An odd thing happened a couple of weeks ago. We put our names down for a friendly padel event at our local padel courts. This was a competition of sorts (winners were promoted, losers demoted and their was a lot of swapping around of players). The most interesting thing was not the tournament, though, or any of the players. It was the birds.

When we arrived at the courts there was a Harris hawk sitting on a post and a barn owl on the ground. Another hawk was also nearby. As it happens all three birds belonged to a local falconer who was competing in the padel tournament with us, and the three birds were tethered while their owner was out on court working up a sweat.

When we were finished playing, I asked to hold the Harris hawk and the falconer was happy to let me. Leo was on hand to take a few pictures.

Harris hawks are very unusual amongst hunting birds in working in packs and coordinating their actions. They are very sought after by European falconers although they are not native to Europe and their social nature and natural intelligence makes them very suitable birds to train.

I had heard that these birds had the unusual habit of perching on top of one another in the desert areas where roosting sites were thin on the ground and I tried to track down a photograph showing this happening. I think it is actually a little more complicated than that and relates in some way to the “family” behaviour of the birds in the wild. Again, unusually among raptors, a single female may have be part of a “pack” with more than one potential male suitor. The young ones may not be entirely sure who “Daddy” is but the  adult birds seem to cooperate in raising their offspring.

Anyway, there you have it. A padel competition and an opportunity to have a chat with a falconer and have a good look at one of his remarkable birds.

I love it when stuff like this happens.

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I have never seen a Harris hawk in the wild and have used a photograph from elsewhere. It was found on this site:’s_Hawk


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Picking up a bird at the local padel club! Who would have figured?

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The guy on the far right of the back row is the falconer. He is standing beside the Hogan contingent: Leo, myself and Catriona.