Wild Raptors in Ontario Falconry

Things to know about capturing a wild bird of prey.

Wild raptors play an important role in the traditions and heritage of falconry. Capturing a wild raptor requires patience, skill and an understanding of raptors in nature. The training of a wild raptor sharpens a falconer’s skills, and deepens their appreciation of all wildlife.

Recognizing the importance of practicing falconry in a traditional way, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) authorizes the capture of raptors from the wild by licensed and apprenticing falconers. All of the allowed species have large, stable populations and studies have repeatedly shown that the use of wild raptors in falconry is entirely sustainable.

Beginning in 2021, there is no need to apply for a special permit to trap a red-tailed hawk, merlin, coopers hawk or sharp-shinned hawk. Licensed apprentices and licensed falconers are allowed to trap one bird per year, in accordance with the MNRF guidelines. Also beginning in 2021, the MNRF established a draw to allow for five Authorizations (or ‘permits’) for the capture of goshawks from the wild. Goshawks are available only to experienced falconers (not apprentices) and permits are valid from May 1 to November 30. For more information on the regulations, click here to visit the MNRF website. 

In order to help you understand the process and requirements, we have prepared the following tips and information.

Tips about capturing a wild bird of prey.

1. Each falconer or apprentice may capture one wild bird between May 1 and November 30 and you must trap your own bird.

2. You may trap a Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned hawk or Merlin. If you wish to trap a goshawk, there is a special applications process. Visit the MNRF website for details.

3. No haggard (over 1 year old) birds of prey may be captured. Trapped birds must be a passage (hatch year) birds or an eyass (nestling), with the exception of Red-tailed Hawks, which cannot be taken as an eyass.

4. Only residents of Ontario who are licensed falconers and who hold an Apprentice, General Falconry or Commercial Falconry licence are eligible. Please note: Commercial use, breeding, sale, trade or bartering of birds of prey captured from the wild is prohibited.

5. Once you have trapped a bird, you must band it immediately. Bands are available from the OHC – see below.

6. Please don’t trap in highly public areas or on busy roads—these are a danger to you and the bird being trapped. Never leave a trap unattended (i.e. do not use Swedish goshawk traps)

7. It is possible to release a wild-taken raptor back to the wild provided certain conditions are met. Birds should not be released unless they can easily re-integrate into the wild. They must be healthy, fit, in good feather and capable of hunting on their own. The MNRF stipulates that release must occur between March 1 and June 30.

It is your responsibility as an ethical falconer to ensure released birds can successfully transition back to independence. You should carefully consider the long-term commitment required before taking a bird, especially an eyass.

Leg Bands and Additional Information:

Full details on the wild take of raptors for falconry are available on the MNRF website

Wild raptor leg band application guide

Order a leg band for your wild trapped bird.