He comes flying towards me and at this moment I think about whether it was the right decision to make myself available as a “guinea pig”. My arm trembles a bit as the huge bird lands on it….
What a weight the animal has. I really would not have expected that. He quickly eats the piece of meat and rises back into the air to fly back to the falconers.
I must admit, I am impressed and would not have expected that, during my visit to the falconry on the Rennsteig.
What is falconry?
Falconry or falconry is the training and hunting with birds of prey. This kind of hunting has been practiced for many centuries. Written records can be found, for example, in Aristotle from the 4th century BC, who reports on falconry among the Thracians and Indians. Later, this way of hunting spread to Europe.
In the high Middle Ages it came to a bloom time of the Falknerei. Whoever held what on himself, had as a status symbol a bird of prey. They exchanged information with Arabian falconers and developed ever finer techniques for working with the animals. Emperor Frederick II, for example, introduced the falcon hood after learning about it from Arab falconers. He even wrote a book on the subject of falconry.
With the beginning of the changes in the landscapes due to the increasingly industrialized cultivation and the growing cities, falconry was practiced less and less. Today there are only a few falconers who are engaged in the training and care of the birds. Certainly also a reason why UNESCO has recognized in 2010 the falconry as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
How does a falconer work?
That was one of the questions floating around in my head when I entered the falconry on the Rennsteig. During the bird of prey show, this could be answered to me very well. At the show I visited, the falconers not only showed the beautiful animals and their flying skills, they also explained why the animals do what.
Trained birds of prey sometimes perform tasks that humans can’t easily do. If you look at airports, for example, you can sometimes see falconers at work there. The animals are used to drive away flocks of birds that pose a potential threat to aircraft. But also in the city hunting with falcons takes a special place. The animals are used for hunting rabbits, for example, when the use of firearms would be too dangerous.
In all work with the falcons, the natural hunting instinct of the animals is “exploited”. Free-ranging falcons soar high into the air, locate their prey on the ground, and then swoop down at almost breathtaking speed to catch the prey. Only shortly before hitting the ground does it open its applied wings and grab the prey with its talons.
The falconer takes advantage of this natural instinct. For example, he uses a feather game as a prey dummy. A decoy is on a string about 2 meters long, which is swung in a circle. Once the falcon has soared, the decoy is swung. The animal recognizes it as prey and comes back to catch it.
The falconers on the Rennsteig worked in a similar way. They held prey in their hands and to draw attention to it, they waggled it a bit. The various birds we could see there were trained to recognize this prey. With powerful wing beats, they bridged the few meters from falconer to falconer and picked up their prey.
Visit the show of the falconry at the Rennsteig
It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived at the falconry. Despite the bad weather, the people and especially the birds were willing to show us their arts.
But before we left, we were able to take a close look at the beautiful animals. Some sit in large aviaries, others have small houses in which they can retreat. About 55 animals live in the falconry at Rennsteig. My knowledge of different bird species is quite limited, but I recognized owls, vultures and eagles right away. In addition, there are also hawks and buzzards to see.
The air show takes place on a small square. On benches you can sit down and watch the work with the animals. Sitting down was unfortunately not the order of the day for us. Due to the rain it was just too wet and we all sought shelter under the trees.
I stood very close to a landing site that the animals fly to during the show. So I could experience the impressive size of the animals at close range and feel the wind generated by the flapping of their wings.
When then asked who would like to be a falconer once, I could not resist. The falconer’s glove was a few sizes too big and I felt a little queasy when the falconer right next to me lured the bird of prey with a piece of prey. But honestly, it is a unique experience when the majestic animals land on the glove. I was almost tempted to stroke the animal just to feel the feathers. But as soon as the prey was eaten, it flew away again.
I was particularly impressed by a monk vulture with the beautiful name of Mr. Luther. What a large and impressive animal. Mr. Luther’s parents, significantly named Margrethe and Hans Luther, just hatched a little Luther. Whether Mr. Luther is happy about a sibling… who knows. In any case, Mr. Luther flew very close to me and impressed me.
Whether it was a sea eagle or an owl, I really enjoyed the well cared for animals and the work with the animals is impressive.
Can anyone become a falconer?
If you want to work as a falconer in Germany, you need a limited hunter’s examination and a special falconer’s examination. Only after that you get your falconer hunting license.
Young falconers are trained on the Rennsteig. Bringing children and young people closer to the work with animals and making them sensitive to the interaction with nature is a major concern of the entire team.
Liebensteiner Straße 108
Summer season (Thuringian winter vacations until 15.12.)
Tuesday – Sunday: 10-12 a.m. and 1-6 p.m.
closed: Monday (except holidays)
Flight show 3 p.m. (Attention! In case of bad weather conditions the show cannot take place).
Winter season 15.12. until beginning of Thuringian winter holidays
Tuesday – Sunday: 14-16 o’clock
There will be no air show.
Prices air show:
Sightseeing without air show
The visit to the falconry was an item on the program of a press trip to Thuringia.