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Information about Falconry Regulations and Guidelines

May 1991

Note:   This information is here for reference only.  Though every attempt has been made to ensure this information is completely accurate, the NCFG cannot guarantee its accuracy.  Please contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for an official copy of these regulations.

   Links to topics in this document:

Introduction Facilities and Equipment Reports
Requirements to Become a Falconer     Housing Other Regulations        
Permit Classes        
Requirements once a Permit is Obtained      
Examination Where to Obtain Additional Information


The practice of falconry, often called "hawking," is one of man's oldest sports.  It involves training raptors to hunt small game animals, game birds, and waterfowl in partnership with man.

Falconry originated in China over 4,000 years ago, but was widely practiced in European and Arab nations.  Early Spanish explorers of the New World also found that Indians in Mexico practiced falconry.  Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, had elaborate facilities for 50 hunting hawks.  In Elizabethan England, falconry was very popular with nobility, and a man's social rank determined the type of hawk he could keep.   Falconry gradually fell into a long-term decline after firearms were developed.

An environmental assessment done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1976 shows that the sport of falconry has no detrimental effects on raptor populations when practiced properly under stringent regulations.  The total number of falconers in the United Stated is relatively small.  There were only 1,500 in 1970 and they kept only about 2,000 birds.  Raptors kept by falconers are not permanently removed from wild bird populations.  Most trained falcons are usually hunted for only a few seasons before being released by their keepers or lost to the wild.   The mortality rate of raptors kept by licensed falconers is very low, while raptors in the wild have annual mortality rates of 50 to 90 percent.  Birds that have been released by falconers, or have reverted to the wild during a hunt, have little trouble readjusting to their natural environment.

Licensed falconers also aid raptor populations by rehabilitating sick or injured birds.   Many of the nation's leading authorities on raptors are avid falconers.

All species of raptors, which include eagles, hawks, falcons and owls, are fully protected under State and Federal laws, and it is illegal to harm or kill these birds under any circumstances.  It is also illegal for anyone to possess a raptor - alive or dead - without appropriate State and Federal permits.

Beginning falconers must serve an apprenticeship to an experienced falconer, and the test required to obtain a falconry permit is very difficult.  Special facilities must be constructed for the birds, and their particular dietary needs must be met.   Falconers must spend several hours per day working with their birds to be successful at their sport.


In order to practice falconry in North Carolina one must obtain a Falconry Permit, an annual Falconry License, and a State Hunting License.  In addition, a game lands permit will be required when practicing falconry on any lands included in the Commission's Game Lands program.  Both Federal and North Carolina migratory waterfowl stamps are required if hunting waterfowl.

A. Falconry Permit:

A person wishing to apply for a permit should write:  Falconry Permit, N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission, 512 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27604-1188.  An application form will be sent for the applicant to complete and return along with a $10.00 processing fee.  Falconry permits expire on June 30 in the second calendar year after their issuance.  In order to obtain a permit an applicant must qualify in one of three permit classes, pass a written examination, and pass an inspection of his equipment and facilities.

Permit Classes -  Three classes of permits are issued:  an Apprentice class, a General class, and a Master class.  The following requirements must be met to qualify in the respective category:

1.  Apprentice

- must be at least 14 years old;

- must have a sponsor who is a holder of a general or master falconry permit for the period during which the apprentice permit is held.   The sponsor must be a North Carolina resident or must live within 200 miles of the apprentice.  A sponsor may not have more than three apprentices at any one time.   A sponsor must provide written justification to the Commission when he decides to drop an apprentice.  The Commission will notify the apprentice who must obtain another sponsor and so advise the Commission within 90 days. Should the apprentice fail to obtain another sponsor within this 90 day period, the apprentice's raptors may be seized by the Commission and the permit revoked. Re-application and testing will be required after the passage of 180 days;

- may not possess more than one raptor or obtain more than one raptor for replacement during any 12-month period;

may possess an America Kestrel, red-tailed hawk or a red-shouldered hawk.

2. General

- must be at least 18 years old;

- must have at least two years experience in the practice of falconry at the apprentice level or its equivalent. The permittee's apprentice sponsor must provide written certification of the falconer's skills on forms supplied by the Commission;

- may not possess more than two raptors or obtain not more than two raptors for replacement during any 12-month period;

- may not take, transport, or possess any golden eagle or any species listed as threatened or endangered by Federal regulations.

