Static Demonstrations of Birds of Prey

Guidance to Show Organisers and Static Display Teams

Falconry Displays These guidelines have been prepared for bird of prey demonstrators. This outlines a framework of what Hawk Board feels are the minimum standard that should apply in any demonstration  This is to ensure that interactions between the public and  falconry and the bird of prey keeping community are a positive one which can promote falconry and birds of prey in general, as well as showing that falconry is an important historic cultural heritage.


Falconry is the sport of taking wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of trained hawks. Any publicity involving birds of prey has a potential for benefit and harm.. Benefit comes from increasing appreciation of birds of prey and the art of falconry. Harm comes from stimulating a desire to possess hawks in those who lack the time and expertise to look after them or who may try to obtain them illegally: or more commonly, by showing birds in a condition that is detrimental to the birds and possibly to the viewing public.

Displays of hawks on perches (static displays) are best undertaken in conjunction with demonstrations of birds in flight. Generally, static displays without a flying demonstration are not as effective as no birds are seen un tethered or flying free. Therefore those giving static displays must be prepared to explain that the hawks are hunted/flown free on a very regular basis.


The object of any display of birds of prey should be to educate the watching public with strong emphasis on the history of falconry and keeping of birds of prey as well as the need for raptor conservation. This can be achieved by clearly stating the role which birds of prey play in the ecology of the countryside. This should be supported by suitable promotional information or leaflets at all times, e.g. from Hawk Board (HB), Countryside Alliance (CA), Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) , etc.

The Law and Insurance

It is illegal to take from the wild in Britain or import from abroad any species of birds of prey unless approved by AHVLA or with the appropriate CITES licences.  Since 1997 with the implementation of EU CITES, all specimens of EU species or birds listed as Appendix 1 require an Article 10 certificate, if to be used for any commercial use, and that includes all display to the general public, whether paid or not.  Organisers must therefore ensure that anyone giving a demonstration has the necessary licences, most non EU species can be used without Article 10 Certificates, but some may require other licences. Show Organisers also need to take particular care that display givers are not collecting funds illegally or claiming charitable status fraudulently. Both the Organiser and the Demonstrator must check that Display Teams have adequate public liability insurance, risk assessments and transportation documentation, and are keeping within the law.

Requirements from the Event Organiser

1. In Shows for which the C.A. is responsible the Event Organiser must ensure that C.A. has approved the proposed Demonstrator, who in turn will have agreed to abide by these guide lines.

2. Well in advance to the day of the event the Event Organiser should issue clear information to the Demonstrator of the location of the event and the timing requirements, e.g. arrival time, parking, flying times, times of talks, etc.

3. Each bird should be given enough room to keep it safe from its neighbours, ideally  six feet per falcon/hawk and ten feet per eagle is a recommended minimum. The demonstrator can notify the Event Organiser what length of Weathering/shelter is needed depending on the birds he/she intends to bring. Or should tell the organiser that he or she is bringing sufficient shelter and standoff barriers to keep the birds safe and secure.

4. Radio or cable microphones or similar aids should be available by arrangement, if any ‘in ring’ commentary is given. 

5. If the Event Organiser knows that there could be a problem with any anti-field sports group, the Demonstrator must be warned.

6. The Event Organiser should check that the Demonstrator has adequate public liability insurance and are keeping within the law. It is advisable that press or television interviews on falconry or bird of prey keeping should be given by the principal demonstrator.

7. Collections are not permitted at C.A. displays or stands, unless prior permission is given.  At public events on public land a licence is needed to take collections.  At public events on private land permission is needed from the landowner for collections.  Details of the recipient of the funds should be on display to the public at all times.

Requirements from the DEMONSTRATOR

1. All birds should be accustomed to being on display and be tame, well-handled and fit, with good plumage. In general birds used for hunting do not make good display birds. The welfare of the birds must be the first priority and kept under consideration at all times.

2. A Static Display is intended to enable the public to view the hawks at close quarters. If the public have any questions, they must be answered by qualified falconers. The distance from the public to the tethered hawks should be outside stress or interference distance, but close enough to permit photographs.  A barrier or fence should be placed between hawks and the public to prevent access. A Performing Animals Licence is mandatory to display hawks trained for displays.

3. It is recommended that Owls such as the Eagle and Horned Owls are best for  displays.  Smaller owls should not be on display if other diurnal raptors or large owls are in the same stand.  Attention should be made to ensure that no birds are intimidated by other hawks on the weathering.

4. Any hawk showing signs of agitation or distress should be removed from the display. Hawks should not be set down on perches with their hoods on for any length of time.

5. To comply with Animal Welfare laws it should be standard practise that all travelling boxes are clean and ventilated. Enough competent staff should be present to ensure that all birds are monitored satisfactorily during the event period. An Animal Transport Licence is mandatory.

6. Birds should not be put on static display unless a suitable shelter has been provided either by the show (see “Requirements from the Show” above), or by the demonstrator, there must be a standoff barrier in place to keep dogs and humans out of touching reach of the birds. Signs giving the species of the birds should be visible and easily legible.

