Photo courtesy of Ryan Moglich
By Lauren Huneycutt
History and English Literature major, Ryan Moglich, looks forward to his upcoming graduation. His summer plans? Return home to Gardnerville, Nev. and help his father with the family business — breeding falcons.
“It’s something that has been in my family for a long time,” Moglich said. “My grandfather was a falconer and hunted with hawks as well. My father got into it, and has been breeding falcons for about 20 years now.”
The Moglichs breed Gyrfalcons, Peregrine Falcons and a hybrid of the two. The coloring of these birds ranges from white to dark grey. The lighter the bird’s coloring, the more valuable they are.
Gyrfalcons are the largest of the falcon species, and according to National Geographic, Peregrine Falcons can reach diving speeds of 200 mph.
“Some people specifically request hybrids,” Moglich said. “They are usually really agile.”
Falconry is the act of hunting wild animals in their natural state using a trained bird of prey. The birds do the actual hunting, and it is the person’s job to get to the catch to stop its suffering and collect the meat.
“I’ve been with Ryan when he hunts with the falcons,” said Jacob Phillips, childhood friend and now roommate of Moglich. “It is awesome to see how the birds work and how the trainer works them. The falcon takes off straight from his glove and swoops in on its prey. It can be intense.”
The Moglich’s main market is the Middle East. There, falconry is a common sport in which the falcons are used to take down a habara, a bird slightly larger than a goose.
“We sell the birds to many different people, but we do sell to members of the royal families, and a lot of them are sheiks who have people that work for them whose only job is to train the falcons,” Moglich said.
Some who purchase the falcons request that they be trained before delivery, in which case Moglich or his father would train the bird.
The training is done using weight control.
“The bird learns to return to the glove or perch because there is always food waiting there,” Moglich said. “They aren’t starving by any means, but they know where their food comes from.”
The breeding is done naturally in two large barns on the Moglich’s five-acre property. The barns contain 18 rooms each, and every room has two birds, a male and a female, a nest area, a perch and enough space for the birds to fly.
Each falcon is fed nearly a whole quail daily, and on occasion they will be fed a rat in order to keep variety in their diet.
Depending on the amount of falcons ordered, the Moglichs breed 60 to 70 a year. Female falcons lay three or four eggs at a time, and when it comes time for the eggs to hatch, Moglich removes the real eggs and replaces them with dummy eggs.
“We hatch the eggs in an incubator that has a specific temperature and humidity,” Moglich said. “The egg needs to weigh a certain amount so it will hatch, and temperature controls that. We have to be careful because if the weight isn’t right it may not hatch at all.”
The females of the falcon species are larger than the males by nearly a third of the weight. According to Moglich a falcon raised in captivity can live anywhere from 15 to 20 years.
“Most stop breeding around 13 years old,” Moglich said. “When they reach the point where they stop breeding, or we need new offspring to keep the blood line fresh, we usually sell them to institutions for education purposes or to bait men to use to scare off pests.”
According to Moglich, falconry is an active sport in a lot of places today, especially in: the Middle East, Mongolia, Japan, China and Europe.
April, May and June are the months when the eggs begin to hatch.
During school, Moglich continues to work for his father and commutes to Gardnerville every weekend to work with the falcons and visit his own falcon, Jäger.
“I’ve known Ryan most of my life,” Phillips said. “He’s a great guy and passionate about what he does.”
Moglich plans to inherit his father’s business some day, but until that time comes, he plans on teaching English or History in a high school and continuing to work for his father on the weekends.
“This has definitely shaped who I am,” Moglich said. “I’m working with animals, and you can’t just leave them. You can’t afford to just take a few weeks off from them; you have to want to do it every day. I love it.”
Lauren Huneycutt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.