Local Master Falconer Educates and Protects Birds of Prey

Highlands resident Pete Kipp is a Master Falconer who with his apprentice, Jeff Curtis started Curtis-Wright Falconry in 2014. Together the two have built a business on sharing their passion for birds of prey by hosting educational outings to the public. The outings are full of facts intertwined with memorable stories in both observational and hands-on interaction with the birds.

Kipp moved to Highlands at the age of 13 and was introduced to Dr. Herbert Keopp-Baker who happened to be one of the founders of the North American Falconers Association, which nurtured his born curiosity and love for birds. Kipp has had a life-long love of birds of prey and caught his first hawk in 1970, practicing falconry for 48 years and after thorough training, testing and experience became a Master Falconer in 1981.

Kipp has also aided in the recovery of the Peregrine Falcon species.

“I volunteered on the Whiteside Peregrine Falcon release,” Kipp said.

He consulted with other passionate volunteers to prevent the extinction of the species and by creating a safe nest for the birds, successfully built up the population, which has since exponentially thrived, with thousands living as natives in the Highlands area.

Maggie Burd, a patron who experienced the full “hands-on” outing with Curtis-Wright Falconry, said that “The experience was phenomenal. Pete is a natural story teller and the way that he incorporates the facts and reasons for each small detail while handling the birds is truly a skill. It’s an activity I would encourage anyone to try – it is exhilarating!”

Falconry is highly regulated and falconers begin by securing a sponsor to support an apprenticeship program, including strict testing to ensure the person is fully knowledgeable and qualified to become a Falconer. The housing, called a Mews, and care is also closely approved and monitored ensuring the highest quality of care for the birds. From a monetary standpoint, obtaining, equipping, housing and feeding birds of prey, falconry can be very expensive.

“Syrah”, a nine year old female Harris Hawk and “Sweetie Boy,” a four year old Harris Hawk are two of the birds that are used during outings at Curtis-Wright Falconry. Kipp is one of the few falconers in the U.S.  that knows the Asian technique of training hawks to retrieve prey. Sweetie Boy is learning this technique, which is considered remarkable in the falconer’s community. Burd noted that “seeing Sweetie Boy retrieve his lure (a padded piece of leather that resembles game) was remarkable. What smart creatures.”

Pete Kipp and his apprentice Jeff Curtis offer the public a chance to practice falconry. You can schedule an outing with Pete by calling 828-553-5063.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea

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