Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hancock Man Has Lifelong Love of Falcons

HANCOCK — In the classic movie “The Maltese Falcon,” Humphrey Bogart stars as witty, world-weary Sam Spade, entangled in a murderous hunt for a bejeweled statue of the prized black bird.

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Maine falconer Alan Parrot will speak about the ancient sport of falconry at the Hancock Point Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 13. — PHOTO COURTESY OF MARKELL PRODUCTIONS

In reality, the allure and intrigue surrounding falcons is as great as the shadowy world portrayed in the 1941 detective classic in which the hard-boiled Spade gets drugged, kicked and beaten up.

Alan Parrot (pronounced pa-row) has lived that life and survived to tell about it. The 52-year-old Hancock resident has had a lifelong love of falcons and other birds and that passion spurred him to learn the noble sport of falconry.

It also lured him to the Middle East, where the ancient sport still plays an integral part in Bedouin culture and tribal sheiks and princes use it to preserve political power.

Under international law, the sale of falcons is strictly controlled, but contraband wild birds can sell for over $1 million while the farm-raised creatures fetch $25,000 to $50,000 to $100,000 on the black market.

Parrot, who served as the royal falconer for various Arab leaders for two decades, himself became a hunted man after he stopped exporting legally acquired wild falcons from Canada to the United Arab Emirates. He has since poured his energy into ending the high-stakes illegal trafficking and cruel treatment of the wild birds of prey. He also has sought to prevent the breeding and release of non-native hybrid falcons, which cause genetic pollution.

Parrot, whose efforts have nearly cost him his life more than once, will speak about the sport of falconry and his conservation efforts and related issues at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 13, at the Hancock Point Chapel. His talk is sponsored by the Hancock Historical Society.

“I am not against hunting with a falcon,” Parrot stressed Monday at his Hancock home, where he has lived year-round since 1991. He said the sport, though, has spawned a highly lucrative industry in which hybrid falcons are being bred, under the guise of science, and exported from the United States. “These birds, which are being bred here, are not native to central Asia, but they’re being released in central Asia where they cause catastrophic genetic pollution of wild falcons, which are destroyed forever.”

Parrot, the son of Hadley and Jane Parrot of Hancock, was born in Bangor. He grew up and attended elementary and junior high school there. He went on to attend Middlesex School, a private secondary school, in Massachusetts. Summers were spent at his family’s enclave on Hancock Point.

Parrot is not the first in his family to be enchanted with birds. He traces his interest back to his maternal grandfather, A. B. Howell. Howell, an eminent ornithologist who headed the anatomy department at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, Md., liked to show his inquisitive grandson his latest feathered discoveries.

A newspaper clipping about Kuwait’s great falconer Abdul Aziz al-Ghanim further fired the 18-year-old Mainer’s imagination. He optioned college and headed straight for the Middle East to pursue his passion in falconry. He started out in Kuwait and wound up living and traveling in just about every Arab nation. He learned to speak Arabic fluently. He also became a Sikh.

Over the years, Parrot trained and handled falcons for sheiks and princes throughout the Arab world. He decided to further expand his knowledge of birds and spent three years studying at Cornell College. The falconer found, though, he was more interested in the aesthetics than the science of ornithology and stopped pursuing a degree.

Through Cornell, though, he began spending part of the year in the Canadian Arctic town of Coppermine, where he helped Inuit people to legally catch and export wild falcons. He closed down the former enterprise when he witnessed the Inuits practicing unsustainable game management. He then began collaborating with various wildlife conservation agencies that combat trafficking.

In 1999, Parrot and others gathered enough evidence to crack a government-led falcon smuggling ring in Outer Mongolia. Their efforts resulted in a successful court case against a high-ranking communist minister and United Nations official. As retaliation, however, Parrot was brutally beaten up. U.S. officials interceded and he was swiftly evacuated to China.

In 2001, Parrot and others founded the Union for the Conservation of Raptors. Since then, the former professional falconer and ornithologists have focused on raising awareness about and halting the illegal trafficking of the majestic birds. He still makes time, though, to regularly exercise and marvel at his own falcons’ grace, prowess and intelligence.

“I want to appreciate falcons from the vantage point of aesthetics,” he said. “The wonder and beauty of the falcon — and the natural elements of the wind and sun — has limitless possibilities for an artist.”

To learn more about Alan Parrot’s work, visit savethefalcons.org. For more information about the falconer’s July 13 presentation, call Hancock Historical Society President Sanford Phippen at 422-3993.

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Responses

  1. […] press accounts, for instance, he is described as a resident of Iran and of Kuwait, this Parrot profile says he has lived in Hancock, Maine since […]


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