chapter 5


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