View Full Version : Modifying the carrying behavior?

10-19-2013, 11:36 AM
So this may be a stupid question, but has anyone thought of modifying the carrying behavior instead of trying to eliminate it?

What if the behavior could be modified so that instead of carrying quarry to a tree somewhere, the bird carried it back to the falconer?

I don't mean this as a way to be lazy...but if there was a way to do this, it would open up birds like ospreys as possible falconry hawks.

And as an animal behaviorist, I just have to ask if anyone has thought of this idea, tried it, or planned out a training program for it? I find it hard to imagine it hasn't come up before...


10-19-2013, 12:14 PM
My first kestrel carried really bad. I talked to my sponsor who said that if I can't get her to stop carrying, then I should train her to carry TO me, instead of AWAY from me. Apparently he had done this before with some merlins. I trained her to carry to me in the house, but I don't remember why I didn't continue her training to outside. I think I just gave up on the retrieval training, and stuck to flying starlings, so she couldn't carry. I really don't remember why I didn't continue the training to be honest.

Here's how I trained her to carry to me in the house. I took a frozen whole sparrow, and tossed it down a dead end hallway. She would bind to it, and I would be standing there, blocking her path to any place to carry other than to me. As she tried unsuccessfully to break into the frozen sparrow I would slowly approach her with a good hunk of visible meat (using a tough but fleshy hunk of meat, like the fleshy part of the wing, or the bottom half of a starling drumstick), calling her with my whistle. I would then tease her up onto my glove (with her carrying her sparrow of course) like you would when you first call a reluctant bird to come. The first couple times she is really only carrying the bird a couple inches, maybe a foot is all.

I would feed her the hunk of meat, as I sneak the frozen sparrow from her, and back up down the hall to where I started. When she finished her hunk of meat, I tossed the sparrow again, then repeated the process, trying to get her to drag the sparrow to me from a farther to farther distance. I would repeat the process maybe 5 or 6 times in a training session, if I remember right, and then feed her a good meal's worth at the end.

I did this until she would fly to the end of the hall, bind to the sparrow, then carry it all the way back to me without hesitation. Then I would test her in different parts of the house. If at some point she carried the sparrow somewhere else, I would then walk near her trying to call her down with the meat. If she stubbornly refused to come, I would turn off all the lights (you must do this at night, and in an area of the house where you can reach the places she might carry) and rob her of her kill, then start over.

10-20-2013, 08:01 AM
Thank you for that response!!!

Maybe it's a fool's errand, but I love ospreys and I've been trying to think of a way I could fly them later (pre-apprentice now, so obviously it won't be for a while). I've heard the main issue with them is that they hunt over water and therefore -have- to carry. Usually to a nest or some other perch. I'd love to find a way to see if I could get then to carry to me instead.

The only other issue I can think of is the fact that as a falconer, I probably would not have a large role in helping the osprey hunt. Hm....

I'm sure it's crazy but I'd love to try it some day. Just to see if it could be done.

10-20-2013, 08:47 AM
I'm just south of you Lindsay....down near the attractions. If you ever get closer to your osprey goal please let me know as I'd be interested in assisting. May I ask about your work as an animal behaviorist?

10-20-2013, 08:58 AM
I'm not sure that Ospreys are on the list of potential falconry birds in most states anyway.

I have had several birds that would score on prey in the air and either come back to the glove with it (Merlins) or back to the roof or shell of the truck. Most of them did this naturally without much attempt to enhance it.

But a bird that carries from the ground and away from you, would be a much different scenario as there is more functioning in that reaction than just the act of carrying, i.e. greed, fear of you stealing the prey, distrust, fear of eating on the ground, etc.. These issues can often be difficult to overcome just to be able to secure the hawk/falcon with their food.
Once you start catching game with your bird, I'm sure that the least of your worries will be how to get it to retrieve. It will be more important to focus on where the next best slip is going to come from, which will keep you busy enough I'm sure.

10-20-2013, 12:46 PM
Ospreys from what I've heard are spastic in captivity and don't respond well to it

10-20-2013, 01:06 PM
I've worked with a few at a rehab center that were actually quite calm. They're one of my favorite birds, which is why I'm so interested in trying it. Tough from what I've seen, they're a lot like red-shoulder hawks in the focalization department. So it would be more like a flying car alarm. XD

From what I believe, one can fly an osprey in Florida. It's just not recommended. I haven't seen any official rules yet that say "no". I assume it's just like with red shoulder hawks. They just don't make good falconry birds so most people don't use them.

Kevin- I actually work in Orlando, so any time you want to chat falconry I'd be happy to meet you somewhere.

I wi certainly let you know when I get closer. Sadly it's probably a long way off at this point. XD I tend to get ahead of the game when I get excited over stuff.

As far as animal behavior, for the most part, it was my college degree. I took classes on training and behavior and cognition, as well as a lot of zoology courses. I've used that training in real world settings like zoos to start up OC programs with various animals (mostly crocodilians). I also try to read up on animal behavior studies when I can. I'd love to do some research programs with corvids, but that's not likely at my current job. :/

The training aspect of falconry fascinates me, as well as the differences in raptor management for zoo like facilities vs. raptor management by falconers. I'm a pretty firm believer that training is good enrichment for animals and that there really isn't anything you can't train a critter to do.

I'll probably start a thread up on here whenever I get around to trying it out. But it could be a couple years. :)