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Baiting the Falcons

Baiting the Falcons video

Various types of bait birds are used to lure in raptors, including pigeons, sand grouse, and turtledove. As falcons steal from each other, hunters can also send out smaller, non-valuable falcons like kestrels, as a trap to lure in larger, high-cost birds. Traps called “niqqel” are specially made for the bait falcons, such as the kestrels, and are handmade in the tent out of nylon loop lines with a fake fuzzy bait affixed to the kestrel’s leg, which cinches around the foot of the intended prey when pulled. After sighting a raptor, the kestrel is sent out with the niqqel attached to it. The flying action of the kestrel attracts the attention of the sought-after falcon who intends to steal its ‘prey’. After the falcon and kestrel land, they engage in a fight for the fake prey and the larger raptor is entangled in the loop lines (‘shaker’). At this point, the Bedouin hunter must take the captured larger raptor and wrap it in a cloak. If the kestrel does not perform well and does not fly very far after launching from the truck, the kestrel will be released and a new one will be captured.

The smaller birds like pigeons are fitted with loop traps on their back, using the same cinching system as the niqqel but without the fuzzy bait. They are unceremoniously thrown out of the window of the trucks, usually by the person in the passenger seat. The bird initially chosen as bait depends somewhat on the species of targeted raptor, but it appears that the response of the targeted raptor to the proffered bait also comes into consideration. Very small songbirds, such as Temminck’s larks, are fitted with ball weights and used as bait to attract the attention of falcons. When attacked by the potential raptor, the rubber ball will eventually roll around both birds and wrap them into the string so the falcon cannot fly away. These small birds are attracted to high places, such as tents or the trees, and are captured with some ground nets. But as there are no trees in the desert, only small bushes, sometimes, trees or parts of trees are brought in to attract additional bait birds. A large portion of an eucalyptus tree was brought to Abu Yazin’s camp and driven into the ground. Ground nets, halfmoon metallic structures covered with a net, are set up around the base of the tree. One side of the net is propped up with a stick and a string is attached to the stick so someone can pull it whenever birds come to eat the bread crumbs that are places under the net.

The Abu Tayeb tribe inhabiting the Jafr Basin only capture falcons and do not train them for hunting but there was one Bedouin from another camp we met who was the exception. After learning techniques from social media, Abu Sattam trained a Saker falcon that he caught a few seasons back and brought the prized bird with him with the intention of using it to capture other falcons. The process goes as follows, Abu Sattam sends out a pigeon outfitted in a loop trap. When the targeted falcon becomes entangled in the loops of the sharka, the Saker is sent out to pin the targeted falcon down. The technique proved to be successful for Abu Sattam and he was able to capture a Peregrine during this year’s migrating season.