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George and the falcon

Local Falconer off to Abu Dhabi for international festival

It was not exactly the average breakfast telephone call received recently by George McAllister (66) of Waterval Onder. In fact, the news he received was more akin to the hunting tactics employed by his beloved Peregrine Falcons – a real “bolt from the blue!” In truth, the caller was none other than Dr. Adrian Lombard, Chairman of both the SA Falconry Association as well as the International Falconry Association: “George,” he said “if you’re not too busy and have a little time on your hands, we really need your skills and experience. How would you like to help us out at the International Falconry Festival in Abu Dhabi in December – all expenses paid?”

Needless to say, George, a passionate and respected falconer in his own right – with almost 40 years of experience and Chairman of the Mpumalanga Falconry Club – said yes like a shot. After all, what falconer worth their salt is going to turn down an opportunity to be a part of a premier event which will be attended by falconers from more than 70 countries from all around the world?

George will now be one of four South Africans that will be attending the festival – three members will man the SA exhibitors stall, as well as take part in the numerous events, but George has been tasked with overseeing the many aspects of safe bird handling and handler training at the festival. This will include dealing with the care and well-being of many different types and sizes of birds of prey, including the majestic Golden Eagle - native to central Asia. Whereas the festival takes place from 2nd. to 13th. December, George will fly out to the Middle East as soon as 22 November and will stay on until after the festival is over – including overseeing a two-week training and orientation stint in a remote desert location before the festival gets underway.

This is indeed a serious undertaking – and also a great honour to be entrusted with the care and safety of so many sleek and beautiful raptors. Well done George! This is a real feather in the cap of SA Falconry and George has promised THG that he will take lots of pictures and give us a full report for our readers on his return.
Interesting facts – Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

  • Can reach nearly 400 kmh. in a dive
  • Lives more than 20 years
  • Almost exclusively hunts live birds on the wing
  • Has excellent vision – with large eyes in relation to head size
  • Although birds average only 34 - 58 cm. in size and males generally weigh less than 700 g., they can and do take prey twice or even three times their size, relying on sheer speed and impact to make the kill
  • It is not true that Peregrine’s always “bind” to their prey after the strike and fall to the ground – they are able to release at will and let the prey fall away