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Falconery The bird whisperer

Falconer Ulrich Lüthi spends part of his time with his birds of prey hunting rooks in Swiss towns. swissinfo.ch spent a day watching them in action.  

Lüthi’s birds sit on the back seat of his car, letting out the occasional high-pitched screech. In the front, a falcon’s hood decorated with feathers swings from the rear-view mirror. On the car’s dashboard, his key ring - a miniature falconer’s glove - gives away his passion and profession.

Lüthi, who lives in canton Bern, hasn’t had a holiday for at least 15 years. But he’s not unhappy about this.

“I have found my path in life,” he declares. Several years ago, scientists welcomed the increase in the number of rooks in Switzerland. But since then, the black birds are viewed more negatively, and their crowing and droppings disturb residents. Rooks are not always scared of humans but they fear birds of prey. City authorities have therefore turned to Lüthi to help hunt the birds.

With his birds of prey tucked under his arm, the falconer walks through city streets and parks in search of rooks. Curious passers-by often stop him and thank him for his work. Hunting rooks is just a part of his daily work, however. He also organises guided tours, proposes activities for children, takes part in medieval festivals and markets and works as a healer.