Tag Archives: equipment

Kestrel perch/giant hood

I found this interesting concept for a kestrel perch/giant hood, but unfortunately it’s on blogspot and I don’t think I can repost the original post on this blog.  You can find the original blog here.

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Releasing Ögedei

I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last few months but just haven’t gotten around to it.  I applied to a job and Cleveland at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which took some effort getting to material and letters together, and then we found out my wife is pregnant, so I’ve been putting in as much time at work as possible trying to get ahead of everything.

Anyway.  I stopped hunting Ogedei at the end of February when rabbit and squirrel seasons closed.  I started feeding him one and a half to double rations a day in two feedings.  He put on a lot of weight and got quite sassy after three weeks.  I didn’t really realize how much he’d reverted until it was the day I was going to release him.  I could not for the life of me get Ogedei into the giant hood.  I ended up removing all of the perches except the window perch.  I chased him and he ran around on the floor, landed on my head, flew to the perch.  Rinse, repeat.  Finally he made the mistake of flying into the equipment room, which is only 4’x8′.  I closed the door to the mews and finally cornered him.  I ended up grabbing him around the wings and body and putting him head first into the giant hood.  I closed the door enough he couldn’t get out but left enough room and light he could turn around.  After he was situated I closed the hood and loaded him into the car.

The release spot I picked was a 45 minute drive away along an overgrown power line cut in the Ozark National Forest.  I opened the giant hood and expected him to bolt out, but he didn’t.  Ten seconds rolled by and then Blam!  A rush of feathers and he was off.  Ogedei perched in a tree 50 yards away or so and seemed quite content.  We watched him for a few minutes and I said my goodbyes.  I whirled a dead quail around, made sure it had his attention, and threw it to the base of the tree he was in.  We drove off after that; I don’t know if he decided to take my last gift, but I like to think he did.

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The last shot I have of Ogedei

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Here he is if you couldn’t tell from the last shot

Since I released Ogedei, the summer has been pretty boring, at least as falconry goes. The only thing that really happened is that I cleaned the mews, which took the better part of the morning.  I pulled out the rubber mats and wetted them down to loosen the dried whitewash, then scrubbed them off in the yard.  After they were set out to dry I did the same thing with the inside of the mews.  I did all of that with a paper mask on to reduce the chance of catching a respiratory illness, what with the aerated water droplets floating around after contacting bird poop.

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Scrubbing the rubber matting and perches down

Other than that, there’s reading books, waiting for the AHA summer picnic, cruising the falconry forums, and waiting until next season.

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Traveling with a hawk

My wife and I have been traveling for the last three weeks or so visiting family for Christmas.  My family is a 17 hour drive away in Pennsylvania and hers is 12 hours away in northern Indiana.  It takes a lot to see them so we tend to stay a while to make the effort worth it.  This was the first time we traveled with a hawk and I think it went rather well.  I’ve already posted a few photos in the last post.

Ogedei spent his time inside a giant hood, sometimes called a hawk box.  There are some variations on the basic design, but it really is what it sounds like – a box to put the hawk in.  It works like a hood in that the bird is calm when it can’t see (hence the name giant hood).  The box must have a perch that is high enough the tail feathers don’t bend and must be big enough to fit the bird comfortably.  The hawk box is great for transporting a bird because it catches all of the mutes and castings so the vehicle doesn’t get messy.  Newspaper is generally used to line the box so the mutes don’t absorb into the box (if you’re using wood) or slide around if you’re using something impermeable like plastic.

The giant hood I constructed for Ogedei was 23″ high, 21″ deep, and 11″ wide.  I built it out of 3/8″ plywood.  It was relatively easy to screw the wood together without it breaking if the screw holes were predrilled.  I tacked velcro along the edges to ensure it sealed well and kept out light.  I couldn’t find my manilla rope so wrapped the perch in cotton clothes line; it was screwed 6″ from the front and 6″ from the bottom of the box.

