Farmers’ Other Best Friend—Falcons—Work in Agriculture, Too
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
Agriculturalists have found ways to employ some animals to assist them in the fields. Karl Kerster, owner of Sacramento-based Kerster’s Falconry, employs farmers’ other best friend, falcons, to keep agricultural products safe before and during harvest. More specifically, Kerster’s five falcons perform bird abatement—removal of nuisance birds—to protect cherries, berries and grapes. Pest birds are defined as sparrows, swallows, finches, starlings, pigeons, blackbirds and more.
“We work to protect the farmer’s crop,” Kerster said, “and we really enjoy doing it—which is a plus when you’re having to do it for a hundred days straight to keep a crop safe. We start when the fruit starts to ripen enough that the birds are going to attack, until the crop has been substantially harvested. I work five birds, and I have several more in reserve, but the five that I work keep me very busy.”
Kerster, a master falconer, has been serving as a falconer since 1996, and his birds have a high success rate at keeping pest birds away from crops.“We are 99 percent successful in protecting a crop in most situations,” Kerster said. “We also take care of any other bird problems that may or may not be on the berries, cherries and grapes that we normally do. Any customer who wants us to dispose of a problem, we’re ready to help.”
Becoming a falconer is not an “overnight” achievement and is not for the meek. The first of the “up-front questions you need to be able to answer to yourself,” according to the California Hawking Club is, “Will you, can you, commit part of your waking hours to a creature who at the very best of times will merely tolerate your presence, is as affectionate as a stone, and at the worst of times will cause you heartache and puncture wounds? Can you commit to an average of a half-hour a day, every day, and two to four hours on a hunting day, regardless of school, family, or job – forever?
The eight steps required to become a falconer in the state of California are provided by the California Hawking Club.
Becoming a Master falconer, according to the North American Falconers Association, “takes at least seven years; finishing your apprenticeship alone will take at least two.”
Falconry is a heavily-regulated practice, governed by federal and state laws and regulations. For more information, go to: