Hawks, falcons, and eagles hovering over Lubbock this week

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - This week, more than 270 predator birds will be flying over the Hub City.  Once they leave, there will probably be fewer jackrabbits.

For the first time since 2018, the North American Falconers Association Field Meet is coming to Lubbock. These bird enthusiasts are always anxious to educate the public about their feathered friends, especially those who stop by the weathering yard directly west of Buddy Holly Hall.

“For those that don’t know, falconry is the art and sport of training and working with wild birds of prey,” says Melody Lyons with the Texas Hawking Association.  Her status as general allows her to have more birds.

“It’s fun because it’s been around for so long, and people were doing this. We have all this modern technology with GPS, and scales, and all of these tools to help us be better falconers, but trying to sometimes stay back to the roots and learn the birds to know when they’re truly ready to hunt, when they’re ready to cooperate,” Lyons says, They’ll tell you once you get to know them.  (Birds function) without all the fancy equipment, and that takes me back to how it’s always been done!”

“Falconry’s been around for a thousand years.  It’s been how people got food before guns or grocery stores were ever invented,” says Tony Suffredini, who works in Hollywood as an animal trainer (most recently “Jackass Forever”).  He brought his 11-year-old golden eagle in town for an early morning hunt. Ten minutes into the pursuit the bird successfully found his breakfast- a jackrabbit.

Mallory Roelke, media spokesperson with NAFA, says to become a falconer, contact Texas Parks and Wildlife.  The apprenticeship is a two-year program, with mentors there to guide the way.

“This is very much a lifestyle. Once you get into this, it becomes who you are,” she says.

Not only are hunters arriving from all over the state, they’re coming in from all over the country. Heather Nelson, is bringing “Oz,” a Krider’s Red Tail Hawk, from Joliet, Ill.  She hopes to see her white-feathered friend find more jackrabbits- especially since there aren’t as many in her home state.

“He gets away with a lot, because he’s pretty,” she joked. “He can be a little brat, but he catches game so I keep him around.”

Christopher Karraker, is brining his hybrid peregrine-prairie falcon from Menominee, Wisc.  Even though the bird injured its wing early on in its life, Karraker has been trying to get him up to par with the others.

“We’re doing our best to get her to hunting and catching pheasants,” he said.

While the birds may fun for spectators to see, Lyons says they still have a job to do.

“Come by, get to know the birds. See what we do!,” she says, “Know these are not pets.  These are our hunting partners.  Thier job is to catch food, our job is help them produce it and teach them safe ways to do it!”