A Falconry Dictionary
A Glossary of specialized terms used in Falconry
Written and Compiled by Mark Noseworthy
Accipiter, noun. Any hawk in the genus accipiter, members of which typically have short (and rounded) wings. This includes Goshawks, Cooper's hawks and Sharp-shinned hawks. See this section of our Raptor Identification and Photo Gallery for photos and more information. Compare buteo.
Aerie, noun. (Also spelled eyrie) A raptor nest built at a high altitude, usually on a cliff ledge. Often, the word is restricted in use to refer only to the nests of Eagles.
Alula (feather), noun. One of three or four feathers at a small joint in the middle of a bird's wing, probably the evolutionary remains of the bird's wrist. The word is derived from the psuedo-Latin alulus, aluli, formed from the dimunitive ending -ulus and the noun ala, alae, meaning "wing." The word, therefore, translates as "little wing."
Auricular, noun. Any of the feathers covering a bird's ear. Usually in the pl., auriculars.
Anklet, noun. A piece of leather attached to a raptor's leg. Anklets are inset with a metal ring and jesses passed through them.
Austringer, noun. One who hunts with an accipiter, a short-winged hawk. This word evolved, through French, from the form accipiter itself.
Axillar, noun. Any of the feathers at the base of and under the wing (the bird's "armpit"). Usually in the pl., axillars.
Baffles, noun. A system of bony tubercles (nodules) in the nostrils of falcons that slow airflow through the nose during dives. At the high speeds falcons can reach, there is enough pressure that, without baffles, their lungs would probably burst.
Ballooning, noun. A method or technique used in training raptors to hunt, where food, the target, is hung from a balloon that is let up into the sky. See also kiting.
Banding, noun. The process of putting metal bands around the legs of birds for the purpose of identification. Also, the metal bands themselves.
Bate, verb. (Of a raptor) To attempt to fly while constrained, either on a handler's fist or tethered to a perch.
Bating, noun. (Sometimes spelled baiting, by (false) analogy with the verb "bait") An instance of a secured raptor attempting to fly away (see above).
BDE, noun. (Initialism for: Brominated Diphenyl Ether) The chemical most commonly used as a flame retardant, in any of its many formulations, but especially the deca-, octa- and penta- forms. BDE are widespread, being used in household fire extinguishers, for example. Recent studies have shown high concentrations of the chemicals in wildlife, and have particulary shown high levels of deca-BDE in wild falcons. Previously, scientists had thought that this form of the chemical could not get into wildlife. BDEs have been shown to cause neurobehavioural problems in animals exposed to the chemicals in laboratories. For more information about this chemical and the studies mentioned above, see "Peregrine Falcons May Face New Environmental Threat."
Bewit, noun. The leather strap used for attaching a bell to a raptor's leg.
Block, noun. A kind of perch for birds that is usually shaped like a flowerpot, and which is usually 10-12 inches high and 5-6 across. Often used as an adjective in "block perch."
Blood feather, noun. A feather in the process of being grown. Such feathers are filled with blood until fully developed. Breaking a (major) blood feather could very well result in death from blood loss. Blood feathers are often described as being feathers "in the blood."
Buteo, noun. Any hawk in the genus buteo, characterized by broad wings. This includes Red-tailed hawks, Red-shouldered hawks and Broad-winged hawks. See this section of our Raptor Identification and Photo Gallery for photos and more information. Compare accipter.
Carry, verb. (Of a raptor) After a kill, to fly away with the prey, usually just as the faloner is approaching (to gather the raptor and the kill).
Cast, verb. To restrain a raptor for the purpose of fixing or fitting equipment, or for administering medical care. Often heard as the verb phrase "to towel and cast." See towel.
Cast (gorge), verb. (Of a raptor) To regurgitate the undigested parts of a meal (i.e., bones, fur).
Cast (off), verb. To let a raptor fly from the fist, usually done by moving one's arm forward (in a "casting" motion).
Cast, noun. (Now rare) A pair of raptors flown together at the same time.
Casting, noun. (Also simply cast) The substance or item regurgitated by a raptor, consisting of the undigested parts of a previous meal.
