We stopped into a funky little store in Pescadero for an ice cream cone, and were surprised to see the young man behind the counter holding a hooded falcon on his hand. Never having seen a falcon up close and personal, we were fascinated with the creature. The young man was a member of a falconry club and introduced us to his feathered friend as long as we kept our distance, which I was happy to do after taking a look at his extremely long and sharp toenails.
Falconry is the hunting of wild quarry by means of a trained bird of prey. The art of falconry may have begun some 4,000 years ago in China or Mongolia as the falcon was a symbolic bird of ancient Mongol tribes. Traditional falconry knowledge probably spread into Europe during wars in Arabic countries. Today, there are falconry clubs all over the world.
In nomadic societies like the Bedouin, it was not practiced for recreation. Instead, the birds were trapped and hunted on small game during winter months in order to supplement a very limited diet.
Finishing our ice cream, the young falconer told us that ‘If he doesn’t feel like hunting, he won’t. People think birds like to fly, but they only do it to get something to eat.’ That may be true, but I still like to think the small birds visiting our birdbath are having a good time.
“The King’s Falconer” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen
This painting of the falcon and his uncompromising companion was done from a black and white photo of my aunt and uncle, who lived in Saudi Arabia for many years.