Falcons are the swiftest of all birds. In olden times, many kings used falcons to hunt small animals and birds. Kings owned gyrfalcons which are very large birds. Princess owned peregrines, which are smaller falcons. A common soldier might own a goshawk which hunted well but didn’t fly so high as the others.
Trained gyrfalcons were very valuable birds. Once some evil men kidnapped a king’s son. The king gave the men 12 white gyrfalcons and the men gave him back his son!
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The men who trained the king’s falcon had to be very patient. A falcon is so wild and stubborn that it will die rather than be forced to do something it doesn’t want to do. The trainer tied a young falcon loosely to his gloved fist. Every time the bird tried to fly away, the man gently pulled it back and put it on his fist, where he held a piece of meat.
The trainer wanted the falcon to learn that it could eat and even sleep in safety while it perched on his fist. He had to walk around all day and sometimes all night until the bird got tired. Finally the bird would quiet down enough to eat and fall asleep.
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Next the trainer taught the falcon to come when he whistled. And he taught it to wear a hood while it was on his fist. The hood kept the falcon from flying off the man’s fist to chase every bird or animal it saw. But when the man saw a bird in the sky that he wanted the falcon to catch, he took off the hood. The falcon soared high in the air. It caught the unlucky bird and brought it to the ground. Today, the world has few kings ruling people. And not many people hunt with falcons.