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The Story Behind Our Logo
Our logo was inspired by the seal of Charlemagne pictured below. Charlemagne lived at a time when falconry was becoming increasingly popular in early medieval Europe, and he believed that every gentleman should be trained in the art of falconry. The Germanic tribes that invaded Western Europe after the fall of Rome in the 5th century brought along with them their old falconry traditions inherited from the Far and Middle East.
A few centuries later, the Viking invasions enabled the introduction of the Gyrfalcon (one of the most important raptor species in medieval falconry) on a large scale, hence starting what would become the Golden Age of falconry in Western Europe.
Falconry is the art of using trained birds of prey (raptors) to hunt with. It has been around for thousands of years. Birds of prey were used to hunt in Mongolia more than 4,000 years ago. Records show that falconry was practiced in Arabia and Persia around the same time. The Greek philosopher Aristotle mentions falconry around 300 BC.
The Romans did not truly practice falconry. The sport of falconry became popular when it reached Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. At that time, falconry was taken very seriously and regulated by strict rules. The type of bird that one could fly depended on their rank in society. For example, an emperor would fly a Golden Eagle, a king would fly a Gyrfalcon (regarded as an excellent falconry bird), but a servant was only allowed to fly a Kestrel (a small species of falcon). Sometimes the common people were not allowed to practice falconry, and only the royal family and nobility were privileged to do so. The birds were highly sought after and some were worth a fortune. They were also often exchanged as diplomatic gifts among rulers. In Great Britain the theft of a trained raptor was punishable by death under Edward III. In other countries, the thief would have 6 ounces of flesh torn from his body by the bird that he stole.
The "Golden Age" of falconry lasted for centuries in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In the 13th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was such a passionate falconer that he wrote one of the very first falconry books (De Arte Venandi Cum Avibus), a book that is still published and read to this day. During the Hundred Years' War between France and England, battles were sometimes lost or won because the military commanders decided to leave the battlefield to go hawking instead. Christopher Columbus was accompanied by a falconer on his first trip to the New World. In Tudor England, King Henry VIII became an avid falconer as he grew older. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, also practiced falconry. French King Louis XIII kept more than 300 raptors in his aviaries and they were divided into six different groups, depending on which type of game they would hunt. The "Grand Fauconnier du Royaume de France" (Great Falconer of the Kingdom of France) was hired by the king to supervise everything from the breeding of the birds to the planning of the hunts. It was an extremely prestigious title that only a nobleman could earn, so prestigious that the master falconer would sit the fourth seat from the King at the dining table.
Around the 18th century, the popularity of falconry in Europe started to decline, mostly due to the end of the medieval system and the use of firearms to hunt. We only have one record of an English pilgrim falconer who settled somewhere in New England during the colonial era. In the early 1900's the art of falconry began to slowly spread across North America, and in 1961 the North American Falconers Association (NAFA) was created. In 1972 the Peregrine Fund was established and started to work with American falconers to help the Peregrine Falcon recover from near total extinction due to the pesticide DDT. Since then the Peregrine Fund has released more than 2,000 captive-bred falcons into the wild. The North American falconers are credited for the amazing recovery of the Peregrine Falcon in the wild, as the bird is no longer an endangered species.
Falconry is currently experiencing a significant revival. New technologies such as GPS and telemetry are adding a new aspect to the sport. Trained raptors are now used as natural pest control in locations where wild birds are a nuisance. The need for educational programs with birds of prey is increasing as people are starting to reconnect with the outdoors, and acknowledge the role that these amazing birds play in nature. In 2010, in the largest nomination in its history, the UNESCO officially declared falconry "a living human heritage", hence acknowledging more than 4,000 years of "unbroken thread of tradition passed down from father to children."
Falconry in the United States is very strictly regulated. Since all birds of prey are protected by state and federal laws, only an individual who has the proper licenses and permits is allowed to keep a raptor. Falconry is not for everyone as it involves a great deal of time, patience and dedication. The birds require highly specialized care, and they must fly every single day during hunting season, rain or shine. If anyone is interested in learning more about falconry, they should contact their state wildlife agency and check the resources available online.