Master falconer visits Ferry library

T-L Photo/DYLAN McKENZIE Mick Brown poses with his Harris’s hawk, Purdy. Brown is a master falconer and visited the Martins Ferry Public Library on Wednesday to help teach some basics of falconry to local residents in attendance.

MARTINS FERRY — People often catch glimpses of hawks, vultures and other birds of prey, sitting by the highway waiting for some roadkill or floating high in the sky. On Wednesday, though, some local residents got the chance to learn more about these magnificent birds with a visit from a master falconer.

Mick Brown, a resident of Martins Ferry, visited the Martins Ferry Public Library on Wednesday afternoon, bringing along his friend “Purdy” to help teach the finer points of falconry to a curious audience. Brown is the president of the Ohio Falconry Association and a master falconer. Falconry is an ancient sport of hunting wild game with a bird of prey. Brown explained the method of hunting to attendees; he will walk through a wooded area or brush or use dogs to flush out animals such as rabbits, squirrels or other small game. That’s where Purdy comes in, jumping from Brown’s fist to swoop down and strike the creature. Brown lets her eat her fill, as food is a key of getting a bird to trust you.

Brown said he first became interested in falconry from watching birds of prey while he was bow hunting swoop down and grab prey in a matter of seconds, whereas he had to sit out in a tree stand for hours on end to line up a shot.

“I’ve loved birds of prey my whole life, but I never knew you could hunt with them,” Brown said.

Eventually, Brown looked into obtaining a falconry license; he said that the test to obtain a license is quite difficult. If you fail the written test, you must wait six months before you are allowed to try again; a second failure means waiting two years before the next shot. After passing the test, apprentice falconers must obtain a sponsor, who will help train them and teach them the proper procedures on falconry. Beginners must use red-tailed hawks or American kestrals for beginner birds, being allowed to branch out into different species upon the end of their apprenticeship. Becoming a master falconer such as Brown takes years of training and experience. In addition to his license, Brown also has permits to do educational programs and breed his birds.

Browns bird of choice is Purdy’s species, the Harris’s hawk. In addition to Purdy, Brown has two other Harris’s, a male and another female. Harris’s are native to the southwestern deserts of the United States and can live more than 20 years in captivity. The birds are capable of catching prey as large as rabbits; Brown said that Purdy is skilled at squirrel, rabbit and duck hunting, and on one occasion even killed a small rattlesnake. Brown builds trust with the birds using food, eventually training them to the point where they can jump to his glove with a signal. Building that trust can take time, though — Brown said that when training Purdy, she overshot the glove and gave him a face full of talons and accidentally tore a tear duct. Still, Brown loves working with birds of prey and views his connection with them as a very special thing.

“I love the interaction and relationship with these birds,” he said. “They’re part of my life. They enjoy being with me in the field, and I enjoy being there with them.”

For any questions about falconry, Brown can be reached via email at