IAF encourages governments to work with their falconers to develop optimal legislation.
Laws work best when those affected by them welcome them.
IAF never seeks to impose the laws of one country on another

From 30 years of experience as an international non-governmental body, now representing falconry in the Council for Europe (Bern Convention), World Conservation Union (IUCN) and in CITES, IAF believes that falconers can best be motivated to contribute effectively to cultural and wildlife conservation if legislators aim to:

1.  Apply legal regulation only where there is real risk to wild raptors or to falconry.
2. Reduce bureaucracy to a level concomitant with real conservation requirements.
3. Register birds, if needed, by a scheme for 1-time recording and passport.
4. Encourage mentorship, or training and exams, to ensure best-practise.
5. Encourage sustainable-use of wild birds to benefit conservation.

Falconers are recommended to develop good relationships with others interested in conserving wildlife, especially in the government bodies with national and international responsibilities.

issued to member nations by IAF

Falconry is of interest for wildlife conservation through its relationship with raptors and their prey. Raptor and prey populations in healthy environments are renewable resources and falconry can be managed to benefit their conservation. Management for raptors is especially important. As top predators, like the large carnivorous mammals, raptors can be flagship species for monitoring biodiversity, or vulnerable indicators of environmental pollution, or cause problems through predation on game, livestock and rare species exposed by changing land-use.

Benefits from falconry

Falconry has high potential to benefit raptors, through expertise in raptor biology and management, through education and through conservation by sustainable use. The training of raptors requires and develops an understanding of their behaviour, which leads many falconers to become wildlife biologists or veterinarians. Hypothesis-testing described in "De Arte Venandi cum Avibus" made Emperor Frederick II a father of modern science(1), while more recent falconers like the Craighead brothers and Dr Heinz Brüll contributed landmark ecological publications (2),(3). The major breeding-release schemes used to rescue peregrines, Mauritius kestrels and Californian condors are run by falconers: Profs. Tom Cade and Christian Saar (4-6), Drs. Carl Jones and Mike Wallace (7,8). Among methods to reduce risk of disastrous bird-strikes at airfields, falconers provide the dedication and expertise consistently to deter the most problematic species(9). When incapacitated rare raptors need rehabilitation, the techniques were mostly developed by falconer vets(10-12). As a group, falconers show above-average environmental responsibility(13), and their rich culture also makes them valuable guides for historical and ecology-based tourism. Their peculiar combination of conservation with hunting also qualifies falconers uniquely for solving socio-economic problems that can arise from raptor predation(14,15), including provision of a home
for individual raptors that create problems. For these reasons, falconry expertise is a valuable human resource for conservation in any modern state.

Moreover, new knowledge on the prevalence of non-breeders in healthy raptor populations(16-18) indicates scope for sustainable use that can provide help with population monitoring. For raptors that are rare, the domestic breeding that meets falconry requirements can ensure survival of species.
Falconry has relatively low impact on prey, because capture selects weak and diseased individuals(19,20) and is inefficient compared with shooting. Falconers therefore require prey-rich habitats, which motivates conservation that also benefits wild raptors and biodiversity in general. Moreover, raptors leave no injured quarry.

Legal status

In recognition of these benefits and its cultural heritage, falconry is legally recognised in most parts of the world. Falconry is practised in many African countries, thrives in Asia, is legal throughout the Americas and is accommodated under the Bern Convention and in the Wild Birds Directive of the European Union(A). Nations in Europe each have separate regulations. This document and the supporting material is intended as a guide for best practice, to promote consolidation of good laws throughout Europe.

Regulations world-wide

The main areas of legislation concerning falconry regulate obtaining raptors, possessing raptors, welfare, transport, hunting and release of raptors to the wild. This document identifies regulations that can derive maximal benefits from falconry with minimal administration. Minimal administration not only conserves administrative resourcesB but also encourages compliance with regulations. The best approach is to use single-issue certificates for falconers or single-issue licences for individual raptors, as recommended in a set of regulatory principles agreed by IAF members in 2000C.