Cere, noun. The fleshy or waxlike part on the top part of a raptor's beak, or upper mandible, in which the openings of the nostrils are found. The word comes from Latin cera, cerae, meaning "wax."
Chamber-raised, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor raised in an enclosure with complete parental supervision and care. Food is provided through a tube by a care-taker.
Chick, noun. An immature raptor that has not yet taken its first flight, or fledged.
Clutch, noun. The group of eggs laid by a female raptor in a particular year.
Cooper's, noun. (Clipping of Cooper's hawk) A species of hawk, for information about which, see our Cooper's hawk Identification page.
Cope, verb. To trim or otherwise administer medical care to a raptor's beak or talons.
Covert, noun. Any small feather covering the shafts/stems of a flight or tail feather. Usually in the pl., coverts.
Creance, noun. A long line or leash usually used in training raptors to ensure that they do not fly away.
Crop, noun. That part of a raptor's anatomy that serves as a storage area for food until it is passed through to the stomach. When the crop is full with food, the upper-chest area protrudes quite visibly.
Cross-fostering, noun. A method of releasing raptors that involves putting captive-raised young raptors with an adult pair of raptors of another species. See fostering.
DDT, noun. (Initialism for: Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) A chemical used world-wide as a pesticide and which, through bioaccumulation, caused thinning of the shells of Peregrine Falcons. This meant that the eggs were too fragile to handle the weight of the adults during incubation, and they therefore cracked. DDT was a major factor in the drastic decline and near-extinction of Peregrine populations, and although its use has been banned in some parts of the world, it continues to be used in others. For more information about DDT and its effects, see the Peregrine Decline section on the Conservation page of our Peregrine Biology section.
Dihedral, adjective. Used in reference to the shape of a bird in flight when it has its wings held out but above its body, a position in which some larger raptors usually soar or kite.
Dive, noun. The sudden movement downwards of a raptor, often for the purposes of making a kill, done at a very high speed. Also, stoop.
Dive-bomb, verb. (Of a raptor) To dive or stoop fiercely, usually when protecting a nest site or chicks. Workers on swing-stages, used to retrieve Peregrine falcon chicks for banding, are often dive-bombed by the chicks' parents.
Emarginated primary, noun. A primary flight feather on which the leading edge is narrow at the top and abruptly thickens towards the bottom.
Emargination, noun. An abrupt narrowing of the leading edge of a primary flight feather. Compare notch>.
Eyas, noun. A raptor chick, still in its first stages of development, before it first flies. Eyas is used only of raptor babies, whereas chick refers to the young of other birds as well.
Eyrie, noun. (Also spelled aerie) A raptor nest built at a high altitude, usually on a cliff ledge. Often, the word is restricted in use to refer only to the nest of eagles.
Facial disk, noun. A dish-like formation of the feathers around the face of some owls, such as the barn owl, which is thought to direct sound to the bird's ears.
Falconry, noun. The art or sport of hunting with raptors. Falconry has a very long and extremely rich history, dating back more than three thousand years.
Falconer, noun. A person who hunts with raptors.
Falcon-gentle, noun. (Now rare) A female peregrine falcon. The use of the word gentle here is the same as that found in the word gentleman.
Feak, verb. (Of a raptor) To clean the beak, usually by wiping it on a piece of wood or rock.
Fledge, verb. (Of a raptor) To take flight for the first time.
Fledgling, noun. A young raptor at the time around when (but most specifically just after) it takes its first flight.
Flight feather, noun. The longest and largest of a bird's feathers, those necessary and used mostly in flight. The longest feathers are referred to as primary flight feathers, or simply primaries, and the second longest as secondary flight feathers, usually simply secondaries.
Fostering, noun. A method of releasing raptors that involves putting captive-raised young (or eggs) with a breeding pair of adults that are unable to, or simply did not, produce their own young. This method of release differs from that called cross-fostering in that the adults are of the same species as the young.
Freeloft, verb. To keep a raptor in its enclosure or pen without having it tethered or secured in any way.
Freelofted, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor who is not tied down or tethered in its enclosure, or pen. The raptor is thus "free" in its loft.