3. Master

- must have at least five years experience as a general class falconer;

- may not possess more than three raptors or obtain more than two raptors for replacement during any 12-month period;

- may not take, transport, or possess any golden eagle without permission in writing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;

- may not take, transport, or possess any species listed as endangered by Federal regulations.

- may not take, transport, or possess more than one raptor listed as threatened under Federal regulations.

Examination - Following the receipt of a permit application, the applicant must contact the Commission to set up a time to take the written examination. The examination is designed to determine the applicant's knowledge of raptor identification, natural history, care in captivity, falconry techniques, and applicable laws and regulations. The examination consists of 100 multiple choice questions. Eighty percent of the questions must be answered correctly to receive a passing score.

Facilities and Equipment - Before a permit is issued, an inspection of the applicant's facilities and equipment must be conducted by a Commission biologist. Listed below are some general requirements; however, it is advisable for a potential apprentice to obtain a sponsor to advise him before starting construction of his facility.

1. Housing

The primary consideration of raptor housing, whether indoors (mews) or outdoors (weathering area), being protection of the raptor from the environment, predators, and undue disturbance, the applicant shall have holding facilities meeting the following standards:

- Indoor Facilities (Mews) - Minimum size of the mew shall be 8 x 8 feet with access provided by a full size door at least 2 x 6.5 feet.   Chipboard or waferboard must be properly sealed to prevent formaldehyde toxication.   Interior walls should not be painted or stained.  Mews should be located away from loud noises and shade should be provided.  If more than one raptor is to be kept in a mew, they shall be tethered or separated by partitions and the area for each bird shall be large enough to allow the bird to extend its wings fully.  There shall be at least one window, protected on the inside by vertical bars and containing a window perch, spaced narrower than the width of the bird's body, and a secure door that must close automatically.  The floor of the mew shall permit easy cleaning and shall be well drained, adequate perches shall be provided.

- Outdoor Facilities (Weathering Areas) - Weathering areas shall be fenced and covered with netting or wire mesh, or roofed to protect the birds from disturbance and attack by predators, except that perches more than six and one-half feet high need not be covered or roofed.  Covers or roofs shall not be less than seven feet high and shall have at least 24 inches clearance above the highest perch.  The enclosed area shall be no less than 8 x 8 feet, but large enough to insure the birds cannot strike the fence when flying from the perch.  The floor of the weathering area shall be covered with a thick covering or natural or artificial turf that allows for adequate drainage.  Protection from excessive sun, wind, and inclement weather shall be provided for each bird.  Adequate perches shall be provided.  The weathering area shall also include a jump box, A-Frame, or similar structure which will offer the raptor a secure perch.  All edges of this structure shall be padded with artificial turf or similar material.  The interior width and interior height from the bottom to top shall be no less that 32 inches for a red-tailed hawk or 1 1/2 times the length of the bird to be accommodated.  The interior perch shall be a minimum of five inches high.  Structure shall be constructed of treated materials or painted with a non-lead base paint.  At least two perches shall be provided for each bird. and should be covered with artificial turf, help rope, or similar material.  A secured leash shall offer access to all perches and bath container yet should not come in contact with the fence and free from entanglement.

2.  Equipment 

The following items must be in possession of the applicant before obtaining a permit:

 - at least one pair of Almyri jesses or similar type constructed of pliable high-quality leather or suitable synthetic material to be used when any raptor is flown free;  (Traditional one-piece jesses may be used on raptors when not being flown.)

- at least one flexible, weather-resistant leash and one figure eight type swivel of acceptable falconry design;

- at least one suitable bath, 2"-6" deep and at least 24" wide for drinking and bathing for each raptor;

- a reliable scale or balance with perch attached for weighing raptors held.  It should be capable of measuring up to five pounds and graduated to increments of not more than 1/2 ounce or 15 grams;

- Outdoor Perches - At least one portable weathering area perch of an acceptable design shall be provided for each raptor.   These include a block, ring or bow perch.


A.  Falconry License

After qualifying for a falconry permit, the applicant will be sent applications for a Falconry license and for a marker.  These applications should be returned immediately with the $10.00 license fee.  This license must be renewed annually.

