Bird On The Hand

Linda Burton posting from Boise, Idaho – You’ve heard people say, with kind of a smirk, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can sure buy things that make you happy.” Add to that the age-old axiom “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and I’ve got a story for you that ties the two together in a way that will make you a believer. Money, and birds. Back in 2003, a man by the name of Kevin Suedmeyer was in charge of planning a Field Meet for the North American Falconers Association to be held in Amarillo, Texas. Now, Kevin knew that a man by the name of Ken Riddle had worked in Abu Dhabi for a long time, where he directed a world-renowned falcon hospital. And that Dr Riddle had done this at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Zayed, President of the United Arab Emirates (portrait left), who was a life-long practicing falconer. Kevin asked Ken if he could help to obtain an authentic Bedu hunting tent for display at the meet. So what does this have to do with Boise, Idaho?

Well, Ken got the tent and all its fittings – wall-to-wall oriental carpets, cushions, and the complete accoutrements for roasting, grinding, brewing, and serving traditional Bedu coffee, given to him personally by the Managing Director of Abu Dhabi’s Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency. Every evening, falconers gathered in the tent, which was set up in the courtyard of the Amarillo hotel, for a review of the day’s “hawking,” as Bedu falconers have done for hundreds of years. When the meeting ended, Ken donated the tent and everything inside to The Archives of Falconry (TAF). 

Stay with me now, this is getting good. You see, The Archives of Falconry is in Boise, Idaho. It was created in 1986 by The Peregrine Fund at the World Center for Birds of Prey on a hill just south of  town. The Center was already a respected research facility dedicated to the study and preservation of falcons and other birds of prey; it seemed the ideal home for preserving the history of falconry too. The donation of this tent was a magnificent addition to the Archives, except for one thing: there was no place to appropriately display it.

So, back to Abu Dhabi with a request for help. Sheikh Zayed had died by then; but his son told the TAF contingent “I’ll donate the money for a building to house the tent and other archival materials if you’ll name the building after my father.” Deal! Done!

The building was completed in 2006 and today this Arab Falconry Heritage Exhibit honors the ancient tradition of falconry in the Middle East, where the sport goes back 3,000 years. At the center is the authentic goat-hair tent. It was made in Syria and measures 20 x 12 feet and is 8 feet tall. Inside, three seated mannequins are depicted enjoying coffee together, as is the hospitality of the Arabian Peninsula. Colorful pillows, blankets and rugs are welcoming, you are invited to come in, sit.

The exhibit also features interactive displays with audio and video clips of the sport of falconry and efforts to recover endangered birds. Paintings, books, and artifacts related to falconry around the world are on display. Historical materials date from 1495 and include collections from many nations where falconry is practiced. International scholars and researchers make use of the Archives, the only one of its kind in the world. The WORLD!

The collection and preservation of falconry-related materials is the priority of TAF and nearly 100 accessions from individuals and clubs were added this past year, bringing the appraised value of the collection to over $2 million. Of course, all of this has greatly increased the number of visitors to the Archives and juxtaposes the history of one of the oldest falconry cultures with American falconry heritage. And certainly, more visitors who are interested and knowledgeable offer more help in the quest to conserve birds of prey.

So, what did I tell you? Sheikh Zayed’s son is happy to honor his father in such a magnificent way, the birds are happy not to be endangered, and you will be happy to be a part of this too; go sit in the tent, admire the paintings, read the books, tour the bird exhibits, and tune in regularly to the web cam. Babies are due soon.

World Center for Birds of Prey, 5668 West Flying Hawk Lane, Boise, Idaho 83709

Tour The Archives of Falconry

Web cam of nest

North American Falconers Association