Becoming a falconer

Photo of a falconer with a red-tailed hawk perched on her gloved arm.
Falconer with red-tailed hawk Brian and Linda Kellogg

You must obtain a Washington State Falconry Permit to become a falconer and practice falconry. Falconry is not for the casual recreationist. It is a lifestyle that takes time, dedication, and devotion to your falconry birds. Falconry raptors are not pets and you must hunt with your birds, participating in nature up close.

Requirements for obtaining the Falconry Permit

  • Be 12 years old or older (you may work with a falconer prior to your 12th birthday).
  • If you are under 18 years old, your parent or legal guardian must sign the application.
  • Pass a written exam with a score of 80% or greater.
  • Possess or have available proper raptor housing (mews).

Steps to becoming a falconer

If you believe you meet the requirements listed above, and you want to pursue a falconry lifestyle. Following these steps will set you up for success as a falconer. 

  • Enlist a sponsor. Find a licensed general or master falconer from the falconry community to sponsor you. This person will serve as your teacher and mentor. No falconer is required to sponsor another person – it is at their discretion.
  • Become familiar with everything about falconry, especially Washington's law and regulations, raptor husbandry, raptor diseases, and living with a raptor, raptor identification, responsibilities of a falconer, and the art and history of falconry. 
  • Submit a Falconry Application form to the falconry manager, which must be signed by your sponsor.
  • Stay in close contact with your sponsor, study falconry books and resources, and join your sponsor in the field as much as possible.
  • Pass the falconry written exam with a score of 80 percent or better.
  • Build your mews (see the facility inspection form). Your falconry facilities will be expected to pass all requirements for the safe and healthy care of the birds.
    • After receiving notice of passing the exam contact the falconry permit manager when you are ready for a mews inspection. Inspections can only be arranged through WDFW and the inspection coordinator.
    • A representative of the Washington Falconers Association, or if requested a WDFW enforcement officer or WDFW wildlife biologist, will contact you to schedule an inspection of your raptor housing and equipment.

The written exam

Once an application has been approved, applicants will be notified to contact the nearest WDFW office for an appointment to take the written exam. You may not schedule an exam until you are directed to do so by WDFW. The written exam covers all aspects of raptor biology, care, taxonomy, medicine, falconry practices and equipment, and state and federal laws and regulations. You will be notified of your score and your eligibility to schedule a facility inspection. If you fail the exam, you can make an appointment for a re-take.

The exam is 178 questions with seven categories and you are allowed 90 minutes to complete the exam:

  • Birds of falconry
  • Physical characteristics
  • Raptor behavior
  • Equipment and facilities
  • Training and hunting
  • Health, nutrition, and maintenance
  • Law and Regulations

Transferring a falconry permit from another state

After 90 days of residency in Washington complete and submit the Falconry Application to the falconry manager and include a copy of your current falconry permit. Prior to being issued your Washington falconry permit you may house your raptors here with you. The department will issue you permit at your current class. You will not be required to take the exam but you will need a facility inspection. 

Reporting Requirements

All acquisitions, captures, purchases, gifting, sales, transfers, releases, banding, escapes, losses by death, and all other changes in your status must be reported on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Hunting License

You must have the appropriate WDFW hunting license to hunt game with your raptor.

Falconry Associations

All falconers should plan on joining the two falconry associations – the Washington Falconers Association and the North American Falconers Association – especially during the apprenticeship period.