There's a bit of a buzz in the air amongst the Paragliding community of Berga, Spain. That's because we have our 2 new Harris Hawks, the very latest editions to the Parahawking team and the first for our Spain project. The birds named Heckle, the female and Jeckle, the male after the 1960's cartoon characters as suggested by Emmanuelle Dowsett via our Facebook page, are currently just 13 weeks old and were bred by Bob Watkins in the UK.
After a 22 hour car journey all the way from Essex to Berga (Thanks a million Martin Cray), Heckle and Jeckle are settling remarkably well into their new surroundings, training will start in the next two weeks, we'll keep you posted on their progress.
A big thanks to one of our sponsors Ben Long Falconry who provided us with a range of falconry equipment, such as gloves, perches and bird baths to help us on our way. Thanks Ben.
To keep up to date with Heckle and Jeckle's progress click here
Since we announced that we were going to set up a parahawking project in
Spain, there have been a few concerns and questions raised, such as:
I'd like to address a few of these concerns here:
- Parahawking in Nepal is a conservation project, surely this new
venture in Spain is purely for commercial gains.
- How is Parahawking in Spain with Harris Hawks going to help Vulture
- Why use Harris Hawks as opposed to Egyptian Vultures which you use
in Nepal or even Eagles, surely they are more impressive right?
- Harris Hawks are known as hunting birds, however you won't be
hunting with your birds.
- Harris Hawks are notoriously easy birds to train, this will
encourage more people to try Parahawking, surely any Paraglider can get
his own Harris Hawk and fly with it.
Falconry and keeping and training birds of prey for whatever reason is a
24 hour commitment and a lifelong occupation. My advice to anyone who is
seriously thinking about obtaining their own bird of prey to train for
Yes, Parahawking in Nepal is a conservation project, we have been
training birds of prey and most recently Vultures in Nepal to raise
awareness for vultures across Asia, but it does has a commercial edge
it. We also provide the opportunity for individuals to experience
interacting with our birds in their own environment in the form a
Parahawking flight. Currently the price for this is 120 Euros of which
we donate 10 Euros from every flight towards vulture conservation
projects in Nepal, so far we
have raised several thousands of dollars and helped fund the Pokhara
vulture safe zone project. We believe that we can replicate what we do
Nepal and bring the concept
to mainland Europe, however this will not happen overnight, remember it
took us 10 years in Nepal. Whilst tandem Parahawking is a commercial
venture, we believe that by experiencing a parahawking flight, it
a wider understanding and creates an interest in Birds of prey and
conservation as a whole.
- When we first started out in Nepal, we were handed a
couple of 2 day old Black Kite chicks that needed rescuing, at that
point it never occured to me that it would lead onto what it has today.
However I always
believed that if you do something exciting, new and do it right, people
will talk about it. We are under no illusion that Parahawking will
prevent the extinction of the Asia's vultures however we made sure that
it got lots of attention and that's where conservation starts, with
awareness. We will use Parahawking in Spain and the attention that it
brings as a platform to promote bird of prey conservation as whole,
including the vultures in Asia and Europe. Hopefully somewhere down the
line we can also raise some more funds too.
- I have been a falconer and bird trainer for almost 30 years, yes I
started when I was very young. Over the years, I've witnessed many
reach their full potential, especially whilst hunting, but I've seen
many more that never do and far too many sitting around on perches
doing nothing at all. I've trained several Black Kites to fly with the
Paragliders, each one better than the last, but it wasn't until I got
Brad, our gutsy little Male Black Kite I realised these birds can do
more than we ever hoped or imagined. I'd not seen a trained Black Kite
fly like him before or since, his turn of speed and his tenacity is
than impressive, it's quite remarkable. Brad inspired me, I wanted to
show a different side to a commonly flown Hawk such as the Harris
Hawk to see what other arsenal of tricks it has up it's sleeve. Harris
Hawks are famed their adaptive and intelligent hunting skills, i want
see how versatile they really are. They are social birds, they live, fly
and hunt in pairs or groups, they are team players, as a Paraglider, I
wanted to be part of their team and learn from them, that's why we got
two and not just one.