Fret mark, noun. A clearly-visible weak spot on a raptor's feather, usually from an extended period of hunger, follicle damage, or anxiety and stress.
Frounce, noun. A disease contracted by some raptor species by the eating of pigeons, which are often hosts for the parasites Trichomas gallinarum and T. columbarum. Symptoms of the disease are most commonly yellow-coloured cankers or plaque on the tongue or in the mouth of the bird.
Full-summed, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor that has its full set of adult adult feathers.
Giant hood, noun. A carrier for raptors, usually a wooden box, that affords total darkness. This keeps the raptor calm either because, not being able to see any danger, they have no reason to panic, or because they assume it is night-time and are using their defense mechanism against nocturnal predators (staying still and quiet). The name is semi-facetious, as "ordinary" hoods only cover the head of the raptor. See hood.
Gos, noun. (Clipping of Goshawk) A species of hawk, for information about which, see our Goshawk Identification page.
Grin(e), noun. (Clipping of Peregrine) A species of falcon, for information about which, see our Peregrine Falcon Identification page and Peregrine Biology section.
Gyr, noun. (Clipping of Gyrfalcon) A species of falcon, for information about which, see our Gyrfalcon Identification page.
Gyrkin, noun. (Also spelled Jerkin) A tiercel, or male, gyrfalcon - a species of falcon, for information about which, see our Gyrfalcon Identification page.
Hack (out), verb. To release a raptor by means of hacking, a method that involves human care of chicks inside a hack box. See hacking.
Hack (back), verb. To train a raptor as to gradually get it used to feeding and hunting on its own, so it will eventually be able to live in the wild.
Hacking, noun. A method of releasing raptors that uses a large box or enclosure in which the chicks are kept without supervision of an adult (the method is often used when some misfortune befalls the adults). The hack box keeps the chicks safe from predators until they are ready to fend for themselves. Food is provided for the chicks by a care-taker (called a hack attendant), who gives it to them through a tube in the back of the box. The idea is that despite the human care, the chicks will not see the hack attendant, and there will be no danger of imprinting.
Hack release, noun. An instance of using hacking to release raptors.
Haggard, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor that had adult feathers when it was taken from the wild for training.
Haggard, noun. A raptor captured or taken from the wild by a falconer after it has gained its adult feathers (i.e., over a year old).
Hallux, noun. A raptor's hind toe, the only one that points back towards the bird. The hallux talon on many raptors, especially eagles, is visibly larger than the other talons.
Hard-penned, adjective. (Now rare) Used in reference to a raptor that has a full set of adult feathers. The adjective penned is an old term, referring to something that is feathered. The word survives, fossilized, here, but it comes from the Latin word for feather: penna, pennae. Since an adult's feathers will undergo no drastic (colour) change, they are ‘hard.’ Juvenile feathers are not hard, because they will change quite a lot.
Harris, noun. (Clipping of Harris' hawk) A species of hawk that hunts in units, unlike other raptors. Harris' hawks are not indigenous to Canada, but are popular among falconers all over the world because of their extremely sociable nature.
Hawking, noun. The practice of using raptors to hunt.
Hood, noun. A piece of equipment, usually made from leather, placed over the head of a raptor to keep it quiet and calm. Falconry hoods completely cover the eyes of the bird, putting them in total darkness. This helps the bird to relax.
Hood, verb. To put a hood on a raptor, usually done in moving the bird and when the bird is in the field but it is not time for it to hunt.
Hooding, noun. An instance of, the process of, or equipment used in putting a hood on a raptor.
Hood-shy, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor who is not yet accustomed to wearing a hood, or simply a raptor who dislikes wearing a hood.
Hunger trace, noun. A weak spot in a feather usually due to starvation when the bird was a chick.
Imp, verb. To repair broken or damaged feathers by fixing extra feathers (from another bird) into them.
Imprint, verb. To control the amount of a chick's exposure to a certain kind of care-taker, either avian or human. Human-imprinting means that the bird is exposed to a human as a "parent" figure, and this causes the bird to think it is also a human. Letting a bird be raised by an "avian parent" will cause it to think it is a bird, and it will therefore inherit its natural fear or unease to humans.
