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Teenage falcon trainer has new challenge

Apr 13th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

The world renowned talent of teenage falcon trainer Xavier Birch has a new challenge – a one-eyed falcon who thinks he’s human.


BEING HUMAN: Xavier with one-eyed, four-month-old falcon Napoleon.

Xavier (19) has spent the past two years in Australia and Britain training falcons, in an adventure which included being part of a David Attenborough documentary.

On his return from overseas at the beginning of this year, Xavier rescued a baby falcon from its nest.

He found it with an infected eye, which Xavier says was probably caused by his mother’s talon when she was trying to protect her babies from a predator.

Falcon predators are cats, ferrets, goats that tread on their nests, and humans out shooting. Xavier says predators are killing off the New Zealand falcon, recognised as the most intelligent falcon in the world, and whose numbers are down to 4000 pairs, making it more rare than the kiwi.

His falcon is now four months old and thinks it is an “imprint”, which means he believes he is a human because he has always been raised by a human.

Losing an eye from such a young age means the falcon could not be released into the wild because he would find it difficult to feed himself and starve to death.

Xavier has given the young bird his own second name, Napoleon.

He says the opportunity to train falcons all over the world came about because he says, “I’ve always loved birds.”

A move to Adelaide changed Xavier’s life when he got the opportunity to train under renowned falcon trainer Peta Clark.

Xavier says Clark put him in touch with “the right people”.

Included among his Australia bird adventures was having the job of helping to shift 20,000 parrots out of a town called Strathalbyn in what was the biggest operation of its kind the Southern Hemisphere has seen.   

He then got the opportunity to travel to Britain and train falcons for the organisation International Wildlife Consultants and be apart of a documentary with David Attenborough’s film crew.

 “It was the best experience I have ever had,” he said.

Meeting Prince Andrew there at the falcon festival was another experience he says he will not forget.

Birch was able to give the falcon to Prince Andrew but he was then too nervous to speak: “I choked on my own spit, I was too shy. ”

Exploring the world and training falcons is what Xavier loves to do but until another great travel opportunity comes along he just wants to relax and play music in his hometown, Nelson – and fly with Napoleon.

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