Introducing our Flying Team, the largest & most diverse Birds of Prey collections in the South East.
All our animals are trained to the highest of standards for Free Flying demonstrations, Schools, TV,
Movies & Experiences within Sussex & further afield.
Our Team includes Falcons, Hawks, Buzzards, Owls & an Eagle, with some very special additions such 'Papua'
the world-famous Guinea Fowl, 'Navarron' a Spanish Andalusian gelding & 'Opie' a Quarter Horse.
Feel free to read about them below & check out their personal albums by clicking on their photo!
Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) - 'Rhani'
'Rhani' is the largest bird of our flying team with a 5 foot wingspan & she is a truly formidable sight on the wing.
She is the "Queen" of the collection!
They inhabit Africa & can be found both North & South of the Sahara desert. They can live until 45 years in captivity!
The Tawny Eagle was once considered a relative of the Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), however it is now classed as its own species due to differences in anatomy, in particular the length of the gape flange "known as the rictus" which never extends beyond the middle of the eye in the Tawny Eagle.
'Rhani' is Steven's Eagle. He originally trained her over 15 years ago whist working at a Zoo. Sadly she was sold by the zoo owner for breeding. However this year in May 2019 she came back up for sale & there was no way Steven was going to let her pass him by. So they are reunited & even after 10 years apart, she recognised him by calling & chatting to him affectionately upon collection.
It was truly a beautiful moment!
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) - 'Tegan'
Peregrines are the largest falcon found resident in the UK, males being 1/3 smaller than females. Capable of speeds of over 240mph during their characteristic hunting stoop (high speed dive) making them the fastest living animal on the planet! This iconic bird of prey is also one of the world's most widely distributed birds, found on every continent except Antarctica. Peregrines prefer open landscapes, but are increasingly exploiting towns and cities where there are tall buildings for nesting and plenty of pigeons for prey.
Hatched in 2000. Headstrong & aloof, she knows she is in charge of proceedings.
Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) - 'Hoplite'
One of the oldest species of heirofalcons, Lanners have been used in falconry for more than a thousand years.
They are especially prized for their ability to capture other birds, such as pigeons or grouse. Lanners are fast, agile flyers & not afraid to follow prey into undergrowth. Unlike Peregrines, who are famed for the 200 mph dives (called "stoops" in falconry), Lanners use a horizontal hunting style, coming at their prey low, flat & fast!
Generating speeds of up to 90 mph using wingbeats alone.
'Hoplite' who was hatched in May 2019, is not being trained in our usual style of close dipping in & out to a lure. He is being trained to go up! The goal is 5000 ft, as high as the cloud base, to then "wait on", before showing off that bullet falcon stoop back down to earth.
Merlin (Falco columbarius) - 'Lancaster'
The UK's smallest bird of prey, this compact, dashing falcon has a relatively long, square-cut tail and rather broad-based pointed wings, shorter than those of other falcons. Its wingbeat tends to be rapid with occasional glides, wings held close to the body.
In winter, the UK population increases as most of the Icelandic breeding birds migrate to our warmer climate.
Our little 'Lancaster' hatched in 2019 is a Jack which means a Male Merlin much smaller than the Female they also show sexual dimorphism not just in size but colour too, the Jacks ar a are blue-grey above, with a grey head and orangey-cream underparts that are streaked in black. Females are mainly grey-brown, with dark streaking underneath.
Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) Hierofalcon - 'Hyde'
"Hyde" was hatched in 2012. This species breeds from eastern Europe eastwards across Asia to Manchuria. It is mainly migratory except in the southernmost parts of its range, wintering in Ethiopia, the Arabian peninsula, northernPakistan and western China.
As the breeding season commences in spring, males begin to perform spectacular aerial displays as a form of courtship ritual to attract females, calling loudly as they soar over their territories.
Saker Falcons are part of a group of falcons called Hierofalcons. This is a group of four different falcons that are closely related (Lugger, Gyr & Lanner Falcons also join this sub genus.)
Around 130,000 - 115,000 years ago in the late Piacenzian era there was a global radiation & climate change, which led to the hybridisation of these falcons. The Saker Falcon represents a lineage that expanded out of northeastern Africa into the interior of south eastern Europe & Asia, by way of the eastern Mediterranean region.
Black Gyr Falcon (Falco rusticolus) - 'Shadow'
A large falcon found in the Northern Hemisphere which is predominantly white in colour, but occasionally "Dark Morphs" appear in the wild. A favourite bird (along with the more usual white variety) for Middle Eastern falconers.