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Giant hood mk I

While we were in Pennsylvania the box got damp – even though the porch it was on is covered the rain came in sideways.  The door of the box warped badly and doesn’t keep light out now.  I had to cover the crack with a towel or blanket most of the trip to keep it light tight.  In addition the newspaper drooped a few times and so didn’t catch every mute.  The back of the box absorbed these stray mutes and became dirty.  I’m going to build a new box for the Arkansas Hawking Association’s winter meet because aside from being embarrassing I’m worried the mutes will allow fungi to grow and possibly get Ogedei sick with aspergillosis.  Once suggestion at the AHA’s apprentice workshop is to use corrugated plastic as it doesn’t absorb mutes.  I’m going to give this a try and will write a post about it when I do.

It was relatively easy to train Ogedei to the hawk box.  Like everything else with training hawks it comes down to food.  I placed a tidbit on the perch that he ate while on the fist and repeated that a few times.  Then I carefully backed him into the box.  It took a couple of tries to get him into the box and onto the perch without him trying to flap out of it, but once he was inside I fed him the better part of a quail.  I fed him his dinner this way for two days and he seemed to take to the hawk box.  He still needed more training because he randomly protested going in the box for the next week, but eventually he settled into it and goes in without problems most of the time now.

The box conveniently fit behind the driver’s seat of the car.  I had to wedge it into place with some fiberglass (it came with some frozen quails I ordered and was on hand when we were packing to leave) to make sure the box didn’t wobble or wasn’t knocked down by the dogs who shared the back seat with Ogedei.  He did become more active when the sun came in his window, so we covered the box with a jacket or blanket when that happened.  I suspect the box was getting warm or some light was creeping in a crack.  One thing I read about having a hawk in a vehicle, whether in a hawk box or hooded, is to never idle the vehicle to warm it up.  Birds are more susceptible to carbon monoxide than people and can die easily in an idling car.

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Giant hood packed in for a road trip

A few times while traveling I had to weight Ogedei outside.  At those times I set the scale up in the back of the car.  I learned that I shouldn’t let Ogedei see his bow perch because he will try to stand on it, no matter how tight the space the perch is packed in.

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“I get a tidbit for this, right?”

I was feeding Ogedei in the hood during the trip and made the mistake of letting him see food in my ungloved hand before I transferred it to the glove.  He footed my finger, which was much more painful than I thought it would be.  He’s landed on my ungloved hand, shoulder, and head while on the creance, which wasn’t bad.  Even when he was trying to gain purchase or balance he didn’t grab too hard then.  This was different, and painfully so.  I learned my lesson and will be more careful in the future.

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Outch

Finally, here are a few fun photos.  I had Sarah hold Ogedei on the fist for the first time when I cleaned some mutes that missed the paper out of the hawk box.

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She’s excited about it, really.

On the way back to Arkansas we were caught in the polar vortex.  Traffic on the roads slowed to a crawl, then a stop.  We were forced to get hotels for two nights and what is normally a one day trip turned into three.  The overnight temperatures in Indiana dropped to -20F (-29C), with windchills down to -40F (-40C).  That’s cold enough that I brought Ogedei into the hotel room.  Wild birds can withstand those kinds of temperatures, but a hawk at hunting weight with little body fat might be pushed over the edge and get too low and die.

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Bal-chatri trap

Bal-chatri, or BC, traps are one of the more common traps used in falconry.   They are especially effective for trapping red-tailed hawks and are often the first trap used by an apprentice falconer.  They consist of a dome that holds bait and is covered in small nooses.  When a bird attempts to catch the bait it’s toes are caught in the nooses.  The falconer trying to trap the hawk is typically a short distance away and can run to the bird before the nooses damage it’s toes.

BC traps are quite easy to assemble.  All you need is some 1/2″ hardware cloth, 20 lb fishing line, a bit of plywood, and an old hose.

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Getting ready to form the dome

Begin by forming the hardware cloth into a dome shape.  I formed it be hammering the cloth in a large mixing bowl.

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Formed dome

Next, attach a bottom to the dome.  I’ve seen many BC traps with a wire base, but I wanted a bit more weight so used a plywood base.  Remember to add a door to the base where you can put the bait in.

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I added some custom lead weights to the base.  I accumulated the lead by picking up tire weights on the side of the road for the last few years.

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Weights added to base

Next, attach monofilament nooses to the trap.  I like spiderwire brand fishing line as it is stronger than other monofilament of the same diameter.  Twenty pound test is probably hte minimum you can use for a RT.  It took me approximately 8 hours to cut and tie all of the nooses.

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BC with nooses attached

My trap needed a bit more weight.  I’ve seen some suggestions to attach a solid metal ring, but I don’t have anything to bend like that.  Instead I cut a length of garden hose and filled it with sand.  I attached one end of the hose to the other and then tied the ring to the trap.  This added a bit of weight, hopefully making the trap heavy enough to restrain a red-tail, but not too heavy that it will cause harm.

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Finished BC with weighted hose added.

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Perches

There are many different kinds of perches you can use for your hawk or falcon.  Some of them are better for longwings and some for shortwings – it mostly depends on the general way the bird stands while hunting in the wild.  Most hawks hunt from tree limbs or other round structures, while most falcons hunt from cliffs or other flat surfaces.  There are of course exceptions – kestrels, for example, are falcons but can stand on either round or flat perches.  This makes sense as they often hunt from tree branches or power lines in their native habitat.  The Modern Apprentice has an excellent section on different perches.

A bow perch is perhaps the best perch for an apprentice falconer if they only have the money for one perch.  It looks, as the name suggests, like a strung bow that has be stuck in the ground.  They are small enough to be used in the mews or moved outside when the bird is weathering, and can be used for red-tails and kestrels (though must, of course, be sized appropriately).  They are relatively simple to make with a welding machine.  If you don’t have your own welder it might be possible to find a metal shop that will make one.  That’s what I did; it cost me $78 after taxes and only needed a few modifications.  Prefabricated bow perches are also available online, but they of course cost more.

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Bow perch before modifications

The Arkansas Fish & Game Commission falconry coordinator was nice enough to send blueprints for a bow perch in the falconry packet.  The base is 1/8″ thick stainless steel 5″ x 32″.  The bow is 1/2″ stainless steel tubing 24″ wide and 12″ high.  The guy who built my perch said he formed the tube around a 55 gallon drum with a hammer.  The captive ring is 3″ in diameter.

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After grinding off the corner and widening the stake hole.

A perch still needs a covering where the bird will stand.  Many people use long blade astroturf.  I couldn’t find any around town so went with manila rope.  Each end of the rope is zip tied into place and then I wound it around the tubing.  This will have to be replaced in a while after it gets soiled too heavily.  Both the astroturf and rope serve to make an uneven surface for the bird to perch on.  An even surface will eventually cause sores than can lead to bumblefoot, a catch-all term for a bacterial infection in the foot of the bird.  While bumblefoot can be cured with antibiotics the best defense is proper equipment.  That’s always cheaper than a vet bill.

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Finished bow perch

I also made a second perch for inside of the mews.  With just the bow perch the bird is near the ground and wouldn’t be able to see out the windows if it so desired.  I have to admit that the design isn’t my own, but one I saw in my sponsor’s mews.

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Bow perch below the window. It’s not high enough to allow a bird to see out the window.

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T-perch

It’s quite simple to make, just some 2x4s and a 4×4.  The 4×4 is 6.5″ tall, the 2×4’s for the feet are each 18″.  The 2×4 for the perch is a single piece of wood 2′ long.  I measured out where it would attach to the 4×4 and cut one side into a round shape 1.5″ in diameter.  This will allow the bird to choose if it wants to stand on a round or flat surface.  I wrapped manila rope around the round and flat ends and attached the rope with staples.

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Bottom of the t-pech

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Each foot is secured with two screws to the main post and one screw to the adjoining foot.

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Top of the t-perch

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T-perch with manila rope added. Note the individually stapled strands across the middle

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Mews IV

Parts I, II, and III.

I may not have said it before, but I wanted to have the front of the hawk room be mostly windows so I could get away with weathering the bird outside less than if the windows were small.   I decided to have an “open” and a “not-so-open” window.  The “not-so-open” window was made with vertical 2″x6″ boards spaced 3/4″ apart.  This will allow some light and air flow, but is relatively concealed if the hawk wants to hide.  The “open” window is made with schedule 40 1/2″ PVC pipes spaced 3/4″ apart.  The 3/4″ spacing is the largest recommended by The Modern Apprentice for small birds such as a kestrel or merlin.  If you only plan on flying a red tail or other medium to large birds 1.5″ is fine.  I’d like to eventually fly a kestrel or Cooper’s hawk, so went with the smaller spacing.

