Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hawai'ian falconry? Not holding my breath

Catching up on the Internet after at least a week's absence, I see that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is considering delisting the Hawai'ian hawk or 'io (Buteo solitarius). [HT Terrierman.] The 'io breeds on the Big Island of Hawai'i, where as the island's only resident raptor it preys on a wide variety of avian, mammalian (mostly introduced rodents) and invertebrate prey, and is occasionally found as a vagrant on other islands in the archipelago. On Hawai'i it can be found in agricultural areas and secondary (largely non-native) forest as well as its historical habitat of native forest. Apparently its willingness to utilize such secondary habitats has contributed to its relatively secure (for an island endemic species) status, as populations have remained stable over a twenty-year period.

Over the last few years, as states like Delaware and Connecticut finally put falconry regulations into place, the North American Falconers' Association (NAFA) finally achieved its goal of legal falconry in 49 states. Hawai'i had always been considered a non-starter because the 'io was listed as an endangered species, and the state was understandably opposed to the use of non-native raptors. If the 'io is in fact delisted, it will be interesting to see if Hawai'ian falconry with the 'io might someday become a possibility. Of course, any efforts in that direction will be need to be extremely sensitive not only to the usual opposition from opponents of field sports, but also to the bird's significance as an 'amakua or (roughly translated) totem animal in traditional Hawai'ian culture.


Matt Mullenix said...

The rule anticipates possible Hawaiian falconry and allows that the existing falconry regulation would cover use.

A few Hawaiian hawks were stateside at Steve Martin's facility in Florida and Eric saw them there. Neat little buteo, along Broadwing lines. Looks like they have bigger feet, though.

You know it would be worth a try, espcially if marooned on a gorgeous Pacific island with no other option...

Mark Churchill said...


I saw that the notice in the Federal Register addressed falconry, but the state of Hawai'i would also have to enact/adopt falconry regulations before hawking there could become a reality.

The broadwing comparison seems apt, and I actually had you in the back of my mind when I posted this: as one of the very few falconers in the country who has flown B. platypterus, you might be uniquely qualified to give the 'io a try. So what do you think: could you trade Red Stick for Hilo?

Matt Mullenix said...

Mark if they gave me 6 months room and board with beach access, I might be persuaded.