The United States federal regulations for falconry are a good example of a minimalist system21. These regulations provide a framework for a falconry program administered by each state, based on a joint federal and state issued falconry possession permit. Falconers are first permitted in the "Apprentice class," for 2 years as early as age 14, and then in the "General class," for 5 years as early as age 16, and then in the "Master class," after 7 years in the previous two classes, as early as age 21. To complete the Apprentice period, Apprentice class falconers must have a General or Master class sponsor, take a falconry exam, have a facilities inspection, and must trap a wild, immature, easily trained, common raptor (the American kestrel or red-tailed hawk); and an Apprentice falconer may only hold one raptor.
General class falconers may take and hold a total of 2 nestling or immature raptors from the wild, or captive bred raptors of any species permitted by the state of residence. A Master falconer may hold a total of 3 raptors of most species of raptors, including golden eagles with a special golden eagle possession permit, but may take only one listed rare species per year. Harvest permits to capture any raptors from the wild are issued by the falconer's state of residence. Only wild-captured Harris hawks, peregrine falcons, and gyrfalcons are required to be marked, with tamper proof rings. All captive bred raptors are fitted with seamless rings.

Regulations in EU countries

At national level in EU states, the typical implementation of regulations for falconry is through Ministerial Order, or Order in Council. This preserves flexibility to modify regulations for adaptive management of falconry. Moreover, national conservation legislation (for example to comply with current EU directives) needs merely to state that falconry is permitted, subject to ministerial or council regulation. In countries with separate hunting laws, falconry may need consideration there too. For example, several EU countries (e.g. Belgium, U.K.) recognise the low ecological impact and high training required of raptors in falconry by permitting extensions to hunting seasons or to the range of species that may be hunted.

In the European Union, implementation of CITES (Regulation EC 338/97 of 9 December 1996) treats all raptors as uncommon, so licences must be obtained to obtain or possess any raptor from the wild. Under these circumstances, it is desirable to issue licences once for each raptor. Typically, a licence is confirmed by a marker on the bird. This marker is usually a ring that, after initial attachment, cannot be removed without destruction. Domestic progeny can be fitted as nestlings with a specified size of seamless metal ring(D), that cannot be removed when legs are full-grown; plastic tamper-proof rings can be used on older birds(D). If deemed necessary, security against transfer of markers could be obtained by banking a biological sample (eg feather); on dispute, a second sample would be DNA-profiled in parallel with the banked sample, with analysis fees paid by the party in error. Similarly, if DNA samples from breeding stock are banked, any dispute about progeny could be resolved by parentage tests(E). However, no country has yet required the additional administration of a “mark-and-bank” scheme.

Within the European Union, there is specific legal provision for falconers to have raptors from the wild in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom, also in Greece, Italy and Portugal for rehabilitation purposes. In principle, there are no restrictions on transporting trained raptors between any countries within the European Union, although proof of legal origin may be required at any time and veterinary quarantine applies to all birds entering the UK. Until the EU follows North America and implements CITES Conference Resolution 10.20 on “Frequent Transborder Movements of Personally Owned Live Animals”, certificates will be required for every movement to or from the EU.

Permits for individual falconers are required by several EU states, as in the USA, to ensure that standards of expertise are confirmed by examination or through assessment by a mentor. In Germany and Austria, permits from examinations under the hunting laws confirm adequate knowledge of the ecology and keeping of raptors, their training and of issues that affect hunting in general. Permits can require observance of desirable conditions, e.g. to ensure welfare of trained raptors, and can aid decisions about competence to take birds from the wild. Mentorship schemes, examinations and marking can be delegated to falconry organisations, to reduce central administrative costs and to encourage good practise through club codes of conduct. Belgium has extensive delegationF; the UK avoids the administrative burden of examinations, but a Hawk Board of falconers, breeders and zoos helps the national authorities with the ringing scheme.

Other issues

If falconers use radio-tags, few raptors are lost by accident into the wild. Occasional loss of single birds creates negligible risk of introducing populations of non-native species. The flying of trained raptors is therefore excluded from restrictions and resolutions that arise from the Convention on BioDiversity (CBD) to avoid alien introductions. A recent IAF survey shows that hybrids and non-native species are used least in countries with liberal access to wild raptors. In France and countries outside Europe, falconers help to monitor wild populations from which they obtain birds under licence. In Europe, numbers of birds licensed from the wild should be reported every second year to the secretariat of the Bern Convention. IAF is represented at the Bern Convention and can provide advice on monitoring through sustainable use.


