CLICK HERE FOR HACKING GALLERY
Blue Falcon – Mark Robb has a number of hack boxes for our young birds. We have a large area of open moor land and hills hidden in a Scottish glen where we hack the falcons every year.

Hacking is a traditional technique used by falconers whereby young falcons, approximately 4 weeks old, are released in a semi-wild state in order to improve their flying and hunting skills before being trained in falconry.

It is also thought that hacking improves mental conditioning as falcons receive a greater number of stimuli and experiences when out at hack. Most falconers would agree that a hacked falcon is superior to a falcon taken straight from the breeding aviary.

However there seems to be few places left in the world where you can actually wild hack your falcons, there are many problems that prevent a large scale of hacking. For example; mosquito spread illnesses as “West Nile Disease”, to hot areas as in the Middle East, lack of open ground or regulations which makes hacking impossible.

We believe that Blue Falcon-Mark Robb is one of the very few projects in the world who properly wild hack all the young falcons.
Falcons on hack box
THE RELEASING
Captive bred falcons are placed in the hack box at approximately 35 days old.

After about 5-10 days in the box we open up the front so that they can start to scramble around just as the young wild falcons would do in their nest area.

At this stage the hacked falcons can not fly but will climb down to the floor on a specially made ladder and can quickly climb back up in to the hack box if they see a predator.

This is a very dangerous time for young falcons as they are an easy target for eagle owls and eagles and they tend to stay close to the safety of the box.


The falcons in the wild would at this age do short flights off their nest and land on the rocks or the grass below and they would quickly scramble back up in to their nest as they realize how vulnerable they are.

Shortly after this our falcons have an insatiable appetite to continuously flap their wings as soon as there is the slightest bit of breeze, to make the wing muscles strong in preparation for the flying.
The falcons normally take their first proper attempt in flying about 3 days after the front of the hack box has been opened. The first flights are normally not far, maybe to the neighbor hack box.

The wild falcons would be continuously guarded by the female who will forcefully scare of any potential danger.

In our case Sara is continuously watching over the falcons on hack to make sure they don't get stuck in the long grass or that they don't get taken by a predator for example a fox.
Two female Gyr/Peregrines
THE FLYING

As the time goes on the falcons get more confident and start to fly for longer periods of time and will go further away from the box. As the weather in Scotland is unpredictable at the best of times, they learn to fly in strong winds and rain but also how to soar high in the sky and play on the thermals.

We have noticed that falcons on hack show great interests for interacting with each other. We sometimes have a number of 26 falcons flying about at the same time and they will play and chase each other around and try to steal food from their friends.

In the wild the young falcons would do exactly the same, they will fly around and chase the female that comes in with food and try to steel the food from their siblings.

This is a very important way for the young falcons to prepare them for the future hunting.

Female Gyr/Peregrine
Depending on the weather and if they start self-hunting, the falcons are out on hack for about 4-5 weeks, intensively flying for 14-30 days.

It is very difficult to say exactly how long you will leave a falcon on hack as this depends on the falcon's personality and on the environment such as weather.

In 2004 the weather in Scotland was very wet and we had to leave some of the falcons out for an extra two weeks as they would not do enough flying in the rain.

This year the weather was warm and very windy and some of the falcons disappeared from the hack site for a period of 3 days before they came back to feed.


More falcons on hack box
In general a male gyr/peregrine start self hunting on surrounding rabbits and even does attempts at birds after only 2 weeks, females however, can be out for up to 4 weeks before we see the same behavior.

Sara feeds the falcons every day twice a day on pre made traps to make the falcons used to sitting on the traps.

As they see her every day they become quite calm and will allow humans to come quite close before they fly off.

Every year we have visitors from all over the world coming to watch our falcons flying on hack.
Female Gyr/Peregrine

THE TRAPPING

When the falcons are ready to be trapped up they are fit and strong and very confident, exactly the same as a wild falcon that is just about to leave its surroundings to find its own hunting area. The falcons are caught in 6 different places as they will not go back down on a trap where they seen other falcons being caught up. We trap up to 7 falcons in the same time. The falcons are hooded and put on blocks over one night to sit quietly in the hood before they are transported home.
Female Gyr/Peregrine

THE FLYING AVIARY

Other falcons that been hacked will now be put in to a solid sided flying aviary in wait for transporting.

However, we don't find this being effective as the falcons quickly lose there flying skills and fitness and they tend to become bored from lack of stimuli and get easily stressed, this can results in problems when it comes to training.

Instead we found out a unique technique on how to maintain their fitness and mental stability.

When they return home they are put in a 1000 feet long 1000 feet wide round flying aviary made only by net . This aviary allows the wind to blow through and the falcons can see everything that is happening around them. We actually find it that the falcons are flying more in the net aviary then they do on wild hack!

When the falcons finally are getting caught up they have been flying continuously for between 2-3 month and are extraordinary fit and confident.

They would easily compare to a wild falcon at the age of 4-5 month old that is hunting by its own.

(click images to zoom)

Flying aviary - small red circle shows Sara to represent scale!
Female Gyr/Peregrine

THE WEIGHTS

Every year we get asked about the weights and sizes for our falcons.

We are here trying to explain for you how our falcons are different from any other;

A falcon that been reared by its parents and then put in to an enclosed flying aviary fed on large amount of food will be FAT and heavy. The weight will be high and the metabolism in the falcon will be low.

This means that the falcon will have to be cut in weight for a long period of time to reach a flying weight, then it will have to be flown and exercised and the weight will slowly creep up until the falcon is muscled and have reached its fit flying/hunting weight.

Because our falcons are hacked AND put into a large netted aviary which keeps them flying and keeps them fit, their metabolism will be high. These falcons are not fat, they are fit! Their weights will already be a fit flying weight and we find that because of their fitness and high metabolism they will start feeding from the fist within the first two days of the training. They normally kill their first prey within the first week.

You could compare this with a fat human eating Mac Donald's or Burger King every day and weighing 90 kilograms or a fit well trained marathon runner who eats 4 meals a day and maintain a weigh on 60 kilograms!
BLUE FALCON - MARK ROBB
HACKING