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Haines falconer trains bird of his dreams


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A Man And A Gyrfalcon
Mario Benassi And His Gyrfalcon Mirum. (Courtesy Mario Benassi)

A Haines falconer has actually gotten and trained the bird of his dreams – a gyrfalcon. The big falcons have actually generally been zipped royalty, however current breeding programs have actually made them more available to the typical falconer.

Mario Benassi has actually had a long-lasting enthusiasm for birds of victim.

“I remember the very first time I thought of being a falconer,” Benassi said. “I saw a guy — I never saw the guy, but I saw his hawk tied on a perch in the backyard. I would go sneak and look, and I wasn’t even supposed to go down the alley, I was 4 years old.”

From that minute, Benassi ended up being consumed. As quickly as he might read he bought books from the library about falconry.  At age 11 he began an apprenticeship with a master falconer.  

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“By the time I was 13 I got my first bird, and I got a redtail hawk and oh my God what an amazing adventure that was, and how much fun I had with that bird,” Benassi said. “I began to catch game with it right away. Then it was really hard because I was in school and it would be a beautiful day in the fall and I’d be looking out the window thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what I am I doing in this school, I have a hawk waiting at home for me.’”

At other times the bird benefited Benassi’s research studies.

“I always managed to get an A on any science project because I would bring my hawk to school and give a talk about it,” he said.

As an adult, Benassi continues to bring birds into schools. He leads a program at the Haines school called Chilkat Forest Investigators where he teaches a couple of trainees about falconry and the natural world.

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This year he goes to with an unique bird called Mirum. She’s a gyrfalcon. Gyrfalcons breed in the Arctic. They are the biggest falcons and can weigh near to 3 pounds with a wingspan of around 4 feet. They have an effective beak and are more carefully associated to parrots than to hawks. Benassi says in middle ages Europe, just kings were enabled to hunt with them.

Benassi spoken with his trainees to call her. They selected Mirum, Queen of Hearts. The hearts describe the patterns her plumes form on her chest. Mirum suggests surprise in Latin. This describes the surprise Benassi had at having the ability to take care of such a unique bird. Mirum had actually remained in captivity for a couple of years when she concerned him.

“The first year that she was trapped, she was successful as a trained falconry bird,” Benassi said. “And then the guy for some reason his circumstances didn’t allow him to keep her. And he transferred her to a captive breeding program. And she was in the captive breeding program for almost four years. She didn’t like any of the males that were presented to her.”

Because she wasn’t adding to the breeding program, her owners looked for another person to take care of her. When Benassi heard this, he went to Anchorage to choose her up. He and Mirum drove back together previously this winter season. Mirum used a hood throughout the journey. Benassi says it is very important to cover a falcon’s eyes throughout transportation — otherwise, they may see something that surprises them and might hurt themselves in the car.

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Mirum now has a brand-new house called a mews. It’s about the size of a little wood shed, with bars on the windows and a perch. It needs to be little sufficient to avoid her from gaining ground when flying so she doesn’t hurt herself. Benassi is now training her to fly and hunt with him.

He goes out with her and lets her fly away. But she is connected to a leash. The leash is light, and won’t enable her to fly more than 300 feet far from him. 

Benassi needs to learn to understand his birds prior to he can hunt with them. He begins by weighing them numerous times.

“A bird, this is how their life is, they eat until they are not hungry anymore, and then they rest and preen and do whatever they are going to do while they are satiated,” he said. “And then when they are hungry again their weight falls into the hunting weight. And so as a falconer, this is what you are looking for is you are looking for that hunting weight. Then it wants to go out and catch game. Obviously, if the hawk is not in that weight class, then when you release it, it may just as well go out and take a bath and sit and sun itself as hunt.”

The hunt is team effort for human and bird.

“You take the bird to the hunting ground, and so with a goshawk I release it, and then I walk for miles and miles and miles through the woods,” Benassi said. “And then the hawk just stays in the trees above my head. Any game that I flush, the hawk will give chase, it usually occurs within a couple hundred yards of me and often I actually get to see the hawk make the catch, the whole pursuit occurs right in front of your face. And that’s really why you practice falconry, is because you have this alliance with the bird, and then you also have to have a ringside seat at this most athletic display of amazing flying ability. A goshawk threading itself through the thickest bushes and trees at 80 miles an hour is just something to witness.”

Benassi says hunting with a falcon is entirely various.

“Falcons do not like the forest, and they don’t venture out into the trees — it’s just not their domain,” he said. “And so you need open ground to fly a falcon. Of course, a falcon is going to go up a couple thousand feet if it’s trained well, and wait. And then you push, and hopefully flush a duck or a goose. The falcon will come down in a spiraling stoop and hit the goose or duck and break its back or its wing, and then it falls to the ground and the falcon comes and lands on it.”

Benassi wishes to hunt with Mirum for a couple of years and launch her. He says perhaps she will go back to Nome, where she was born, and discover a mate to her preference.

Haines Falconer Trains Bird Of His Dreams

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