Learn a thing or two about taking of a falcon from an expert falconer in New York. 

By Patricia Olsen

Elizabeth Hensel, 27, is a falconer with Falcon Environmental Services, based in Plattsburgh, New York.

Q. WHAT DO YOU DO AS A FALCONER?

A. I work with falcons to rid areas of gulls and other birds that pose a danger or environmental threat at places like airports and landfills. Landfills are a food source for them, and their waste is a public health hazard. I’ve worked for the company for almost four years, earlier at a military airfield in Kansas. Now I’m at a landfill in New Jersey.

Q. DID THE COMPANY TRAIN YOU TO WORK WITH FALCONS?

A. No, I had hunted with falcons and hawks on my own, for sport, and I was already licensed. You really need to know what you’re doing before you can do it as a profession.

Q. HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN THIS FIELD?

A. My aunt’s neighbor was a falconer. When I was about 6, my cousins and I would go to his house to watch them. I was fascinated.

Q. HOW DID YOU GET THIS JOB?

A. I was working at a nature center while completing an apprenticeship on my own time when a falconer friend told me about this opening and I applied. My degree in geology with a concentration in environmental science from State University of New York at Cortland may have helped.

Q. WHAT IS YOUR DAY LIKE?

A. In the morning a co-worker and I move our 10 falcons to the outside pen. We release them one by one throughout the day to chase gulls away from the landfill and blow a whistle to signal them to return. When they do, we give them quail.

Q. DO YOU FIND YOUR WORK REWARDING?

A. I love working with the birds; you have to be passionate about animals to do this. In the wild, you can’t be 10 feet from a bird jumping out of a tree to catch a squirrel; it would fly away. But these are trained birds, so they accept us as part of their world.

Q. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FALCON?

A. That’s like asking a parent if they have a favorite child. Elena, who weighs a pound and a half, is really cute and well-behaved. I also like Isabella, who sits next to Elena and is very dependable. We use her as our closer at the end of the day.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2015 issue.