Falconry is an art. It requires copious time, an all-consuming devotion and a gentle yet determined skill. One of the oldest field sports still actively practiced, there are currently fewer than 4,000 falconers in the United States with roughly 5,000 birds.
At this year’s Colonial Cup, in Camden on Nov. 19, Columbia Metropolitan Magazine is the proud sponsor of the Falconry Demonstrations infield event with Master Falconer Steve Hoddy of EarthQuest. Steve will introduce spectators to a variety of different species, including Renegade, a 22-year-old Hybrid Peregrine Falcon. His flight history includes a spin inside the Lincoln Theater on the David Letterman Show and a soar through the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria for the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. Steve explains that Renegade’s eyesight is about four times better than that of humans, and he is equipped with a “nictitating membrane” — a semi-transparent eyelid that acts like a windshield when diving at high speeds. One of the fastest animals on the planet, Renegade can dive at 200 miles per hour from heights of more than 1,000 feet.
At the Colonial Cup, Renegade will fly several hundred feet high and reach speeds of 150 miles per hour in diving back to earth. “He likes to play in the wind,” Steve says with a smile. “We have a leather bag called a ‘lure’ with meat in it, and he will try to capture it. Once he has made a few passes at it, we let him have it. He will land at my feet and then jump up to my glove.”