Falconry can be succinctly defined as hunting wild quarry in its natural habitat with a trained bird of prey. However, falconry is much more than a method of harvesting game. It is one of the oldest forms of hunting known to humans, and has survived nearly unchanged through the ages.
Raptors are innately wild creatures, yet through training and hunting with a bird of prey, the falconer develops a partnership with his or her bird, and becomes immersed in their world. It is an ancient art that is at least 5000 years old, and is embedded in the cultural fabric of Old World civilizations dating from antiquity to present day.
In recognition of its place in human and cultural evolution, falconry is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Falconry spread to the New World likely during the era of exploration, and continued to evolve in relation to various national and regional cultures.
The concept of conservation through sustainable use is inherently achieved in falconry. The ancient and historic practice of falconry involved capturing raptors in their first year of dispersal or migration to train for hunting through the fall and winter. Birds of prey were returned to the wild once again in the spring.
Impacts on game species hunted are also unavoidably lower, compared to other forms of hunting. These interactions exemplify sustainability, yet they also lead to profound and inspirational experiences for falconers.
Regardless of geographic location, the elements unique to falconry have similar effects on falconers. It is no wonder then, that some of the earliest historical examples of active raptor conservation, and contributions to science, can be attributed to Old World falconers.
Although falconry in the Americas is young in a global context, the pioneering contributions made by falconers to the conservation of raptors are noteworthy. AmFalCon.org was developed with support from the IUCN Sustainable Use and Management of Ecosystems Group (SUME) and the International Association for Falconry & Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF) to share, promote and inspire raptor conservation by falconers in North, Central and South America.