"Shadow" came to Sussex Falconry in 2014 & given her size & power has the most gentle temperament of all our falcons. Light on the wing she will often climb very high where she will engage with local rooks & crows, making it very difficult to see who is who because of her colour. But with the offer of food on the lure, things immediately become clear as she comes back at tremendous speed, leaving her corvid friends bemused!
European Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Although tiny the Kestrel is not the smallest species of falcon here in the UK, it is actually second largest to the Peregrine Falcon, followed by the Hobby & then the Merlin the smallest of our 4 falcons.
As hatchlings, they are covered in down white feathers, but as they mature they grow their first true plumage this is mainly light chestnut brown with black speckles on the upper side, black bars across the tail ending with a black tip with a narrow white rim. The underside has a blond buff with a lighter with more narrow brownish specks.
Upon their second year, Kestrels display sexual colour dimorphism with the males having fewer speckles, as well as a blue-grey cap & tail.
You are most likely to see Kestrels while you are driving. With pointed wings & a long tail, you will usually see them hovering about 10 to 20 meters above the roadside verge, with their head fixated on the ground, no matter how strong the wind is. What it is believed they are fixating on, is the urine trails left behind by rodents, as Kestrels are able to see ultraviolet light which enables them to see these trails & if you are really lucky, you might see them spot something & pull a stoop!
Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) - 'Bonnie', 'Clyde' & 'Trigger'
Harris Hawks are the most popular bird of prey used in falconry because they are so intelligent. Living & hunting in cooperative packs in the wild & is commonly known as "Wolves of the Air". Habitats include dry to arid, mainly open country & grasslands with scattered trees such as sparse woodland & semi-desert, as well as marshes. Nesting in small trees, shrubby growth & even on cacti. Found across America, Chile & into Mexico.
'Bonnie', 'Clyde' & 'Trigger' are our pack of Harris Hawks, a very diverse team. You can see them performing together at shows, on experiences & throughout the winter months, hunting together in our local woodland.
Female Red Tail Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) - "Merrick"
A formidable hunting bird from the United States of America. Although the Americans have named them Hawks they are not they are a Buzzard a 'Buteo' meaning broad rounded wings, relatively short tails, with soaring flight. True Hawks are 'Accipiter' a bird with short broad wings and a long tail and a characteristic flight pattern of several quick flaps and a glide.
'Merrick' is an old hand at hunting and excels at hunting grey squirrel.
She was hatched in 1996 & was"Steven Charltons" first bird of prey. Very adaptable they can occupy open plains & woodland. A larger supercharged version of our Common Buzzard, Red Tail Hawks are the most common hawk found in North America. As you can see they get their name from their vibrant Red Tail, which occurs after their first moult.
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)- "Freya"
The same owl as the Harry Potter Owl, but not a British bird! They nest in the Arctic tundra of the northern most stretches of Alaska, Canada & Eurasia. They winter south through Canada & Northern Eurasia, with interuptions occurring further south in some years, generally due to being pushed off course by strong winds. Snowy owls are attracted to open areas like coastal dunes & prairies that appear somewhat similar to tundra.
Young owls, especially males, get whiter as they get older. Females are darker than males, with dusky spotting, and never become totally white.
A static hunter waiting until they spot food nearby before heading off in pursuit. Their preferred meal is lemmings, lots of lemmings. An adult may eat over 1600 lemmings in a year! During times of low density of lemming & during the ptarmigan nesting period, they often switch to favoring juvenile ptarmigan. Come winter they become considerably more opportunist, often spotted following traplines to find food. Feeding on meadow voles, deer mice, but will take advantage of some of the larger mammal prey include hare, muskrats, rabbits, marmots, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, prairie dogs & even birds including ducks, geese, shorebirds, pheasants, grouse, coots, grebes, gulls & even other raptors, including other owl species.
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) - 'Bing'
Also hatched in 2011, 'Bing' is the smallest bird in our collection, standing at only 7 inchs tall, with his long legs making up almost half of that!
As his species name suggests these owls burrow in the ground, but often use abandoned rabbit, badger, ground squirrel & prairie dog burrows. Found all across North & into South America. They have behaviour patterns very similar to those of a Meerkat, coming out as a 'parliament' generally by day to hunt for their food. One will always stay on look out for danger & if spotted will call out a different call depending on what the predator is to alert fellow owls to either get up high, or dash below!
Southern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis granti) - 'Fenton'
Once known as the African White Faced Scops Owl, this species was reclassified in the 90's to the name it has now. With just over 300 different owl species, we think they just like to change their names from time to time just to keep us Falconers on our toes. At least that is easier to say & remember, than their new Latin name "Ptilopsis granti"!!
"Fenton" wa hatched in 2012 & still has orange eyes, but as he grows older they should turn a deep red. In the wild they can be found in the Savannahs & Open Woodland of South Africa. Feeding on many things such as large insects, arachnids, scorpions, small mammals & birds.
Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) - 'Pee Wee & Luna'
'Pee Wee' is the oldest member of the team & was hatched in 1996. This is very old for a Tawny Owl as in the wild they would probably only live until about the age of 5 - 6 years, because of the rigours of survival.
Tawny Owls are the most common owl in the UK. If you are near a wood late at night they are often heard as they are very vocal owls making the famous "twit twoo" call or more accurately "ke-wick" "hoo-hoo-oooo" as the male answers the female. Typically Tawny Owls occupy a favourite perch in the woodlands, from which they drop onto unsuspecting small mammals, such as voles. Though rarely seen because of their nocturnal habits, we know they feast on a wide range of prey, because of the inedible remains that are regurgitated, in the form of a pellet.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - 'Asterix & Obelix'
The barn owl a British icon, however, they are the most widely distributed land-based bird, with over 32 different subspecies, you can find them all over the world except polar and desert regions.
They even fall into their own lineage of living owls being 'Tytonidae'. You can always distinguish them by their heart shape face, black eyes, long legs & short squarish tail though throughout the species they range in size and colour.
Here is the UK they predominantly hunt while flying, quartering across open farmland faces down as much as possible to pick up sound from small mammals hidden deep under the vegetation, rarely venturing into wooded areas. Contrary to belief Barn Owls do not make a "Hoot" sound but rather a shrieking, hissing call. Though unfortunately, our Barn Owls are not doing very well in the UK because of lack of habitat.
African Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus) 'Zulu'
A medium-sized owl but one of the smallest of the Eagle owls. The facial disc is off-white to pale ochre with large yellow eyes. It has prominent ear tufts & the upper body is dusky brown, with the lower parts being off-white with brown bars.
You can find them in Africa south of the equator, and parts of the Arabian Peninsula across the Savannah, rocky outcrops, scrub, open and semi-open woodland, semi-deserts. Nesting in scrapes on the ground, normally sheltered by a bush, grass or rocks, generally laying between 2 & 4 eggs. Like the Tawny they will usually hunt from a perch, gliding down to seize prey on the ground, but they have also been known to flush roosting birds from cover & catching them in flight. They can also snatch large insects & bats out of the air.
"Zulu" was hatched in 2013 but joined us in 2014 as a pre-loved pet. "Zulu" is now a very loved owl and coming on exceptionally in the team happily hooting away.
Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) - 'Jeeves'
'Jeeves' hatched in 2011, donated to us by London Zoo, a little later on in the year.
You may have noticed they have similar markings to the Tawny Owl. That is because they are from the same "Strix" family, but Ural Owls are considerably larger as they live in much colder climates. Found mainly in Northern Europe & into Siberia.
A very aggressive owl in the wild & will do anything in their power to protect their nest. They feed mainly on small mammals.
Andalusian [Carthusian] gelding - 'Navarron NVW'
The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE (pura raza española), is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of years. The Andalusian has been recognized as a distinct breed since the 15th century, and its conformation has changed very little over the centuries. Throughout its history, it has been known for its prowess as a warhorse and was prized by the nobility. They are known for their intelligence, sensitivity and docility. They were also noted for their use as cavalry horses. By 1667 William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, called the Spanish horse of Andalusia the "princes" of the horse world, and reported that they were "unnervingly intelligent". The Iberian horse became known as the "royal horse of Europe" and was seen at many royal courts and riding academies, including those in Austria, Italy, France and Germany.
Born 27th February 2008. A playful and intelligent gelding, Ron is a very honest horse to work with and puts his all into his work. As a one-person horse however, he is definitely better behaved for his owner.
Quarter-horse mare - 'Dot Star Opie'
The American Quarter Horse, or Quarter Horse, is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less; some have been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h). In the 19th century, pioneers heading West needed a hardy, willing horse. Encountering horses descended from Spanish stock, the herds of feral horses known as Mustangs, as well as horses domesticated by Native Americans - the colonial Quarter Horse was crossed with these Western horses. The pioneers found that the new crossbred had an innate “cow sense”, that is, a natural instinct for working with cattle, which in turn made it popular with cattlemen on ranches as the breed evolved. From the 17th century to the modern-day they remain a popular choice for riders, both for performance in the ring at shows as well as on the ranch. Their compact body is well-suited to the intricate and speedy manoeuvres required in reining, cutting, working cows, barrel racing, calf roping, and other western riding events.
Born 6th October 1998. Being over 20 years old Opie has a “been there, done that attitude”. A stalwart horse that is not phased by much, she is gentle and forgiving.