Next up under the customer spotlight is Paige Davis who is the Curator of Bird Training at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri, USA. Paige uses one of our Barkston gloves for her Falcons and our lined anklets on her Female Redtail and several Eagles at the World Bird Sanctuary.
Below is an interesting interview where Paige details her ambitions and her journey into the Falconry world. Enjoy!
Q - What inspired you to start Falconry or working with birds?
A - I started working in the field of wildlife rehabilitation with all types of native animals at a wonderful facility called Centre Wildlife Care. From mammals to reptiles to birds, I was able to get hands-on experience with a variety of wildlife. It was during this time that I was introduced to caring for birds of prey, and they captivated me instantly. The eagles I had the opportunity to work with were especially awe-inspiring to me. I knew I needed to learn more, so I immediately began volunteering at a local raptor center as well. From there I devoted my life to working with these amazing predators. It was not until years later that I finally had the ability to house and care for a bird of my own for falconry, but it was worth the wait.
Q - What was your first bird?
A - My first personal falconry bird was a rehab American kestrel named Eugene.
Q - What is your favourite bird to fly?
A - There is nothing more fun than flying a falcon. They are so thoughtful and acrobatic in their flights, and every day out in the field is a new adventure with these sky ninjas. I have really enjoyed all of the challenges and excitement that comes with flying falcons. One of my favorite birds I fly is a small male Aplomado falcon named Zorro.
Q - What is the most memorable moment you have experienced in flying birds to date?
A - The first time I flew an eagle will always be an incredibly special moment to me. They are such beautiful and powerful animals. Here in the USA, there are not abundant opportunities to work with free-flight eagles, and that's the reason I was drawn to World Bird Sanctuary where I now work full time with several eagles. The first eagle that landed on my glove is a male bald eagle named Lewis. He has an injury to his hip, making him non-releasable, but he still is able to fly for education and enrichment. He's 17 years old this year and a fantastic bird. I remember being really nervous that I would mess up and do something wrong. Everything went well, and it's a day I'll never forget!
Q - Do you work full-time in Falconry?
A - My full-time job is to train the resident birds at the World Bird Sanctuary. I work mostly with raptors, but also with some other types of birds as well. The birds I'm training change all the time with the seasons and with new bird acquisitions. Not all of our birds can fly, so some training is simply to help with day to day husbandry and enrichment. A lot of the work involves training for free-flight educational programs, both local and around the country. I am extremely thankful and blessed to be paid to fly birds every day!
Q - Which part of working with birds do you enjoy the most?
A - I really enjoy pushing the birds to new limits and watching as they improve upon their skills. It's so exciting to see a bird succeed in something it has never done before, whether that's taking the game or improving their flight skills after recovering from an injury. I absolutely love working with the bird as a team to accomplish new goals. It is so rewarding to watch them learn and grow as individuals.
Q - Biggest achievement at WBS?
A - This past year I was able to train a peregrine falcon that came into our animal hospital for release back to the wild. I learned so much from this bird! She had been found on the ground starving to death twice as a young bird and was brought to our facility. After several months of hard work, she was flying strong and smashing pigeons. Her successful release is something I will always cherish.
Q - Dream bird to fly?
A - I would love to one day fly a gyrfalcon for falconry. I'm not able to at this time in my life, but maybe someday.
Q - How does the Law work in the USA for Falconry? Do you need a license to fly birds of prey?
A - In the USA, falconry is highly regulated, and the laws differ from state to state. Raptors are protected by state, federal, and international law, so all falconers must acquire the proper permits and licenses. Falconers must pass a written exam, learn as an apprentice under a general or master class falconer for at least two years, apply for a falconry permit, and have their facilities and equipment inspected by the state. After all of this is completed, an apprentice falconer may hunt with species that are approved for that falconry class by their state. This process is not required to work with raptors through a facility such as a zoo or a rehab, which have their own separate permits.
Q - Are the birds you fly wild take or captive bred?
A - We fly birds from a variety of situations and for different purposes. Some of the birds are not releasable to the wild for various reasons such as injury or illegal imprinting. Some of the birds were captive bred for the purpose of education. Others are flown for rehabilitation purposes to be released to the wild. My current personal falconry bird is a wild take passage red-tail.
Q - For those new to Falconry or thinking about working with birds as you do, what would be your one bit of key advice?
A - If you want to be a falconer, it is so important to do your research beforehand. Read as many books as you can, learn from others in the field, go out on a hunt. For me, it seems like the more I learn, the more I don't know. It's also important to recognize if you have the time and ability to properly care for a raptor. Working a full-time job during the falconry season can be a big obstacle for many people, myself included. I had to wait several years before I had the means to keep a bird of my own. Even if you aren't able to have your own bird, you can always volunteer at a rehab center or sanctuary, or you can make connections and join a falconer friend on a hunt. Some people find that working with birds of prey isn't what they thought it would be. By getting hands-on experience, you can see what it's really like and if the work is for you.
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