Imprinting, noun. The act or process of controlling the mindset of a young raptor in order to accustom it to humans, or to ensure it is accustomed to avian life. The result of imprinting is that the raptor either thinks it is a human or thinks it is a bird.
Jerkin, noun. (Also spelled Gyrkin) A tiercel, or male, gyrfalcon - a species of falcon, for information about which, see our Gyrfalcon Identification page.
Jesses, noun. The straps put on the legs of a raptor in order for it to be properly held by a falconer. How the straps are made and cut is very important, in order to ensure that the bird is safe and unharmed with them on and when being handled. Jesses are passed through anklets and have the swivel attached at the end.
Juvenile, noun. A raptor that has learned to fly and which does not have adult feathers. Juvenile plumage is usually brown in colour and has heavily streaked patterning.
Keen, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor who is at a level of hunger such that it wants or is willing to hunt.
Keen, verb. To control a raptor's diet in order to bring it (usually down) to a level where it is hungry enough to hunt.
Keening, noun. The act or process of bringing a bird to a level of hunger at which it will hunt.
Kite, verb. To train a raptor by fastening food to a kite and letting it soar in the sky. The raptor dives for the food.
Kiting, noun. (i) (Of a raptor) The act or process of soaring on air currents, using only minimal wing movements, such that it gives the appearance of a kite moving through the air. (ii) The act or process of using a kite, with food fastened to it, to train a raptor.
Kiting, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor, usually a hawk, soaring/gliding through the air, making only minimal wing movements. The broad wings of hawks are ideal for soaring on air currents, and they can thus stay relatively still in the air, like a kite.
Leading edge, noun. The side of a flight feather that, when the bird is in flight, leads into the wind, or hits the wind first. The leading edge of a feather is noticeably more narrow, and is therefore stiffer (and less likely to fray or break), than the other side of the feather, the trailing edge.
Longwing, noun. Any of those raptors with relatively long wings, especially the larger falcons - in particular the Peregrine and Gyrfalcon. Compare Shortwing.
Longwinger, noun. A person who customarily uses long-winged raptors, often falcons, to hunt. Compare Shortwinger.
Lure, noun. A rope decorated or adorned with the wings or feathers of prey-species, to which a piece of (prepared) meat is attached. The lure is then swung, either to attract a raptor back to the falconer, or as a means of training a raptor to hunt.
Malar stripe, noun. The stripe of dark colouring on the face of some raptors, usually characteristic of falcons. In Peregrines, malar stripes differ from bird to bird, and allow for individuals to be uniquely identified.
Man (down), verb. To spend time with and accustom a raptor to being handled and in the presence of a human.
Mandible, noun. The scientific term for each of the parts of a raptor's beak or rostrum, called the upper and lower mandibles, respectively. The word comes from the Late Latin word mandibula, mandibulae, meaning "jaw," which itself came from the Latin verb mando, mandere, meaning "to chew, champ, eat." The upper mandible of raptors is often called the maxilla.
Manning, noun. The act or process of spending time with a raptor and handling it in such a way as to accustom it to the presence of a human, and/or being handled.
Mantle, verb. (Of a raptor) To spread the wings in front, low and usually over food, in order to cover it as much as possible, and so help prevent it from being seen and/or stolen by potential competitors.
Mantling, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor with its wings spread out low and in front, usually covering food to keep it from being seen.
Maxilla, noun. The upper mandible, or upper part of the beak, of raptor's. The word is Latin (maxilla, maxillae), meaning "jaw."
Mew, noun. A building in which raptors are kept, often for the purpose of moulting. Often used simply to refer to a raptor's pen or enclosure.
Mews, noun. Often used in the singular to refer to a raptor's pen or enclosure, this word is also used to refer a facility's grouping of enclosures.
Morph, noun. Any of a single species' recognizably different forms, usually set apart by colour, as in dark morph and light morph. See also phase. Gyrfalcons, for example, have a grey morph and a white morph.
Moult, noun. (Also spelled molt, the traditional "American" spelling) A raptor's changing of one set of feathers for another. Feathers are dropped and grown a couple at a time, so moulting is a gradual process.