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Unlike the 2x4s that stuck out the back the PVC fit entirely into the car. It just had to touch the windshield to do so.

The PVC was a bit flimsy by itself and I worried about it breaking under the strain of a red tail crashing into them.  I added the crossbeam to strengthen the pipes.  It seems to have worked well.

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Detail of the PVC window during construction. Screws were driven through each pipe and the top, center, and bottom to make them more secure. I’m hoping this doesn’t weaken the structural integrity too much.

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All the pipes in place. They pass through the crossbeam in the middle

After the panels were build I carried them into the back yard.  I’m stubborn and didn’t ask for help doing this.  I was sore for a couple days after – the panels are pretty hefty, especially pieces with extra 2x4s such as the door and window panels.

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Most of the panels laid out in the yard waiting to be assembled.

I did get some help installing one panel.  We had Josh, a guy from church who is going to watch out dogs in a few weeks, over for dinner and I co-opted while the steaks were cooking.  I needed the help with the panel too, it was the only one that I couldn’t hold both panels and drill or tighten a bolt.

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I don’t own a ladder so I used a bucket. This will have to change before I put the roof on.

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Josh stood on the bucket behidn the mews so I was left reaching for the bolt as he tightened it.

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The first set of panels assembled.

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More panels assembled

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The roof panels were screwed to 2×4’s bolted to the inside of the walls. I didn’t want to screw them directly to the walls so it’s easier to disassemble.

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Mews with a partial roof

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Finished mews

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Finished mews, right side
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Mews, left side

All in all the mews cost:

Number            Item                                                                           Price

    115                   8′ 2×4                                                                      $350.06

    4                     8′ 2×6                                                                       $18.76

     6                    8′ 4×4                                                                       $43.02

    12                     3/8″ 4×8′ plywood                                              $193.32

     3                     15/32″ 4×8″                                                            $55.11

     12 lbs               3″ and 2.5″ wood screws                                     $74.58

     29                   3/8″x5″ bolt                                                           $121.03

     25                  3/8″x6″ bolt                                                            $18.97

      8                   3/8″x8″ bolt                                                             $7.74

     69                   3/8″ Hex nuts                                                         $7.68

     100                  3/8″ washers                                                          $18.84

     15                   10′ schedule 40 1/2″ PVC pipe                            $26.40

     2                     Window bolt (for doors)                                      $5.92

     3                    Utility door handles                                               $9.84

     4                    Door hinge                                                               $10.32

     1                     Locking door clasp                                                 $7.29

     5 gallons white paint, paint roller, brush, paint tray            $87.71

     1 gallon white paint                                                                      $10.97

              TOTAL                                                                                            $1060.27

The actual cost is just a bit lower than this as I bought way too many washers and have some bolts left over.  Additionally, longer scraps of 2×4 have been used to build a perch.

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Mews III

Mews I, Mews II

The mews is coming along, albeit slower than I’d like.  The wall panels are all assembled and the last few are being painted.  I’m shooting to have some guys over next week or weekend to help me bolt the walls together – I’m sure beer and burgers will be a suitable bribe offer to get them to come over.  I should probably decide on the floor substrate sometime soon….

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We got a second car – a Hyundai Santa Fe – as I’ll be using our first car for hawking when I finally get a bird. Oh, and the whole baby thing will probably happen sooner rather than later, so we needed a vehicle with more space. It was pretty nerve wracking driving 50 mph down a major road with only a set of ratchet straps holding three sheets of plywood in the back.

I should admit before someone catches it that I’m an idiot.  The main room of the mews where the bird will live needs to be 8′ x 8′.  In my head I planned on having two 4’x8′ panels side by side on the front and back walls (making an 8′ x 8′ wall) and one panel for each side wall.  That obviously only makes a 4′ x 8′ x 8′ room, but I didn’t catch that for some reason.  Now the big problem is that the side walls have a slope to them, a 1′ drop for every 4′ to be exact, so I couldn’t just build the extra panels and put them in.  I therefore decided to extend the back side of the mews up to 9′ and had to construct 1′ x 4′ spacers for the back wall and sloped spacers for the side walls to make up the extra room.

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Spacers being constructed.

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I rained today and I was forced to paint inside. I’m basically out of floor space in the garage and have some panels I haven’t started painting yet.

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