Egyptian vulture are notoriously difficult to obtain in Europe, they
are very protected and rarely bred in captivity, however I would buy one
or two tomorrow if i was offered them, by legal means of course.
One of the reasons Parahawking is so successful in Nepal is because it
is accessible to anybody. Our goal is to offer the Parahawking
experience to as many people as possible, to allow them the feeling of
free flight with one of natures aerial experts, to spread the word on
vulture conservation and to raise as much money as possible for raptor
conservation projects. Our
Egyptian Vultures are perfect birds for Parahawking, they are friendly,
intelligent, gentle and social birds with great temprements, who will
fly and land on anybody's
arm during a flight, In addition, they are 100% obedient when we're
flying, are amazing at conserving energy and finding
thermals but at the same time smart and lazy enough to know that when
the flight is
over, to fly straight home. As impressive as Eagles are, and I'm a huge
fan of them, it is for all of these reasons, we don't use
Eagles for commercial Parahawking. The same can also be said for
Falcons, I see no benefit to training a falcon such as a Peregrine to
fly with Paragliders. These birds are not natural saoring birds, they
are stealth hunters with only one goal in life, to kill, and they also
do this at speeds up to 200mph or more. In addition they have very
little manouverability due to their short pointed wings and even shorter
tail. A peregrine falcon striking your paraglider or paraglider lines
could be both dangerous for the bird and the pilot.
- We don't plan on using our Harris Hawks for hunting, our aim is to
show a different side to the Harris Hawk and demostrate it's social
and flying skills and superior intelligence.
- Yes, unfortunately Harris Hawks have a reputation for being "easy"
birds to train. Let me make this clear. No bird is "easy" to train! It
takes time, dedication, patience, knowledge and skill to train any
raptor, some more than others. Harris Hawks are considered good
beginners birds because of their easy going temperament, forgiving
nature and high intelligence. Just because a bird processes these
character traits, it doesn't mean that it will be a good bird. in fact
it's because of these traits that there are more sub-standard Harris
Hawks than there are good ones, "easy" birds makes lazy bird trainers.
If you are inspired by Parahawking and would like to train and fly with
your own bird then you should know exactly what's involved. We are
highly skilled bird trainers and falconers with decades of experience.
We may make it look easy, but it's really not. Our birds are good
because we live in a region where we can fly with them EVERY DAY,
sometimes for up to an hour at a time. We understand about the birds
biology, it's dietary requirements, weight control, fitness and
conditioning, we recognise when it's sick or unhappy and know how to
treat it, we understand it's potential and it's limitations, we
are also a team of dedicated people who live and breath raptors and
paragliding. Birds of prey are simply not something that you can pack
away with your glider when it is not flyable. Please think long and hard
about whether you have the time, knowledge, patience and skills to
train a bird of prey to fly with you and then remind yourself how many
times you got out to fly in the last month and would this really be
enough to keep the bird happy, healthy and fit.
This all sounds like I'm trying to discourage anyone from Parahawking,
well you may be right, I believe that unless you can dedicate yourself
to it as I have for the last 30 years then quite simply, it's not for
you. Over the years I have witnessed too many half hearted attempts at
falconry all to the determent of the birds welfare. Please don't add to
- Ask yourself (and your spouse) can you dedicate that amount of time
to it, everyday for the rest of the birds life. If the answer is no
then forget it!
- If the answer is yes then, give up your day job - you seriously think you can hold down a 9-5
and train a bird to fly with you on weekends.
- Start studying, digest as many books on falconry as you possibly can.
- Attend a Falconry course - Ben Long Falconry courses in the UK is a good place to start.
- Find out what the laws and regulations are in your country, you may find that it's illegal to keep raptors anyway.
- Get a mentor, someone with lots of experience, they'll tell you how
they have gone through more marriages than birds, encouraging words!
- Move to the country, or at least out of your apartment and into somewhere with a large garden and understanding neighbors.
- Start saving, birds, equipment, radio tracking, aviaries, food, vet bills, insurance etc, it all adds up... to a lot!