Families Who Falconry Together

Families Who Falconry Together…

A Travel Feature by Nashville Luxury Travel

Written by Jennifer Martin

What is more special than sharing something extraordinary with someone you love? What could be better than swimming with stingrays alongside your siblings, watching your children’s eyes fill with wonder on an African safari, or simply sitting with your sweetie and watching a spectacular sunrise over the still morning ocean?

Last month, I shared something extraordinary with my husband, three boys and daughter-in-law. It’s cheesy, I know, but I'm starting to believe that families who Falconry together, stay together. I don’t know who loved it more, my husband, our adult children, or myself!

You might be wondering what “Falconry” is, exactly. While falconry is trending in travel, it has actually been in existence for more than 4,000 years and was known as the sport of kings. It involves a bird of prey, such as a hawk, falcon or eagle, hunting and bringing back live prey to his master. Falconry in travel is an activity where people experience the rush of a falcon, or in most cases a Harris Hawk, coming to land on or launch from your hand to get food.  Harris Hawks are unique in the raptor family in that they hunt in groups of 2-6 and are known as the wolves of the sky. This characteristic makes them easier to train, as they come to see their trainer as a member of the pack.

We experienced Falconry in Ireland and it just might be my new favorite multigenerational activity! My husband and I, and our children, were all completely fascinated with the birds. One of the coolest moments is the, “Now you get to see what it’s like to be a rabbit,” when the hawk flies over your head so closely that his tail feathers skim your forehead. *Be sure to watch in HD*

Most falconry outfitters have birds other than falcons that you can encounter, such as owls! My middle son, Will, made sure to ask his owl how many licks it took to get to the center of a tootsie pop. Gonzo, the owl, wouldn’t give up the secret.

Besides interacting with the birds during Falconry, you also learn about the history of the art of Falconry and terminology used in the sport. It just goes to show how vital falconry in hunting used to be.

“Under His Thumb”
(Also “wrapped around his little finger”). Two for the price of one! A falcon has a leash (called a “jess”) to stop it from flying away. When the bird is on the falconer’s arm, he’ll put part of the jess “under his thumb” or “wrap it around his little finger” to keep control of the bird.


A falcon caught in the wild as an adult. Haggards were often caught at the end of migration when they were thin and bedraggled after their long journey. The expression has migrated itself to mean someone who looks thin and tired and is also related to “hag” meaning a bedraggled women.

When a hawk has eaten its fill (in falconry speak, when it’s “crop is full”) it won’t want to hunt. Of course, another way of saying it’s eaten its fill is to say it’s “fed-up.” The phrase has moved from a bird who doesn’t want to hunt anymore to a person who doesn’t want to do something anymore.

The “hood” is used in falconry when the raptor is being trained as it calms it down, but continues to be useful throughout the bird’s “career” (not that it’s paid). The hood is a leather “hat” that covers the raptor’s head – and most importantly its eyes. A raptor’s eyesight is around 10 times as good as a humans, so a hawk will spot things that the handler won’t and get excited about targets that the handler can’t see. To force the bird to concentrate on the target that the handler wants, he “hoodwinks” the bird by putting the hood on its head. The expression “hoodwinked” has moved from covering a bird’s eyes to blindfolding a person to tricking someone.

We experienced Falconry at Sheen Falls in Kenmare, Ireland. If you’re wondering where else you too can make this memory with your family, I recommend Ireland, Scotland, England and even the United States.

  • Ashford Castle in Ireland

  • Gleneagles in Scotland

  • Leeds Castle in England

  • Greenbriar in the United States

If you have any questions about Falconry, or your next family adventure that might include the sport, contact me or any of the NLT team!