Perching & Tethering
Perching and tethering equipment is an important aspect of falconry. Even if you free-loft (don’t tether the bird in it’s mews), there will always be times where a perch or tethering gear is required. For example, at a NYSFA or other field meet. Its proper use is vital to the safety and well-being of your bird, and understanding when and how to properly use portable perches and equipment is a vital part of success and safety as a falconer.
On this page we will cover tethering gear, swivels, perch types, and their traditional uses.
Traditionally, leashes, jesses, and swivels were all considered separately. Indeed, it is still possible to purchase them and customize a system for individual species or needs. First, let's look at what those parts are.
Swivels come in a variety of types. The most commonly used is the 'sampo' swivel, pictured above. These swivels are excellent, utilitarian objects, and every falconer should stock up on the appropriate sizes. Note that there is a "top" and a "bottom" to each swivel - in a paracord system, it is advisable that the solid metal end faces up (toward the perched raptor) so that mutes, water, ice and grit do not muck up the mechanics and wear the swivel out quickly.
Traditionally made from leather, as shown in our general Equipment page, paracord is becoming increasingly common, particularly for easy field removal for flying "jessless." It is also common for tethering systems to come with all parts (jesses, leash, and extender) made from similar weight paracord appropriate to the species of raptor.
Leashes are another major component of raptor husbandry. They are used to control the bird, tether the bird, and other wise keep the bird safe from harm in captivity. Much like the jesses, traditional leashes were made of leather strap, but more commonly they are made of paracord or similar material.
Commonly used perches include the bow perch and block perch. Bow perches are generally considered the best and safest designs for broadwings and shortwings, and are available in a variety of portable and non-portable designs from most reliable falconry suppliers. A variant design, the ring perch, is a bow perch in cross section. Stuart E Rossell has an excellent chapter on perches that explains how to safely use a ring perch, and what designs may be deployed appropriately. We also welcome discussion of proper perch use among licensed falconers in our Forums.
Block perches are normally used for longwings, and consist of a single pole with a flat disk atop it. They are generally covered with Astroturf or other substrate to protect the falcons feet from injury on the perching surface.
A small section of leather or, more commonly, braided cord used to bring the swivel below the level of the hawk or falcon's tail-feathers.
Tethering systems are available to buy from a variety of falconry suppliers. There is a very nice writeup and step by step at Craig Leash, located here.
A Note on Free-Lofting
It is generally inadvisable to free-loft any species of longwing, for the safety and well-being of the animal. Free-lofting hawks is best decided by the individual animal, the general species needs, your sponsor, and your skill with observing raptor behavior should dictate whether you free-loft a hawk. Equipment requirements here relate more to housing and environmental concerns, and less about specific gear.
Information on this page is sourced from Gregory Miller, The Modern Apprentice, Falconry: A Guide for Beginners, and Western Sporting and is copyright each of the respective authors / webpages.