Exploring Medieval Falconry: Types of Birds and Training Methods

Falconry, a captivating practice that dates back centuries, thrived during the medieval period as a favored pastime of nobles and royals.

Medieval Falconery was a game or sport for nobles
Medieval Games For Nobles – Falconry & Falconers

This article delves into the world of medieval falconry, exploring the various types of birds used, their training methods, and the particular forms of falconry that captivated the elite.

I. Types of Birds in Medieval Falconry


Falcons, known for their remarkable speed and aerial agility, were highly prized in medieval falconry. Peregrine falcons, renowned for their impressive stooping dives, were particularly favored.

Other falcon species, such as the gyr falcon and saker falcon, were also used.

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Several species of hawks were utilized in falconry. The goshawk, known for its versatility and adaptability, was commonly trained for hunting small to medium-sized game. The sparrowhawk, with its swift flight and excellent maneuverability, was preferred for pursuing smaller prey.

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Although less commonly used due to their size and strength, eagles played a prominent role in falconry, particularly for royal falconry. Golden eagles and sea eagles were trained to hunt larger game, such as foxes and deer.

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II. Training Methods for Medieval Falconry:

Capture and Imprinting

Birds used in falconry were typically captured as fledglings or taken from nests. They were then imprinted upon humans through a process called “imprinting,” in which young birds were hand-fed and gradually accustomed to human presence, establishing a bond with their falconer.

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Hooding and Manning

Hooding involved covering the bird’s eyes with a leather hood to keep them calm and focused during transport and when not actively hunting. Manning referred to the process of familiarizing the bird with its handler, allowing it to perch on the falconer’s glove and gradually building trust.

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“Falconry, beyond its aristocratic allure, held a deep cultural significance. It was an art that celebrated the partnership between humans and birds, emphasizing mutual trust and the delicate balance between man’s skill and nature’s grace.”

Dr. Jonathan Reynolds, Cultural Historian.

Training Techniques

Various training techniques were employed, including luring, creance flying (training on a long leash), and lure training. These methods aimed to develop the bird’s hunting skills, responsiveness to commands, and the ability to return to the falconer’s glove.

III. Noble and Royal Falconry

Royal Mews

Nobles and royals often maintained their own mews, dedicated facilities where birds of prey were housed and trained. These mews served as showcases of wealth and power, reflecting the prestige associated with falconry among the elite.

Tournaments and Displays

Falcons and hawks were showcased in tournaments and grand displays, highlighting the prowess and status of their owners. Falconry became an integral part of medieval courtly culture, symbolizing nobility and aristocratic lifestyle.

“Hawking, the sport of kings, symbolized nobility and power. It was a pastime cherished by medieval aristocracy, reflecting their control over nature and their prowess as hunters.”

Professor Elizabeth Smith, Historian of Medieval Europe.
Falconry was a popular Medieval Castle Entertainment

Hawking & Falconry: Understanding the Difference

Hawking refers to the practice of hunting small game using trained birds of prey, such as hawks, falcons, and eagles.

It involves releasing the bird to pursue and capture prey while the falconer follows on foot or horseback.

Hawking was particularly popular during the medieval period and was considered a noble pastime.

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Falconry, on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses the art and sport of training and flying various species of birds of prey, including falcons, hawks, and eagles.

Falconry has been practiced for thousands of years across different cultures. It involves training the bird to hunt and return to the falconer’s glove or lure. Falcons are commonly associated with falconry due to their exceptional speed and agility in flight.

In summary, falconry is the overarching term that encompasses the broader practice of training and flying birds of prey, while hawking specifically refers to using trained hawks or falcons for hunting small game.


Medieval falconry was a fascinating pursuit that engaged nobles and royals throughout the era. Falcons, hawks, and eagles were meticulously trained using specific techniques, creating a bond between falconer and bird.

The art of falconry added splendor to royal courts and tournaments, serving as a symbol of wealth, status, and the intricate relationship between man and nature.

As we look back on this captivating aspect of medieval culture, let us appreciate the skill, dedication, and the profound connection forged between falconer and bird in the pursuit of the noble art of falconry.