Home Science & TechScience The Ancient Art of Falconry on the Jersey Shore

The Ancient Art of Falconry on the Jersey Shore

by YAR

In 2010, UNESCO added falconry to its “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” list for the first time, calling it “an age-old drama.” Since then, according to McNeff, the international falconry community has been careful to distinguish between falconry and reduction in order to protect the UNESCO-recognized version of the sport, which is in accordance with NAFA’s ethics policy; states that falconry “shall not include the keeping of birds of prey as pets or objects of prestige.” This is because, in recent years, especially in Europe, groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have criticized the use of raptors for “shows” or “demonstrations”. On its British website, PETA states: “Falconers treat birds of prey, such as hawks, owls and eagles, as living props and display them for tourists. Tied to a block of wood with a short leather strap for hours or even days, their life is one of boredom and torment.”

For gulls, however, Swanson’s current five hawks, 12 hawks and eagle owl are much better than the typical alternative. In 2021 alone, the US Department of Agriculture killed 17,633 seagulls in the name of wildlife control, along with 2,664 hawks, 510 hawks, and 359 owls. “You come here and knock out 20,000 seagulls; well, that’s 20,000 fewer birds to clean up the beach,” says Swanson. “Everything is here for a reason.” One of those reasons, argues Amanda Rodewald, an avian biologist at Cornell University, is the presence of people, whether they like it or not. “Connections are complicated,” she says. “By removing one species, it can be difficult to predict what the consequences will be for others in that system; we don’t know which species will be valuable to us one day.”

The use of birds of prey to nuisance birds appears to have been invented by the British Army in the 1940s at an air base in Scotland, where peregrine falcons, whose dive speeds of nearly 200 mph make them the fastest animals in the world, they were deployed to chase gulls from the runways. In the decades that followed, the practice spread to cleaning herring and ring-billed gulls from a Canadian garbage dump, wood pigeons from an English field planted with cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and even Kremlin ravens. Thomas L. Freeman, who is a professor of math and science at Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso and studies diurnal birds of prey, told me that hawks and falcons are so effective because they are unpredictable in ways that artificial deterrents can’t. be. “You can turn off the scarecrows and they work for a while,” he says. “But with birds of prey, the animals that they’re chasing are going to perceive real danger, dynamic danger.”

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