Taking Flight With Raptors
Parahawking, a sport that combines paragliding and falconry, is drawing adventurers and fostering a new breed of conservationist.
Although there are no parahawking regulations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does regulate falconry, something only about 3,500 people practice in the U.S. “It would be a problem if everyone had a hawk on their wrist, but it’s so much work that it’s not going to happen,” says Kenn Kaufman, a bird expert and Audubon field editor. “If it gives people a way or a reason to have a positive interaction [with a raptor], then that’s good.”
Sellinger says that a parahawking outfit here could also offer a new perspective on today’s environmental issues. “We have the same plight as birds ourselves,” he says. “We have to deal with power lines and population expansion and all those things. We’re running out of hawking fields and paragliding areas just like the birds are running out of their hunting grounds.” (Although Sellinger would focus on the perils facing wild birds, he plans to use only raptors bred and raised in captivity for the practice.)
The more people learn about hawks, the more they appreciate them, he says. Until Sellinger’s operation is functional, a growing number of tourists will parahawk where trained guides take them flying with raptors, in the Spanish countryside, for instance, or with snowcapped Annapurna in the distance. Soaring over stunning vistas, a vulture at the tip of the canopy, may bring into focus the awe-inspiring experience of taking wing.