“The first jump to the glove is a very nervous time for the hawk. Give her time, but don’t give in. Eventually she’ll jump to the glove.” – Liam McGranaghan, “The Red-Tailed Hawk”
There’s nothing like bringing an wild animal, fresh from living and surviving on its own in a brutal world, into your house. “Quack,” our bird last year, came in and was completely calm the first night. My kids were running around with our little labrador, and Quack just sat there taking it all in. My present bird, Thorin Oakenshield, spent the first hour or two bating off the fist but then he got very curious about everything. He would cock his head this way and that, and he would lean towards everything as though he was trying to decide if he could catch and kill it. When he’s doing that to your two year old, you get a little nervous!
My favorite moment though? When the hawk jumps to your fist for the first time. There’s nothing like it. Trust is the name of the game. Have you brought the bird to a point where she trusts you enough to jump onto your fist to get food? To gain that trust, you’ve spent hours holding her on your fist without making eye contact, and you’ve gotten her to eat off your glove. That moment is exciting too, as you watch out of the corner of your eye while she looks from the meat to you and back to the meat again before finally dipping her head and taking it. But, does she trust you enough to actually leave the safety of a perch for your uncertain hand?
This bird doesn’t trust me enough yet. She wouldn’t even look at my hand! I would wiggle meat in front of her (in fact, I mainly used bloody chopped up mice), and she wouldn’t even look at it. She wasn’t ready yet so I just had to be patient. “Quack” took 16 days to respond to food because she was so fat when I took her off the trap. It’s amazing how pivotal this moment is for the training. Quack took forever to jump to my fist, but once she did it was only the matter of four days before she was flying to me immediately from about 50 feet away.
Here’s a silly little video The Future Apprentice and I made to illustrate the struggle of patience. You’ll see how Quack just sat there and ignored me, and then compare that to Thorin O, who jumped to my fist on the third day off the trap! He wiggled back and forth, he tried so many times to jump before he finally did. Check it out!