Equipment[edit | edit source]
The bird wears a bell, or pair of bells, on its legs (attached via small leather strips called bewits,) which can be heard from a surprising distance. An identity band is worn on the leg as well in most countries, and the bird sports strips of strong leather (nowadays often kangaroo) called jesses on both legs. Very often, the bird also wears a telemetry transmitter, so that it may be recovered if lost during free flight. Falcons (the long-wing family of raptors) are tethered perched on a block, while large owls (during training only), short-winged and broad-winged hawks are tethered to a bow perch or round perch, when not allowed to fly free in their mews, an Old English word for a raptor's chamber. (The term is "mews" whether singular or plural.)
There are two styles of jesses: traditional, which is a single strap specially knotted onto the bird; and Aylmeri, a two part restraint featuring an anklet that is grommeted on, and a removable jess strap. Some Aylmeri jess straps have dental rubberbands on them to make it more difficult for the bird to pull out the jess, but they are still removable should the bird get caught up outdoors. A good reference on these jesses is "Care And Management of Captive Raptors" by Lori Arent & Mark Martell. Published by the University of Minnesota this guide is very popular with zoos and wildlife center, though it is not a traditional falconry book.
The singular of "jesses" is correctly "jess", but one jess is often mistakenly called a "jessie", by wrong back-formation from "jesses" treated as "jessies", which would be pronounced the same.
Nylon Aylmeri jesses have recently grown in popularity. Thinner, lighter, and stronger, they do not rot or require oiling to remain supple. The anklets are grommetted on, like their leather counterparts, but instead of a folded button keeping the straps from falling through the anklets, a knot is used. The end of the knot is melted with a lighter to keep it from fraying. In order to form the loops the swivel or clips will attach to, a nylon parachute cord is hollowed out, threaded up through itself using an awl, and knotted.
The purpose of the swivel is to prevent tangling and twisting of the leash or tether when the bird is active but not hunting. The swivel consists of two parts that twist freely, each with a metal hoop on the end. The swivel may be traditional, or modified. The modified swivel has much larger metal hoops than the traditional. While swivels have been made of cloth or other materials in the past, most modern falconers use metal swivels.
When using Alymeri jesses, there are usually two sets of straps: the mew straps, for manning and tethering the bird, and flying straps. The flying straps are lighter and smaller for hunting, while the mews straps are heavy and less likely to break with stress.
Most importantly, hunting/flying jesses are absent of the slit which can often get caught up on a branch or bush, leaving the bird hanging too far in the air to be retrieved. Since using mews jesses in the field is dangerous to the bird, educated falconers no longer risk them. Instead, they are changed out before the bird is released to free-flight, and the mews jesses returned into the grommets after the free-flight is over and the bird is safely in hand.
Jesses and anklets need to be replaced periodically, and checked for fit if they are causing injury.
A scale is used to weigh the bird and its food. The scale must be reliable. This is especially important when dealing with small birds, as they may endangered by even small differences when at flying weight. The successful hunting weight of the bird may vary, usually increasing as the bird is flown and develops more muscle (which weighs more than fat,) but there is a relatively narrow range which the falconer seeks. Below that weight, the bird will be unnecessarily (and perhaps even dangerously) low and weak. Above that range of weight, and the bird will be unresponsive in the field, lacking in motivation to hunt or return to the falconer in timely fashion.
Gauntlets or gloves are used by the falconer to turn the arm into a suitable perching surface. Falconry gloves may only cover the fist and wrist, while hawking guantlets extend to the elbow. An eagle glove may cover the entire arm and a portion of the chest, or it may be a heavy sheath worn over a standard hawking glove. The glove will have to be replaced with wear.
A creance is a long, light line which is tied to the swivel or jesses. This is used only when training the bird to fly between a perch and the fist, as an assurance that the bird will not be lost in these early stages. The "bitter" end is most often wound around the spindle like a kite string, and can be wound or unwound with a single hand. This provides a means of storing the creance, and also provides a drag weight should the bird decide to fly off.