Moult, verb. (Also spelled molt, the traditional "American" spelling) To change one set of feathers for a new set. When a raptor is moulting, it is often described as "dropping feathers."
Mute, noun. A piece of raptor's excrement.
Nare, noun. The scientific term for a nostril, this word is usually found in the plural: nares. Some people keep the Latin singular form, naris.
Notch, noun. A point at which the trailing edge of an emarginated primary flight feather abruptly narrows. Compare emargination.
Ocelli, noun. Dark or light spots on the back of the head or neck of a bird and which look like eyes. Ocelli are thought to have this resemblance to eyes as a purpose, since it could trick a predator into thinking that the animal is looking at it. Ocelli is the plural of the Latin word ocellus, ocelli, meaning "little eye." This word is a diminutive of oculus, oculi, meaning "eye."
Passage, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor taken from the wild before it has gained adult feathers. Compare haggard.
Passager, noun. A bird taken from the wild, usually on (its first) migration, that has not yet gained its adult plumage. The bird is capable of flight and so is no longer a chick, but it is still a juvenile. Compare haggard.
Patagial, adjective. Used in reference to the area on the front of the wing between the wrist, or alula, and the body.
Patagial mark, noun. A distinct patch or spot of colouring in the feathers of the patagium, often very helpful in identifying a bird's species when it is in flight.
Patagium, noun. The area on the front of the wing between the wrist, or alula, and the body.
Pefa, noun. (Blend and abbreviation for: PEregrine FAlcon) A species of falcon, for information about which, see our Peregrine Falcon Identification page and Peregrine Biology section.
Phase, noun. A more formal term for morph, one of the distinct colour forms of a specific species.
Pitch, noun. The altitude at or from which a raptor usually dives at or watches for prey.
Point, verb. (Of a raptor) To look in the direction of, and have the body facing, prey that has hidden itself, often in a burrow or bush. This effectively points out the position of the prey, and a falconer will often go towards it in order to flush it out.
Preen, verb. To straighten and position feathers with the beak, the word for birds' grooming.
Primary, noun. Any of the primary flight feathers; the outer flight feathers. With the exception, in some species, of the tail feathers, these are by far the longest of a bird's feathers. These feathers are often referred to in the pl., primaries.
Quarry, noun. An animal or animals being hunted or targeted by a raptor.
Raptor, noun. A bird of prey, referring to those birds that seize prey with talons, or use talons in hunting.
RT, noun. (Initialism for: Red-tailed (hawk)) Used in print, this refers to a species of hawks, for information about which see our Red-tailed hawk Identification page.
Rostrum, noun. The scientific term for a bird's beak. The word is Latin (rostrum, rostri), meaning "beak, bill."
Roused, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor that has its feathers ruffled, usually indicating that the bird is relaxing or trying to keep warm.
Rouse, verb. To shake or ruffle the feathers, either as a grooming action or as a sign that the raptor is relaxing.
Scapular, noun. Any of the feathers between a bird's back and upperwing covert feathers; the "shoulder" feathers. Usually found in the pl., scapulars.
Scrape, noun. That mark in gravel made by a peregrine falcon for use as a place to lay eggs. This is a word for a peregrine's nest.
Scrape, verb. (Of a peregrine falcon) To make an indentation or mark in gravel in order to lay eggs there.
Secondary, noun. Any of the secondary flight feathers; the inner flight feathers. These are usually the second largest of a bird's feathers, being smaller than the primaries. These feathers are often referred to in the pl., secondaries.
Shaft, noun. That part of the feather that grows out of the skin and out of which the web grows. When a feather is growing, the shaft is filled with blood and that feather is referred to a blood feather. After growth has finished, the blood retracts and the stem is left hollow.
Sharpie, noun. (Also spelled sharpy)(A clipping of Sharp-shinned hawk) A species of hawk, for information about which see our Sharp-shinned hawk Identification page.
Shortwing, noun. Any of those raptors that have relatively short-wings, comprised mostly of species of hawks, such as the accipiters. Compare Longwing.
Shortwinger, noun. A person who customarily uses short-winged raptors, often hawks (especially accipiters), to hunt. Compare Longwinger.
