The History of the Hawk Board

In March 1977 the Advisory Committees on the Protection of Birds for England, Wales and Scotland established a joint working party to look into the questions of Falconiformes in captivity.

The Groups terms of reference were to consider the desirability of legislating to regulate the possession of captive hawks and to consider the practical aspects of operating a control scheme. In the course of time the working party issued a comprehensive report which the Government agreed to treat as a consultative document for consideration by representative of those involved with captive birds of prey. The British Fields Sports Society was approached and agreed to form an ‘Umbrella Body’ to effect the necessary so-ordination.

And so it was that on a freezing cold day in January 1979 when the snow lay thick and stopped some people from getting to the meeting, some 200 dedicated falconers attended a conference at The National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire to a legalised control scheme. The discussion was lively to say the least. From this conference was born The National Voluntary Panel on Captive Hawks. It is interesting to remember that at that meeting proposals to have licenses for individual falconers was put forward, and sadly it was crushed by the majority of the attendees, who felt that they didn’t need tests and licenses.

(If only we had known then what we know now, I think many of us – myself definitely, then and now actually – wish we had gone for licensing of the falconers and raptor keepers. Instead of the incredibly cumbersome and ill conceived, not to say expensive processes, that we have today, which protect neither the captive birds, or the people who own, breed and fly them.)

The National Voluntary Panel on Captive Hawks was made up of representatives of falconers, zoos, veterinary surgeons and hawk keepers generally who were accordingly elected to the Panel and the first meeting was held in July 1979.

The Panels main task was to bring together the differing views of the various interests and to give the Government practical guidance for the legislation which was required to be introduced within the terms of the EU directives to which the United Kingdom was committed. To this end the Panel liased closely with Government departments and provided valuable advise both of a general and technical nature. Ringing and marking methods were an early subject for discussion and were most carefully investigated; the merits of different rings were debated at length.

The Panel devoted much time to the question of control, as some birds of prey in captivity had been illegally taken from the wild. The Panel sought the view of the RSPB who had prosecuted successfully on several occasions. Registration, inspection and enforcement systems were therefore worked out to ensure not only that a proper check could be maintained over the birds, but that their keepers complied with the legal requirements, i.e. the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, enacted in 1981.

The Panel also gave considerable attention to the drawing up of Codes of Conduct – a general Code for all keepers of captive hawks and specialist Codes for falconers, breeders and so on. The well-being of captive birds was the prime consideration but the Codes were also aimed at giving fair guidance of a general nature to hawk keepers. The Regulations, issued in due course by the Department of the Environment in connection with the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, were expected to give specific directions on a number of aspects of keeping captive hawks.

The Panel has already been of assistance to the Advisory Committees on the Protection of Birds for England, Wales and Scotland by vetting applications for licences to take birds of prey from the wild. It is expected that the Hawk Board will play an even more important role in this respect in the future, when the reconstituted Advisory Committee, under the aegis of the Nature Conservancy Council, has been established…

And so went the history of the start of the Hawk Board…

The initial objects of the Panel were attained under the able Chairmanship of Sir Marcus Kimball M.P, in the first instance and of Captain Richard Grant-Rennick who took over. By 1981 the name had changed to The Hawk Board, who by this time had an important role to play then and in the future, not only in acting as a channel of communication between Hawk Keepers and the Government, but also in assisting the Government in implementing its legislation. One of the aims was that Hawk keeping and falconry must not be allowed to fall into disrepute, and that hawk keepers would respond responsibly to the provisions of the then new legislation.

Now the Hawk Board of today protects falconry and the keeping of birds of prey from the various and numerous threats posed by potential british and european legislation and attacks by anti groups.

With Thanks to Derek Starkie who so carefully kept this record.