by | Nov 8, 2009 | What's Happening

Working with classic bird dogs I’ve always been fascinated by birds of prey. This is an ancient sport in the Middle East (Jørgen at the Danish Agertoften kennel sold pointers to Iraq back in the early 1980s, while the late Shah of Iran purchased several Danish pointers already in the late 1950s.) Top falconers are also found elsewhere, including Britain. I saw the first falcons in action in Denmark, though not allowed as a sport there. It requires special permissions, where falcons were used at airports to clear air space for birds deemed a hazard.

Karearea – the New Zealand falcon is a bush falcon which is more rare than the kiwi and many other well-known endemic NZ birds. Most new zealanders know little or nothing about this amazing bird, though they might see its image daily on the back of the $20 note. The falcon is sometimes confused with the more common Harrier hawk, which is often seen eating road-kill off New Zealand roads. The falcon will not eat from carcasses lying around, but only eats what it kills. The hawks are considerably larger than the falcons, but the falcons will still attack and chase any hawks coming into their area. Their prey ranges from mice and small birds but even incl rabbits and pheasants.

I also saw some beautiful peregrine falcons among pointer friends in Germany. Teaming a falcon up with high class bird dogs like Ippocampo del Vento and Blackfield Wildcat must be the height of aesthetic performance found anywhere. Style & speed from thorough bred pointers combined with the fearless and fastest birds on the planet. Falcons have been clocked at 230 km/h and reaching up to 17 g-forces when they dive to kill.

The female of the new zealand falcon is bigger than the male, and they have different hunting techniques. The male will do quick twists and turns, while the female keeps attacking in big swooping dives. Both are impressive to watch!

In Rotorua some great conservation work is done by a birds of prey trust called Wingspan. I have visited them a couple of times and I’m in awe of their work. Another fantastic development is a co-operation among some Marlborough wine growers, re-introducing karearea to protect their vineyards against small birds eating their grapes. It looks like it might become a real success story and hopefully something which will develop into several vineyards. The wine industry is important to New Zealand, and so should the NZ falcon be. If the two can be combined, all the better for everyone! These little falcons are the real class acts in the NZ fauna!