Stoop, noun. A sudden and steep movment down, made by a raptor at very high speeds. Also dive.
Stoop, verb. (Of a raptor) To move suddenly downwards, usually for the purpose of making a kill, done at very high speeds.
Sub-adult, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor with both juvenile and adult feathers (i.e., in the process of changing its set of juvenile feathers for adult feathers).
Swivel, noun. A device usually consisting of two metal pieces attached such that one piece can turn freely while the other piece is kept still. A swivel attaches a raptor's jesses to a leash (or to a creance), so that the raptor can move without the jesses or leash getting tangled.
Tarsus, noun. The scientific term for the third segment of a raptor's leg, on humans called the shank. This part of the leg is usually bare on most raptors, and is where falconry equipment is attached.
Terret, noun. (Rarely spelled tyrrit) (Now obsolete) Either of the metal rings attached to the end of a raptor's jesses, through which the leash passed. Sometimes a terret would be on a swivel device, but this made way for the more modern use of a proper swivel.
Tiercel, noun. (Also spelled tercel) A male raptor, sometimes (and traditionally) restricted to the male peregrine falcon. The word, deriving from the Late or Vulgar Latin word tertiolus (a diminutive form of the Latin word tertius, meaning "third"), likely referred to the fact that male raptors are roughly a third smaller than their female counterparts.
Tiring, noun. A tough and wiry piece of meat that will require a raptor to spend much time, effort and strength to tear and consume fully. Tirings are often used for medical purposes, since they are good for a raptor's beak, and also for calming or manning an excited or overly frisky raptor.
Towel, verb. To cover (and restrain) a raptor with a towel, usually for the purpose of fixing equipment or giving it medical attention (i.e., casting). Often in the phrase "to towel and cast." See cast.
Trailing edge, noun. The side of a flight feather that, when the bird is in flight, is the last to hit the wind, and gives the bird the most lift. The trailing edge of a feather is noticeably wider, and is more flexible, than the the other side of the feather, the leading edge.
TV, noun. (Initialism for: Turkey Vulture) A species of vulture, for information about which see our Turkey Vulture Identification page.
Unsummed, adjective. Used in reference to a raptor that has not fully gained a set of adult feathers. Compare fullsummed.
Varvel, noun. (Now obsolete) A metal ring, usually made of silver, and which was engraved with the raptor's owner's name or coat-of-arms. It was attached to a raptor's jess and the leash passed through it. A varvel, therefore, is a unique terret, which became obsolete upon the use of an actual swivel and the essential breakdown of the nobility.
Wait (on), verb. (Of a raptor) To fly or soar in the air, moving to no particular location, while waiting for prey to appear. Once prey is seen, the raptor will be in a ideal location, or, rather, at an ideal altitude, to go for the kill. Sometimes also used for raptors (especially hawks) waiting in trees, from which they often hunt.
Wake, verb. To spend an extended period of time with a raptor on one's glove or perched nearby, ensuring that the raptor does not fall asleep. This is one method of manning-down a raptor, one which lets the raptor know who is in control and gets it accustomed to a human handler.
Waking, noun. The act or process of spending a great length of time with a raptor without letting it fall asleep, in order to man, or train, it.
Warble, verb. (Of a raptor) To stretch the wings overhead.
Warble, noun. A raptor's stretching of the wings overhead.
Weather, verb. To keep a raptor outside, exposed to the elements, in order to ensure it gets sunlight, to socialize it with other birds, or to get it used to a new location.
Weathering, noun. The act or process of having a raptor spend time outside in the weather, in order to give it sunlight, or to accustom it to being in the presence of other birds and/or in a different location. Weathering is an important process for raptors, as they need photocell(s) to grow and keep feathers healthy.
Winnowing, noun. A raptor's stretching and flapping of the wings for the purpose of exercising them.
Yarak, noun. (Now rare) A state of eagerness to hunt. Raptors eager for the hunt are sometimes referred to as being "in yarak." This word, probably borrowed from the Persian word yaraki (meaning "ability, power, or strength"), became used less often when keen started to grow in popularity.
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