The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | Katey Sackett
“The Secret Life of a Research Administrator” column is meant to facilitate more personal connections between SRAI members through the Catalyst newsletter. If you would like to share with the community or know of someone who will, please submit your article here.
Falconry is the capture, care, and training of birds of prey to utilize them for hunting in sport and for sustenance. The term falconry itself is a bit of a misnomer, because while falcons are birds of prey and a popular choice for the sport, hawks, eagles, and even owls can be eligible. Acceptable species vary based on conservation efforts, state regulations, and environmental compatibility.
I frequently get asked what sparked my interest in falconry. My first recollection of amazement was when I read a particular novel in my childhood, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. In the book a young boy, Sam, runs away to the Adirondacks, choosing to survive alone in a hollowed-out tree, relying on his knowledge of the wilderness. Early on Sam decides that he needs a hunting companion, a peregrine falcon if he is going to survive. Sam finds a nest of young falcons and receives striking blows from the mother as he takes one of the birds to raise it as his own. He is able to train the bird to assist him on hunts and they survive even a rough winter. Growing up in a small town in New York I dreamt of running into the woods that surrounded my house and living just as Sam did.
That urge to drop everything and disappear largely subsided as time went on, until during the height of the pandemic when I had the itch to run to the wilderness again. I began researching falconry more seriously, studied and took the required examination for licensure, and began looking for experienced falconers to sponsor me. I have had an amazing time getting to know incredible people, shadowing them, learning about the birds, and going on hunts. It is not for the faint of heart, to trek through heavily wooded areas, either to flush prey or to track down your bird and the first time I fed a raptor a frozen day-old chick was certainly an eye-opener for me. But even when I am picking hundreds of tiny thistles off my body, I am still happy to be a part of the experience. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to assist other falconers and educate the community and last fall I even organized a hands-on program for children at a library I volunteer for.
Unlike with other hunting companions, in falconry, the bird you care for is never truly yours. It isn’t a pet; it is a partner. I can’t tell it what to do, just like I can’t tell a sponsor what to do. I work to study and understand my partner, to give it what it needs so we can have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Falconry has taught me so much about ecology, balance, and even basic survival skills. And you never know, maybe someday I will just run into the wilderness.
*If you’re interested in learning more about falconry in your neck of the woods, I recommend checking out your state’s environmental and wildlife conservation departments. They often have resources on how to get started.
Authored by Katey Sackett, Research Administrator
Rochester Institute of Technology