7. At no time should the static display birds be left unattended.

8. Perches, baths and equipment should be in good order. Full bathing facilities should be available to all tethered birds of prey throughout the day. Working radio telemetry must be used with every hawk flying in a demonstration.

9. Article 10’s are required for all appropriate birds on display. No wild disabled birds should be put on display to the public.

10. Photographing of hawks on members of the public fists has become a common occurrence, continual handling and moving a hawk from fist to fist can cause stress to the hawk. It has also caused hawks to be lost with full equipment during unsafe transfers of birds to inexperienced persons.  It is recommended that if photographing is to take place a permanent high perch be used with the subject standing next to the sitting hawk.  This way members of the public can be moved in for pictures without the stress of moving / handling the hawk.

11. For a variety of safety reasons the participation of members of the public in displays should only be allowed after a full risk assessment has been undertaken. Members of the public must not be allowed to touch or stroke a bird. Repeated handling can seriously damage the waterproofing of the plumage.

12. The Display Team should wear appropriate smart clothes and behave properly at all times and avoid undue sensationalism in act or statement. Falconry should not be brought into disrepute.

13. The demonstrators should be competent in answering questions on falconry, husbandry and on relevant legislation. Remember that often questions may be posed by those opposed to falconry whose aim is to cause mischief.

14. Demonstrators should not enter into public arguments with people who are obviously opposed to field sports. It may be necessary to suggest that discussion be continued in private later on. All demonstrators should be capable of arguing their case in a cool and logical manner.

15. Enquires about taking up the sport should be answered by giving the name of either the Countryside Alliance or any reputable club or course giver.

Commentary, Static Display or Parade and Programme Notes

If given, the commentary is a most important part of a Display and needs careful preparation It is advisable to witness a competent display giver and to note the points made. Hesitations and slurred speaking must be avoided. A clear balanced narration suitable to the audience is required. On occasion an interview style is often easier for the inexperienced.

The skeleton commentary which follows is intended for general guidance.

1. Falconry is the sport of taking wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of trained hawks. What you see here is a display of trained hawks being flown to the fist or lure. The lure is a sort of imitation quarry used to exercise the hawk and call it back from a distance.

2. The words “hawk” and “falcon” are interchangeable in ordinary conversation, but in strict usage the birds flown by falconers fall into three types: 

Falcons: (Genus Falco) Long -winged, dark -eyed birds of prey. Naturally mount up to high pitch above the ground and dive or “stoop” onto their prey. Peregrine is a typical example. Falcons are trained to the lure.

Hawks: (Genus Accipiter) Short-winged, yellow eyed birds of prey. Take their prey by surprise or by a swift level chase. Sparrow Hawk is an example. Short-winged hawks are trained to the fist.

The harris hawk (Genus Parabuteo) is a buzzard like hawk and is a relatively new species for falconry in the UK which has been used by falconers only in the last 50 years.  It is a sociable species, where more than one specimen can be flown at the same time, if trained together.

Eagles & Buzzards (Genus Aquila, Buteo, etc.) Broad-winged birds which are in their element in air currents and soar at great heights in mountainous country. Eagles are usually trained to the fist and sometimes to the lure or a perch.

The Birds you will see today are: (Names, provenance, etc.)

3. A hawk has a hood on its head so that it remains quiet and is not frightened by unusual sights. There are thin leather straps (jesses) on its legs for it to be held by, and light bells which can be heard from a distance and tell the falconer where the hawk is when it is out of sight. Minute radio transmitters are always attached to facilitate recovery should the hawk be lost. The bird comes to the lure or fist because it has been trained to do so. In the early stages this is achieved by offers of food. The fully trained bird does so by habit but this is achieved only by the skill of the falconer after long experience.

One is often asked “Are birds of prey dangerous?” There are stories of eagles carrying off babies and so on. Like all wild animals, birds of prey are frightened of man, and stories of attacks can usually be explained by the bird being cornered and frightened, protecting its young or even being a lost trained bird which approaches a human being for food. A big eagle can carry about eight pounds at the most. They would be very careless parents who left about, a baby young enough to weigh that!

A hawk that has been fully trained for falconry and been taking quarry regularly should be able to fend for itself, if it is lost, and return to a wild state. A hawk that has not been taking quarry regularly will probably not survive, if turned loose. It will need to be “hacked back”, which requires access to open country where the hawk can be provided with food every day until it learns to kill for itself, which may take some days.

No trained captive bird of prey should be purposely released to the wild in the UK.

These three points MUST be made in any commentary or programme notes.

(a) Of course all Birds of Prey and Owls are predators and depending on the species take a wide variety of prey including other birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. Birds of prey tend in any case to select the weak, old and distressed individuals. Birds of prey are not wicked, cruel killers they are an essential part of the food chain and necessary to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

(b) Hawks do not make satisfactory pets. In Britain all birds of prey are protected by law. They may not be shot or trapped, and they may only be imported under licence, often with quarantine restrictions as well.

(c) Training a hawk is a difficult and demanding activity. It takes a great deal of dedication. A trained hawk needs daily, time-consuming attention, as well as access to open country, special housing and much detailed knowledge. There is far more to taking wild quarry with a trained hawk than the demonstration you have seen today; but should you wish to know more, please contact your local falconry club.


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