About falconry

Falconry is an outdoor activity that involves hunting wild game like rabbits and pheasants with a specially trained bird of prey like a red-tailed hawk or merlin.

It’s a regulated activity in our province that offers a unique opportunity to interact and work with birds of prey, while enjoying time in Ontario’s wild spaces.

If you’re interested in becoming a falconer, contact your local NDMNRF) district office, or visit the website of the Ontario Hawking Club.

Birds of prey used for falconry

There are two types of birds of prey used for falconry in Ontario:

  • Ontario native birds
  • non-indigenous birds

If you are going to practise falconry with a native bird you must have a falconry licence.

You don’t need a licence to practise falconry with non-indigenous birds but there are other requirements.

Native birds

The following species are classified as native falconry birds:

  • bald eagle
  • golden eagle
  • peregrine falcon
  • northern goshawk
  • gyrfalcon
  • northern harrier
  • broad-winged hawk
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • red-shouldered hawk
  • red-tailed hawk
  • sharp-shinned hawk
  • American kestrel
  • merlin
  • great horned owl
  • northern hawk owl
  • snowy owl

Non-indigenous birds

The following species are classified as non-indigenous falconry birds:

  • prairie falcon
  • saker falcon
  • lanner falcon
  • lagger falcon
  • Harris' hawk
  • feruginous hawk
  • Swainson’s hawk
  • Bonelli’s eagle
  • European kestrel
  • European sparrow-hawk
  • tawny eagle
  • steppe eagle

Possessing a falconry bird that is an at-risk species

Licensed falconers in Ontario can possess, transport, buy or sell falconry birds that are both captive-bred and featured on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as extirpated, endangered or threatened.

Requirements for hunting with native birds

To hunt with a falconry bird native to Ontario, you’ll need:

  • a small game hunting licence
  • an identification band on each bird
  • a log book that records information for each falconry event:
    • name and licence number of the person keeping the bird
    • date of the falconry event being recorded
    • species and band number of the bird
    • description of the event or the business transaction involving the bird
    • the names, addresses, and falconry licence numbers of other people involved
    • details of any bird injuries or deaths

Log book records need to be kept for five years and must be accurate.

You’ll also need one of the three types of falconry licences:

  • apprentice falconry licence
  • general falconry licence
  • commercial falconry licence

If you’re interested in applying for a falconry licence, you can contact your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district office.

Apprentice Falconry Licence

If you are new to falconry and you want to practice falconry with a native bird, you must obtain an Apprentice Falconry Licence.

This licence requires you to hold a small game hunting licence and to apprentice under an experienced falconer and complete the Ontario Hawking Club Apprenticeship Program.

To complete the Apprenticeship Program you must participate in at least 30 hours of combined field or classroom instruction in falconry over a period of 15 months including two Octobers.

Successfully completing this apprenticeship allows you to apply for a General Falconry Licence.

You can obtain a list of potential apprenticeship mentors (sponsors) from the Ontario Hawking Club or your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district office.

Please speak with your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district office to learn more about the Apprentice Falconry Licence, including details on the application process. Ensure that you apply for a licence in a timely manner. Plan to wait at least six weeks between applying for the licence and applying to take a raptor from the wild.

General Falconry Licence

You qualify for a General Falconry Licence if you have a valid small game hunting licence and meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • you have successfully completed the Ontario Hawking Club Apprenticeship Program
  • you have held a licence to practice falconry in another jurisdiction for two consecutive years in the past five years
  • you have held a General or Commercial Falconry Licence within the past five years

Please speak with your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district office to learn more about the General Falconry Licence, including details on the application process. It can take up to six weeks for Ministry of Northern Development, Mines Natural Resources and Forestry to respond directly and discuss your application in detail.

Commercial Falconry Licence

To breed falconry birds you must have a Commercial Falconry Licence and a valid small game hunting licence.

You qualify for a Commercial Falconry Licence if you meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • you have held a General Falconry Licence for five years
  • you can demonstrate that you’ve been keeping birds of prey for five years before applying for the commercial licence

Please speak with your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district office to learn more about the Commercial Falconry Licence, including details on the application process. Note it can take up to six weeks for the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry to respond directly and discuss your application in detail.

Requirements for hunting with non-indigenous birds

You don’t need a falconry licence if you are hunting with a non-indigenous bird.

