Medieval Times is a family dinner attraction inspired by an 11th-century feast and tournament. Customers are served a four-course meal and treated to sword fights and jousting tournaments. At the beginning of the show, a falconer brings out a trained peregrine falcon, which flies around the arena. We spoke to Bill Ponder, a falconer at the Lyndhurst, NJ location of Medieval Times, about what it takes to train a falcon. The following is a transcript of the video.
Bill Ponder: My name is Bill Ponder. I’m the falconer from Medieval Times in New Jersey. About 25 years ago, I decided to change careers and at the age of 38, I decided to run away and join the circus and here I am. You’re usually training birds that are juvenile. They’re newly born, just at the point where they would be leaving the nest, learning how to fly. That’s the age that the parents spend a lot of time showing them how to fend for themselves and nature. And it really is a matter of weeks and if it takes a matter of months, you’re not consistent. It depends on the consistency of the trainer. If you do the same things the same way every day, the birds catch on pretty quick. They learn from success and they learn from failure. And success is repeated and failure is discarded. When I handle these birds, everything I do with them, I approach it as, I want them to learn that this is the right way to behave. He’s flying around in there at highway speeds, he’s going pretty fast. We’re not keeping pets. We’re training active healthy animals. Our detractors accuse us of starving the birds and that’s far from the truth. So what you’re basically doing is you’re giving them as good a nutritious diet as possible, as much exercise as you can, and you’re giving them the opportunities to do what comes naturally. And they need to fly to stay healthy and we have basically the responsibility to give him that opportunity.
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