Birds and Women at Work

Falconer with gyrfalcon at Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6 September 2021

On Labor Day, let’s take a look at birds of prey working with women.

Falconry in Europe evolved from a sport of the nobility to a career accessible to the middle classes. Though considered a man’s sport, aristocratic women in medieval and early-modern Europe took part in large numbers and became renowned for their falconry skills, often better than men. When falconry declined in the 18th century far fewer women were involved, making this 1880 portrait of Die Falknerin (The Falconer) and the following 1881 illustration of the same woman in Die Gartenlaube unusual in its rarity. Who is this falconer holding a Eurasian kestrel in a land that speaks German?

Die Falknerin, portrait by Hans Makart, 1880

Nowadays women falconers work at raptor centers, aviaries and bird abatement services that use falcons and hawks to move nuisance birds.

At top, a woman falconer works with a gyrfalcon at the Salzburg Regional Falconry Centre at Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria where they hold daily flight demonstrations with various birds of prey. The falconers live at the castle so they can better take care of the birds.

Below, Sabrina Fox flies a Harris hawk in Portland, Oregon in 2018 to move the winter crow flock out of the city center.

Sabrina Fox, falconer, Portland, OR, 2018 (screenshot from Urban Falconry in Portland, Oregon by OPB)

In Idaho, women at the World Birds of Prey Center in Boise fly a peregrine falcon and a harpy eagle in a flight show.

Falconer with peregrine falcon, World Center for Birds of Prey, Idaho, 2011 (photo by Jitze Couperus via Flickr Creative Commons license)
Falconer with harpy eagle at World Center for Birds of Prey, Idaho, 2011 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

And in Pittsburgh, women falconers work with birds at the National Aviary. In 2011 Cathy Schlott displayed a lanner falcon at an event at WQED.

Cathy Schlott of the National Aviary holds a lanner falcon, Horace, on the glove, 2011 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

Learn more about the history of women in falconry and their current contributions in this abstract of the Women and Sustainable Hunting Conference at the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, July 2016.

Visit the National Aviary to see birds and women at work.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, screenshot from OPB video, Jitze Couperus via Flickr Creative Commons license, Sharon Leadbitter; click on the captions to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “Birds and Women at Work

  1. Such a marvelous report, Kate. Thank you so much for all of this information I never knew!! Happy Labor Day!

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