In summary, minimal administration on a global perspective is obtained by combining falconer-permits with licences to obtain rare species from the wild, without individual licences for domestic bred raptors or common wild species (e.g. USA). In Europe, the present implementation of CITES obliges the licensing of all captive raptors. In countries where clubs supervise falconers, national falconer permits may not be necessary and administrative costs can be saved by delegating to clubs some responsibilities for licensed raptors (e.g. UK). In other countries, falconer-permits can be used to encourage best practise, through mentorship and the creation of responsible clubs.

Click below to read the Appendices:

A - International conventions that affect falconry.
B - Position Statement on falconry of the Raptor Research Foundation.
C - Position Statement on falconry regulations of IAF.
D - Schedule of ring sizes.
E - Mark and bank concept note of IAF.
F - An example of falconry regulations in an EU state, for the Walloon region of Belgium.


1. von Hohenstaufen, F. 1248. De arte venandi cum avibus. Manuscript.
2. Craighead, J.J. & Craighead, F.C. 1956. Hawks, owls and wildlife. Wildlife Management Institute, Washington D.C., U.S.A
3. Brüll, H. 1964. Das Leben deutscher Greifvögel. Fischer, Stuttgart, Germany.
4. Cade, T.J. 1986. Propagating diurnal raptors in captivity: a review. International Zoo Yearbook 24/25:1-20.
5. Saar, C. 1988. Reintroduction of the peregrine falcon in Germany. pp. 629-635 in Cade, T.J., Enderson, J.H., Thelander, C.G. & White C.M. (eds). Peregrine falcon populations, their management and recovery. The Peregrine Fund Inc., Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.
6. Sherrod, S.K., Heinrich, W.R.,Burnham, W.A., Barclay J.H. & Cade, T.J. 1981. Hacking: a method for releasing peregrine falcons and other birds of prey. The Peregrine Fund, Boise., Idaho, U.S.A.
7. Jones, C.G., Heck, W., Lewis, R.E., Mungroo, Y., Slade, G. & Cade, T. 1994. The restoration of the Mauritius kestrel Falco punctatus population. Ibis 137:173-S180.
8. Wallace, M.P. 2001. Recovery Efforts for the California Condor. Abstracts. 4th Eurasian Congress on Raptors. Seville-Spain 25-29 September 2001. 197.
9. Murton, R.K. 1971. Man and birds. Collins, London, England.
10. Temple, S.A. 1972. Artificial insemination with imprinted birds of prey. Nature 237:287-288.
11. Cooper, J.E. & Greenwood, A.G. 1981. Recent advances in the study of raptor diseases. Chiron Publications, Keighley, England.
12. Redig, PT, Cooper, JE, Remple, DJ & Hunter, DB ‘93. Raptor Biomedicine University Press, Minneapolis, USA
13. Peyton, R.B., Vorro, J., Grise, L., Tobin, R. & Eberhardt, R. 1995. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 60:181-192.
14. Kenward, R.E. 1999. Raptor predation problems and solutions. Journal of Raptor Research 33:73-75.
15. Kenward, R.E., Hall, D.G., Walls, S.S. & Hodder, K.H. 2001. Factors affecting predation by buzzards (Buteo buteo) on released pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). Journal of Applied Ecology 38:813-822.
16. Hunt, W.G. 1998. Raptor floaters at Moffat's equilibrium. Oikos 82:191-197.
17. Kenward, R.E., Marcström, V. & Karlbom, M. 1999. Demographic estimates from radio-tagging: models of age-specific survival and breeding in the goshawk. Journal of Animal Ecology 68:1020-1033.
18. Kenward, R.E., Walls, S.S., Hodder, K.H., Pahkala, M., Freeman, S.N. & Simpson, V. R. 2000. The prevalence of non-breeders in raptor populations: evidence from rings, radio-tags and transect surveys. Oikos 91:271-279.
19. Eutermoser, A. 1961. Beizen falken bevorzügt kranke krähen? Vogelwelt 82:101-104.
20. Kenward, R.E. 1978. Hawks and doves: factors affecting success and selection in goshawk attacks on woodpigeons. Journal of Animal Ecology 47:449-460.
21. US federal falconry regulations, Chapter 50, Parts 21.28-21.29, and golden eagle falconry regulations, Chapter 50, Part 22.24, US Code of Federal Regulations. See http://www.fws.gov/laws/.