Fierce Flying Falcons

Falcons have been used for centuries as a tool for hunting and providing food to their owners through the art of falconry. However, starting in the early 2000’s, a new use for this species gained in popularity. This new form of falconry is called bird abatement. Patrick Johnston, a master falconer who owns seven of these birds of prey, specializes in falconry and this relatively new form, bird abatement.

Bird abatement is the process of using birds of prey such as falcons and hawks, to remove other species of birds, nicknamed nuisance birds, from certain desired areas. These nuisance birds get their nickname due to their annoyance and trouble for people and businesses.

Specifically, nuisance birds are Pigeons, Starlings, Cowbirds and the most common here in Texas, Grackles. Grackles are the black birds that migrate south around late autumn and early wintertime when the air gets cooler. They like to gather in large flocks on power lines and in trees in your local grocery store parking lot.

Once he receives a call, Patrick’s job as a master falconer and bird abatement specialist is to bring his falcons into the area and scare off the grackles. This process usually takes anywhere between three and five nights before the grackles decide that it isn’t safe to inhabit the area anymore. Patrick says that it can take as little as 30 to 60 days to train a falcon to hunt. They usually have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years in the wild; though in captivity, they can live to be up to 30 years old.

Patrick received his falconry license from the Texas Hawking Association where he is a member, and says that if anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a falconer and what they do, to reach out to the organization as they are always looking for new interested members. To see more of Patrick’s work, visit

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