You do need:

  • a valid small game hunting licence
  • an identification band on each bird
  • a log book that records information for each falconry event:
    • name and licence number of the person keeping the bird
    • date of the falconry event being recorded
    • species and band number of the bird
    • description of the event or the business transaction involving the bird
    • the names, addresses, and falconry licence numbers of other people involved
    • details of any bird injuries or deaths

Log book records need to be kept for 5 years and must be accurate.

Rules for non-resident falconry

If you are a non-resident of Ontario and you want to bring falconry birds to Ontario for hunting purposes, you:

Before coming to Ontario, you must contact the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district office for the area where you plan to hunt.

You’ll need to provide:

  • a letter identifying your name and address
  • arrival and departure dates
  • the wildlife management units you’ll be hunting in
  • identification and band numbers of the birds you’ll be hunting with

At the discretion of the ministry, you may be issued a letter approving your hunt. Keep that letter with you when hunting.

See the Annual Hunting Regulations Summary to find your hunting location.

See the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and International and Interprovincial Trade Act.

Learn more about getting a CITES permit.

Species that may be hunted in falconry

Residents and non-residents who exercise a bird when the hunting season is closed must make every effort to ensure the bird doesn’t kill game wildlife, such as cottontail and European hare, and gray and fox squirrel. You could be charged with hunting out-of-season unless you can prove you have exercised due diligence in preventing your bird from targeting game wildlife.

You can find rules for specific small game hunting seasons for falconers in the Annual Hunting Regulations Summary.

The hunting of migratory birds is controlled by the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.

For more information, email the Canadian Wildlife Service at ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca or call them toll free at Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767

You can also reach out to the Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario region office by mail at:

Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment and Climate Change Canada
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON
M3H 5T4

Requirements for capturing a wild bird of prey

The ministry supports the limited capture of some birds of prey species from the wild for use as hunting companions by falconers.

This opportunity enhances hunting heritage in Ontario by allowing interested falconers to practise falconry in a traditional manner.

Birds of prey live captured from the wild are:

  • not sold, propagated or transferred to another person
  • taken as nestlings or juveniles, not as adults
  • captured using traditional and acceptable best practices
  • taken in a way that does not damage any nests, and always leaves at least one nestling in the nest
  • banded immediately upon capture
  • recorded accurately in the falconer’s log book and annual report

There are five species that may be live captured by a licensed falconer:

  • Cooper’s hawk
  • merlin
  • red-tailed hawk
  • sharp-shinned hawk
  • northern goshawk

No other species of raptor may be taken from the wild.

Cooper’s hawk, merlin, red-tailed hawk and sharp-shinned hawk

These four species may be live captured by any licensed falconer (apprentice, general, or commercial) without additional approval when they meet the requirements outlined in section 25 of Ontario Regulation 668/98.

Every year, between May 1 and November 30, licensed falconers may live capture anywhere in Ontario one single bird of prey from this list:

  • juvenile or nestling Cooper’s hawk
  • juvenile or nestling merlin
  • juvenile red-tailed hawk
  • juvenile or nestling sharp-shinned hawk

These four species, when live captured under the regulation, may be released back to the wild without separate ministry authorization. When releasing birds back into the wild, you must:

  • only release birds between March 1 and June 30
  • ensure the raptors are healthy and in good physical condition
  • release them within 10 km of the capture point, if taken as a nestling

Northern goshawk

Falconers with a General Falconry Licence or a Commercial Falconry Licence who apply and are successful in a draw, are authorized to capture one northern goshawk.

Apprentices are not eligible to apply to the draw to live capture northern goshawk. This species is more suited for experienced falconers.

We only issue five authorizations each year. This ensures that no more than five northern goshawks are captured from the wild.

We only issue one authorization per Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry district, excluding Aylmer District and Guelph District. No authorizations are issued for Aylmer District and Guelph District where northern goshawk is less common.

Apply to capture northern goshawk

You can apply for authorization to capture a northern goshawk from February 1 to March 31 each year. Authorizations are valid from May 1 to November 30 for the year they are issued.

Follow the steps below to apply for authorization:

  1. Email mnrf.falconry@ontario.ca to get an application form.
  2. Complete your application form and email it to mnrf.falconry@ontario.ca by March 31 to be included in the draw.

When you complete your application, make sure that you identify up to five ministry districts, in order of preference, where you would like to capture a northern goshawk.

As we draw applicant names, we will assign applicants their top available district of choice.

If we draw a name where the application form has fewer than five different districts identified and all districts identified are already assigned, that application will not be issued an authorization. To avoid this, we recommend that you list five districts on your application. This means that if you are successful in the draw, you will be issued an authorization.