B.   Markers

All peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, and Harris hawks possessed for falconry purposes must be marked in accordance with the following provisions:

- any peregrine falcon, gyrfalcon, or Harris hawk, except a captive bred raptor lawfully marked by a numbered, seamless band issued by the Service, must be banded with a permanent, non-reusable, numbered band issued by the Service;

- any peregrine falcon, gyrfalcon, or Harris hawk, possessed for falconry purposes must be banded at all times in accordance with these standards.    Loss or removal of any band must be reported to the issuing office within five working days of the loss and must be replaced with a permanent, non-reusable, numbered band supplied by the Service;

- After the effective date of this Section, before any unmarked raptor of these species is acquired in this state, an appropriate marker must first be acquired and attached to the raptor upon acquisition.  A written application is required to obtain any such marker;

- permittes must affix a non-reusable marker to any raptor which may require retrapping.  Only marked raptors may be retrapped at any time.

C.   Reports

- A permittee must report all acquisitions and dispositions of raptors to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a form supplied by the Commission.


Below is a list of some of the more important falconry regulations.  For answers to questions concerning these regulations, or something not covered in this publication, call 919-733-7291.

A.   Trade or Transfer

- a permittee may trade or transfer a raptor to another permittee if the transaction occurs entirely within the state and no money or other consideration is involved.

- a permittee may trade or transfer a raptor to another permittee in an interstate transaction if the prior written approval of the Commission is obtained and no money or other consideration is involved in the transaction.   A permittee may purchase, sell or barter any lawfully possessed captive-bred raptor which is banded with a numbered seamless marker provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provided:

a. the person receiving such raptor is authorized to possess it under state and federal regulations, or the foreign country of his residence. 

b. the permittee transferring such raptor has acquired it from a person authorized to possess it as provided by the regulations.

- a permittee may not take, possess, or transport a raptor in violation of the restrictions, conditions, and requirements of federal and state falconry regulations;

- a raptor may be transported and held in temporary facilities for a period not exceeding 30 days, provided it is furnished with an adequate perch and protected from extreme temperatures and disturbance.

B.  Taking Game

- the falconry seasons and daily, possession and season bag limits are the same as for any other type of hunting;

- out of season kills or kills of of animals with no open seasons should be left at the site of the kill.  However, the raptor may be allowed to feed on the kill before leaving the site;

- no raptor can be released for falconry purposes during a time when daily or seasonal bag limits for ANY species have been filled by any means.

C.   Taking Raptors

- the falconry permit must be in possession of the permittee at all times when raptor trapping devices or raptors are in his possession away from his residence;

- young birds not capable of flight (eyasses)   may not be taken without a special permit from the Commission.  These permits will only be issued to General or Master class permit holders and are valid from May 1 through June 30 only;

- unmarked first year (passage) birds may be taken only from September 4 through December 31;

- only American kestrels and great horned owls may be taken when over one year old.

D.   Releasing Raptors

- raptors that are not native to North Carolina may not be released into the wild without written approval from the Wildlife Commission;

- native raptors released into the wild should have all markers removed.  A federal bird band must be attached in place of the marker by either a state or federally authorized bird bander.


For further information or inquiries contact N.C. Falconers Guild, Neal Young, 3118 Campbell Road, Raleigh, North Carolina 27606, or North American Falconry Association, 10646 Powell Road, Thurmont, Maryland 21788.  Also listed below are some references that may be helpful for the beginner in learning more about falconry.


Ap Evans, H.  1960 Falconry For You.   John Gilford Ltd.

Beebe, F. L. and H. M. Webster.  1964.  North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks.  World Press, Inc., Denver, Colorado 315 pp.

Craighead, F. C. and J. J. Craighead.  1939.   Hawks in the Hand; Adventures in Photography and Falconry. Houghton Mifflin.   Boston, Massachusetts.

De Bastyai, L. 1968.  The Sport of Falconry.  Charles T. Branford Co., Boston, Massachusetts.  173 pp.

Glasier, P. 1963.  As the Falcon Her Bells.   Heineman.  London.  223 pp.

Illingsworth, F.  1964.  Falcons and Falconry.  London House and Maxwell, London.

Mitchell, E. B.  1959.  The Art and Practice of Hawking.  Charles T. Branford Co., Boston, Massachusetts.  291 pp.

Woodford, M. H.  1960.  A Manual of Falconry.  Charles T. Branford Co., Boston, Massachusetts.  192 pp.




The Wildlife Resources Commission is an Equal opportunity Employer and all wildlife programs are administered  for the benefit of all North Carolina citizens without prejudice toward age, sex, race, religion, or natural origin.  Violations of the pledge may be reported to the Equal Employment Officer, Larry A. Campbell, Personal Officer, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 512 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh, N.C. 27604-1188, Telephone (919) 733-2241.

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission