JWN Arts & Hawking 

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10 Tips for Successful Abatement

The following comments speak to using aplomado falcons in agricultural abatement.  If you plan to employ larger falcons and hawks, or if you are involved in non-ag abatement (landfills, airport runways, tourist spots, etc) these comments may not apply directly to you. Having said that, here are 10 things to consider every day you are on the job doing ag-abatement with aplomados:

     1) Arrive on time and get you birds out quickly.  The farm day starts early (sun up) and pest birds are prone to put pressure on the crop early in the day because they are early risers and start the day hungry. Farmers are early risers too. They want to see you on the job with birds in the field when they arrive.

     2) Fly your A-team in the morning, your B-Team later in the day. Start the day with a bang.  Get your best birds in the field and push back hard on early pressure.  Do not relent your efforts until the field is as clean from birds as you can make it.  By mid-day, pressure will naturally relax as the day heats up.  Another advantage to flying your best birds early is that if they do make a kill and decide to carry, you have all day to deal with that.  It can be a big mistake to fly your star performers late in the day.  A kill in the late afternoon or early evening may result in a bird left out overnight.  Your better birds often will pour on the steam as daylight fades, then become nervous with a kill in hand only to head for a tall tree to finish the meal. All of a sudden you may have a crisis to manage, just when you wanted to go home, eat, shower, and hit the rack.  Your B-team can be a better choice late in the day. This will be good practice for them because they will be feeling ramped up toward dusk and there will be increased action available. However, they are less likely to make a kill and stay out over night.

     3) Keep you team hydrated, hydrated, hydrated!!!  Make sure every bird has easy access to water and shade multiple times during the day. Dehydration is a silent killer, and by the time you suspect it, it may be too late.  Much better to prevent it by being sure your team has access to bath pans.  Bath pans can be pain to manage while working at times, but make it happen none-the-less.

     4) Fly multiple aplomados whenever you can.  The more your team works harmoniously together the better off you will be. As a rule, mixed-sex pairs are a good combination; or (if the team is unisex) all young birds; or an older bird teamed with young birds of the same sex.  The combination that may create problems are intermewed birds of the same sex being flown at the same time. This is not always a problem, but is often times the most problematic combo.

       5) Never, ever fly aplomados with larger raptors on the loose (such as peregrines or Harris' hawks).  That is a recipe for disaster.  The nice thing about an all aplo team is if you lose one you can put another out without fear of much more than a scuffle happening upon the return of the errant teammate.  A lost peregrine, hybrid, or Harris' hawk is likely to injure or kill any aplomado you put out while the lost bird is at large.  The only exception is in the rare case where the large falcon has been raised and trained to fly with aplomados.  That is specialty work and you will know if you have a safe combination. Otherwise, do not take chances! (NOTE:  Recently the use of tiercel peregrines in concert with aplomados, especially female aplomaodos, seem to make for a working combination, so my comments before need to be modified a bit.  Having said that, these peregrine/aplomado combinations need to be carefully managed and observed critically until it is firmly established that the individuals involved are working in harmony on an ongoing basis).

      6) Don't expect aplomados to move about continuously or chase game continuously throughout the day without some motivation being provided by you.  While you will undoubtedly see some exciting chases, much of the time aplomados, like most raptors, are content to sit and watch the day go by, hoping for an easy shot at a meal.  Your job is to keep moving about the abatement area and continuously stimulate your falcons into flight so that their movement creates the presence that strikes fear in the heart of the pest birds.   There are numerous "tricks of the trade" to accomplish this, but the main idea is to create the urge in your falcons to follow you about so as you move from place to place, their following flight creates the presence you need to abate the pest birds.  Be prepared to manage bird pressure using other methods beside the falcons, because it really requires a combination of methods to keep the pest birds wary and scared.

       7) Don't overfeed your abatement falcons.  Know each bird's starting weight every day and budget the day's ration so that by day's end they are fed well enough to sustain high levels of vigor, but not so much as to lose the edge needed to stay on task.  Just like sport falconry, weight management is key.  Unlike sport falconry, mistakes in weight management for abatement are bigger headaches because you do not have the luxury of saying "Dang it, she's fat today. Guess we just won't go hawking..."

        8)  Stay hydrated yourself.  Your health is critical.  Taking a day off for sick leave is very hard to pull off during the abatement season.  Maintaining your own health includes getting plenty of sleep at night (that won't be hard), staying clean and hygienic to prevent skin rashes (this is dusty, sweaty work), avoiding too much sun, and staying hydrated, hydrated, hydrated.

       9)  Be professional at all times.  This is a big category and applies to everything from deportment in the field, to basic integrity (not "jumping contracts," or badmouthing others), to managing money wisely (so your resources are adequate to keep you operational while you are still able to save what you need to make a profit).  "Little details" like banking can become huge issues when you are far from the bank and have little time to do business during banking hours.  The more you can do online the better. Your professional reputation will depend as much upon your work ethic as your falconry skills. My adage is:  "It's easier to turn a good worker into a good falconer, than a good falconer into a good worker."

       10) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Have a good working cell phone and keep it charged up and available at all times.  I can't think of another occupation where it is more important to use this technology. You will need to continually stay in touch with your abatement contract holder, the farming staff, other falconers who may be operating with other falcon teams in the general area, and friends and family (to keep you from going quietly crazy).

Good luck!