Falconer and His Hawk in Mexico

A Harris's Hawk stands on a falconer's fist at a Cancun, Mexico, resort.

A Harris’s Hawk stands on a falconer’s gloved fist at a Cancun, Mexico, resort.

I’ve been reading “H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald, about a woman training a goshawk, and I took the book to a resort in Cancun, Mexico, where my husband and I were attending a wedding. So with falconry on my mind, I was excited to see a man with hawk at the resort. My husband spotted the bird first. He trained his own hawk many years ago.

I rushed over and asked the man many questions and took some photos (lucky to have my camera with me.)

The bird, a Harris’s Hawk, named Runner, was two years old and had been bred by the man’s family, which has been in the bird breeding and training business for five generations (now including his son.) It took three months to train the bird to return to the fist. “He thinks of us as his parents,” he said.

He calls the bird back to his fist with a click and then feeds it. The bird is gentle (except with food) and good with children.  I was able to pet it a little.

The man brings Runner to the resort about three times a week to discourage smaller birds from taking up residence in the trees and around the pool, where they would leave bird droppings, and at outdoor restaurants.

The man said that Harris’s Hawks were very smart and were some of the few birds of prey that hunted in groups.

“They are called the wolf of the desert,” he said. “They live in Sonora and Chihuahua.”

The Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) formerly known as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey that breeds from the southwestern United States south to Chile, central Argentina, and Brazil

Runner lives in the man’s house, along with 18 other birds. “They live like kings.” In all, the family business owns 300 birds that they have bred, including eagles and macaws in addition to hawks.

I wish I would have thought to ask him his name and the name of his business, but at least I was able to take some photos.

A falconer brings a Harris's Hawk to a Cancun, Mexico, resort to discourage smaller birds from hanging out on the grounds and pool areas, where they might soil the landscape. Clockwise from the upper left, the hawk flies to a palm tree; the hawk sitting in a tree; a little girl petting the hawk; the hawk resting on the man's gloved fist; and the hawk eating some food after being called back from the palm tree with a click.

A falconer brings a Harris’s Hawk to a Cancun, Mexico, resort to discourage smaller birds from hanging out on the grounds and pool areas, where they might soil the landscape. Clockwise from the upper left, the hawk flies to a palm tree; the hawk sitting in a tree; a little girl petting the hawk; the hawk resting on the man’s gloved fist; and the hawk eating some food after being called back from the palm tree with a click.

About the Harris’s Hawk.
“H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald

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10 Comments

Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Photography, Travel

10 responses to “Falconer and His Hawk in Mexico

  1. I love the book and the author is remarkable! Gorgeous Harris~

  2. What a great experience! I’ve never seen anything like that except on a wildlife program on TV. Falconry is one of the older methods of hunting if what I’ve heard on TV is correct. (You never know) How does the hawk discourage the birds? Simply by its presence or does it “hunt” them?

    • I think the hawk’s presence scares away the birds, as it seemed that the falconer mostly walked around with the hawk and flew him to trees from time to time. Falconry is an old form of hunting, but it doesn’t seem like a very efficient one. It seems more like a hobby club of aristocrats, but I could be wrong 😉

  3. “In the United Arab Emirates, even birds need documentation to fly. The country’s falcons are issued special passports of their own to combat smuggling. The birds can sell for as much as $1 million each, making their trade especially attractive to smugglers.” http://mentalfloss.com/article/67007/falcons-get-their-own-passports-united-arab-emirates

  4. Kelly

    We spoke with a man who had his hawk at Iberostar, Cancun for pest control. He also rescued sick or injured birds in need and rehabilitated them on his own. Educated us a bit on the hawks

  5. Hi, Catherine! I was pleased to stumble on your post about falconry at your Mexican resort. (It wasn’t Secrets, Silversands you were visiting by any chance?)
    My wife and I visited Silversands last Winter and saw a falconer handling a couple of raptors there (for the same purposes you mention: primarily, keeping poolside lunches a reality!)
    I’m a member of a group of concerned citizens living in Canada’s Niagara Region, where the grape growers have selfishly been using propane-fired cannons for pest bird abatement. (Starlings and even Robins can gulp down a “ton” of grapes, given half a chance.)
    Our group is strongly opposed to the cannons because they fire indiscriminately (birds present or not) for up to 14 hours a day during the ripening season. It’s enough to drive you out of your mind…literally…to say nothing of waking babies and shift-workers. (Not to mention trying to enjoy a glass of, well, WINE on your back porch in the evening.)
    I’ve written management at Silversands to try and get contact information for the “hawksters”. (no response, as of yet.) If you could provide the name of YOUR resort, I’d like to try them, too.
    Thanks,
    Michael

  6. Our resort was “Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence” Cancun-Playa Mujeres. Hope you can get those firing cannons stopped! It definitely is enough to drive you to drink! Thanks for dropping by and for your comment. Let us know here if you have any success. I know how quickly birds can de-nude a fruit tree of ripe fruit.

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