In my search for what could be considered the ultimate small bird hunterthat would utilize the true "waiting on" style of flight, I have whittled the participants down to the following combination.
Participant 1: Barbary Falcon
As falconers, we can admire such traits, but at the same time it comes with a price. Telemetry drills on a substantial level are common with this species during early training and the first Fall season. If you can make it through this period the bird tends to get much more reliable about wandering off. Once 'contained' this species tends to be very capable of flights on small birds up to medium sized ducks. They are a bit reluctant to enter cover on downed or intimidated prey, but would rather remount and wait for a clear reflush where the prey can be easily bound to and carried to some open area (frequently the top of your vehicle, a fence post, open ground, or telephone pole).
In design the Barbary is fairly heavily wingloaded due to large chest and long slim wings. It's tail would be considered to be short and broad. They have large feet and short tarsi and legs. Tiercels averaging from 370-490 grams, the larger females averaging 600-750 grams. The Barbary is one of my top five birds used in falconry. If you live in the sunbelt, there really isn't a much better bird to utilize.
Participant 2: Teita Falcon
It is not inconceivable to consider that this species may, in fact, be nothing more than a Barbary that has evolved to inhabit a different niche. In the environment where they occur the Teita hunts over deep gorges cut through mountains by large rivers such as the Zambezi in east Africa. Selection seems to have somehow favored "dwarfism" in such a habitat due to the somewhat constrictive design of the gorges and the presence of abundant, high quality food such as Swifts that are some of the very few prey species available to this falcon. When I first saw this falcon at close range I was struck by it's diminutive size, but tremendously massive build. The wings are not particularly long, but very narrow and stiff, the tail being so short and tapered as to be virtually useless except under high speed. They have heavy mandibles, heavy-toed feet and very short, stout legs. In flight they must flap often to even maintain altitude. They can and do fly very high and their stoop is so swift that prey is frequently struck a devastating killing blow in passing or bound to with such force that the impact of either is lethal. They have very accurate footing and prefer to strike larger quarries with a solid blow that kills rather than disables.
Like the Barbary they are not that interested in going to ground or cover on downed quarry, but they are even more fixated on this trait than the Barbary. This may be due to the environment that they live in. Downed quarry is likely to fall into the river below, or perhaps in the boulder field of the talus slopes beneath the massive cliffs above. In either of these situations, the falcon can become vulnerable to attack from other raptors that inhabit the area such as the African Peregrine Falcon.
My feeling is that the Teita is so vulnerable at take off from the ground that they have virtually abandoned retrieving downed quarry that could not be secured while still in relatively high airspace. All of these combined traits do tend to support the notion that this is a very specialized aerial predator. But, some of their traits are positive in relation to falconry. Their size seemed ideal with the Teita tiercels being 190-220 grams, the falcons being 270-320 grams. This would help to keep the hybrid small and that both sexes would be useful for most small game. Their hard hitting style is so impressive that I was taken aback when I first witnessed it. I wanted to see more! They also rarely left the flying area...five miles was about the limit to how far they would go. A Barbary may go that far just to make a turn! So I saw this as a positive trait. But overcoming some of the physical limitations of their extremely heavy wingloading appears to be almost insurmountable. I knew that combining the Teita with other species that I had experience with would be the key.
Two species seemed useful to 'generalize' this specialist. The Merlin and the Barbary Falcon. Remember, I am trying to keep the size range that would be useful for quarries such as dove, quail, snipe, starlings, and perhaps small ducks. And while in 2001 I expect to finally produce the first Teita X Merlins ever, I have already produced the Barbary X Teita last year. I was extremely pleased with how the Barbary/Teitas came out. The three I produced were all females, flying in the weight range of the tiercel Barbary...but being somewhat more solidly built in this package size. Tiercels should be basically from 190-300, the falcons were from 385-525. The two females I flew were not shy or retiring like the Teita, but bold and aggressive like the Barbary Falcon. Their plumage was similar to both parental types, but very saturated with color like the Teita. Beautiful falcons! They flew high, position at such heights being not particularly important as to whether they thought they could be successful. They were more like the Barbary than the Teita in regard to quarry near the ground and were able to continue attacks on missed quarry more easily than the Teita. They showed signs of wanting to chase most anything that flew from vultures and other raptors, to doves, ducks, sparrows and quail. In my mind they were just diminutive Barbaries with less tendency to wander. But, they carried with them the smashing style of the Teita over the Barbary's slashing style and as a consequence were very spectacular to watch. I have very rarely had a tiercel Barbary outright kill a pigeon in a stoop, but these hybrids very frequently did this once they lost their reluctance to hit, what to them was, 'large' quarry. It was all of these combined traits, plus they stayed around better than the Barbary, that has me focusing on this hybrid for the duration. Very nice birds!
At the time of writing (early 2001) basically all of these hybrids that I can produce this season are already spoken for. If you are interested in being considered as an alternate, I will be asking $1000. for the tiercels, and $1200. for the falcons...this does not include shipping cost. They must be taken as imprints as I have to hand raise them due to the very hot conditions of southern New Mexico during the breeding season and the fact that the only female Teita that I have is also an imprint and is recycled to produce potentially two clutches of young. I can only expect a maximum of 7 eggs per season, so I like to minimize failure by artificial rearing of eggs and chicks.
If you are interested in consideration for alternate status in 2001, please send an email reply with your sexual preference of falcon. You will be put on an updated email list that will inform you of the progress of fertility and hatching so that you can make other plans if production does not include a bird for you this season. Both these species tend to breed early in the season, which is helpful for those persons that need to know where they stand for the season.
(Notice: no out of country shipping at this time)
Thank you for your interest.