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The Escampadissa Roller - Hawk Catcher

Faster than a Falcon

by Rene Kruter

When I read the story of a small pigeon from the Balearic Islands of Spain that was used to catch the fastest bird on earth, the Peregrine Falcon, I had to know more about it. Many flyers use the Escampadissa to catch Falcons by training the birds to lure the Falcons to a special loft by getting the Falcons to chase them (see photo) This loft has holes the pigeon can fit through but the Falcon gets trapped in the loft.

I am one of the few people outside Majorca that breeds and flies this beautiful bird. It is a very old breed, the Moors brought them in the year 1000 to Spain and who knows how long they had this breed. It is very likely the ancestor of many high flying and tumblers of today.

The Escampadissa was originally created for its beautiful way of flying, not for catching the Falcon. This happened later. I first saw a picture in the SIS (my Spanish pigeon club) magazine. I was immediately interested and started to learn more about this pigeon. A few years ago I was able to buy all the Escampadissas of Mr. Rossello, a Majorcan living in France near Lyon.

Escampadissa fly different then any other pigeon I know, only Nikolajewer are somewhat similar. They fly with the tips of their wings only. It looks like rowing. Slowly they go up together to about 1 km. Then all of a sudden they scatter over the sky like fireworks (Escampar). This is a big thrill for me to watch. One moment they are all together and the next moment they are all over the sky! The goal is to have them do it many times and keep them in the air longer. After they are done flying they will come down in short dives. When there is a bird of prey they dive full speed from high in the air straight into their loft. Their loft is really the only place they feel safe and they have a very strong urge to go back in it. This habit has been used to catch the Falcon by using a loft with a double ceiling. 

The first year I had Escampadissa flying I made the mistake of having just a very narrow opening in the roof of the loft. That year I killed two Hawks, one Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine Falcon. This is not my goal, I don't like to kill wild birds and now I open the loft on all sides so the bird of prey is not killed anymore, it was a mistake but it proves the speed of the Escampadissa. I have seen Wuta's and Wamme diving but none have brakes like the Escampadissa. They stop from full speed to zero in one meter!

Escampadissa were not originally meant to catch falcons. They were bred for their typical and very unusual flying style and for the "explosion" of the kit high in the air (Escampar). The catching of the falcon started a few hundred years ago as a winter sport at the Isle of Mallorca where the European Peregrine Falcon winters. As a diving breed they were very useful to bring down the Falcon into a special loft built as a trap. Rapidly the Escampadissa evolved skills to escape the Falcon because of natural selection. More diving breeds like Wuta or Adena Wamme can be trained for catching falcons in this way as well.

Escampadissa are not long flyers and not easy to train. In general they don't like to fly at all, and would rather stay in the loft. You have to chase the birds carefully to get them to fly. Many people dropped out of Escampadissa because of their difficult training. When you have patience like my friend Hans and me you will be rewarded with some very spectacular flying that makes it worth everything.

It is highly illegal to capture a bird of prey here in Holland and that is why I don't try to catch them but it is a nice sport and the velocity of Escampadissa coming down followed by the Peregrine Falcon is an excitement every nature lover can enjoy, both pigeon lover and wild bird watcher as well.

The roof is made of 15 x 15 cm squares. The second floor has smaller holes. The pigeon followed by the falcon flies thru the roof and the pigeon thru the smaller holes in the second floor. The falcon is caught between roof and second floor.

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